Network Notebook: Studying NFL Point Differentials
POINT DIFFERENTIALS SHOW SUPER BOWL RACE IS MORE WIDE OPEN THAN YOU WERE THINKING
One of the simplest, but most effective stats for evaluating championship contenders is regular season point differential. That's even more true if you adjust for strength of schedule. Champions show their quality immediately in this stat. Pretenders are exposed.
Let's start with the AFC. NFL fans know that the AFC was pretty lousy this season. Any measure you use for evaluating schedule strength is going to show all playoff entries from the AFC as having "average" to "weak" schedules, with the majority at "weak." With that in mind, let's look at the final regular season point differentials for the playoff qualifiers.
AFC POINT DIFFERENTIAL
New England +162
Kansas City +76
New England is at around +10 per game. But, that's not "fantastic" against a soft schedule. Give them a tougher slate, and New England is just a name in the hat rather than the frontrunner. The playoffs will give them a tougher slate! (And they might be the first ever "road team" in a Super Bowl!)
Tennessee and Buffalo have negative scoring differentials in a weak conference. Yes, part of Buffalo's big negative was the Nathan Peterman experiment that blew up against the Chargers. The Bills are still negative if you take that out. Would either the Titans or Bills have won seven games if they had to play in the NFC? Doubtful.
Only four teams with a real shot to win the AFC based on this measure. You're about to see that the AFC doesn't impress when compared to the NFC.
NFC POINT DIFFERENTIAL
LA Rams +149
New Orleans +122
These teams played tougher schedules as a general rule. And, the Saints, Falcons, and Panthers kept running into each other! It could turn out that New Orleans is the most impressive of that lot all things considered. The Eagles certainly wouldn't have been plus 162 with Nick Foles at quarterback all season. They might not even be playoff caliber based on the ugly stats in wins over the NY Giants and Oakland. Minnesota will get home field advantage in its opener, and possibly all the way through the Super Bowl since the big game is in Minneapolis this season.
Frankly, the NFC brackets are loaded. And, if Philadelphia can use the bye week to get its head back on straight, they become even more loaded. This stat is suggesting that the market will be overpricing the AFC winner against the NFC entry come Super Bowl Sunday in February. Leaving out the question marks in Philadelphia for a moment...if you add about 40 points to the NFC teams, and subtract about 40 points from the AFC teams for schedule issues, you'll have a much clearer picture of the postseason.
JIM HURLEY isn't going to suggest that point differential is ALL you need to look at. He didn't build a team of experts when only one number would do the trick! But, you do-it-yourselfers should realize that this combination (stat plus schedule adjustment) does a lot of the heavy lifting for you. Sharing the NETWORK lifting...
*Our COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS have been running state-of-the-art simulations since the matchups were locked in Sunday evening. NETWORK had the best quants before Las Vegas had even heard that word. All that's left now is weather tweaks in Kansas City, Jacksonville, and Los Angeles. We can tell you already something special is brewing!
*Our TREND HISTORIANS have all the relevant playoff tendencies in their database. This goes back to the invention of the Wildcard! Dogs, favorites, home, road, resting starters in the final week vs. "had to win" teams, cold weather visitors at warm weather sites, conservative quarterbacks vs. aggressive quarterbacks...EVERY ANGLE COVERED!
*Our FRIENDS BEHIND THE LINE offshore and in Las Vegas will tell us what the smart money is doing, and what the dumb money is doing. That could prove very important for "insurance" line value around key numbers this weekend in particular. Often, it's these insights that are the difference in turning a "percentage play" into a "Game of the Year" caliber selection.
And PROVEN WINNER JIM HURLEY is the man in the middle of the information hurricane. He'll hear from every precinct, then put it all together to make sure you attack the board in just the right fashion. Selections are unit-rated so you don't have to do any thinking. Let us do the work, then YOU GET THE MONEY!
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