Recapping Divisional Weekend by the Numbers
Heading into Divisional weekend, all of the "Big 5" teams remained alive: New England, Denver, Seattle, Green Bay, and Baltimore. Each of these five teams had 22% or higher total DVOA. The sixth rated team was well below at 13%, which just so happened to be Dallas. The remaining two teams were comfortably behind these teams with Indianapolis as the 12th ranked team (4.7%) and Carolina at 25th (-8.9%).
DVOA correlates extremely well with a team's real world performance and not only was it validated by the number of top teams in the playoffs but it was on display during Divisional Saturday.
Baltimore drew the toughest matchup, getting another big 5 team and ultimately coming one play short of advancement. The Ravens played the best game of the four losing teams by far with a 29% DVOA (New England turned in a 37%). The Colts played a pretty good game but definitely benefitted from a totally imploding Denver team and Manning injury to advance (Denver had a catastrophic -13%, worse even than Carolina). The Panthers were sloppy and outplayed as their season long performance suggested they probably would be against a dominant team, while Dallas played a closer game than the stats would suggest. Green Bay definitely had the better numbers but came one" football move" away from possibly being upset by the Cowboys.
Championship Sunday: The road dogs have a tall task ahead
Now, with just 4 teams left, just three of the "Big 5" remain in Green Bay, New England and Seattle. While superficially we might conclude from those stats that Green Bay should be a tougher out than Indianapolis, I suspect that Indy actually has a better chance of upset. Green Bay goes as Aaron Rodgers' calf goes and while it may not be 36-16 like Week 1, it would likely take a bad game from Seattle for the 'Hawks to lose.
Indianapolis, while comfortably behind these teams in overall performance, can definitely pull off the road win. An Indy upset probably includes the following: a near perfect game Luck, efficiency from Dan Herron, and a solid run defense. They simply can't afford to get run over.
Indianapolis has the defensive backs to slow New England down better than Baltimore did so if they can force New England to the air, they can win. What they lack, and what killed them in their previous three meetings, was a lack of run defense and more specific to this game, little pass rush. However, New England's pass rush was also nonexistent against Baltimore and it's pass defense not much better. That nearly cost them last week and if they have the same problems with pressure and coverage on Sunday, it may cost them again against Indy.
Green Bay on the other hand matches up poorly with Seattle. Winning in Seattle to me probably requires a fantastic game out of the Packers defense. In Week 1, Seattle's Percy Harvin gashed the Pack over and over on jet sweeps while Wilson hit on big plays downfield. Green Bay's run defense was awful to start the season but has improved some. They can score on Seattle but it is hard to see them getting more than 20-23 with a hobbled Rodgers. The Pack must put a stop to Lynch and keep the score down to grit this one out in a low scoring game.
There is a bigger gulf, both statiscally and in actuality by pure talent, between New England and Indianapolis than there is between Green Bay and Seattle, but I'll stick with my gut: Indy stands a better upset shot than Green Bay does.
It should be a fun Conference Championship Sunday but I have a hard time seeing either road team getting it done. But I will root for the road dogs anyway.