The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 14, 2011

Starting Times and Networks For NCAA Rounds One and Two

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 7:24 pm

Here is a list in order of starting times of the First Four and Second Round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

All Times EDT
Tuesday’s Games
Time Team Team Network
6:30 PM UNC-Asheville Arkansas-Little Rock truTV
9:00 PM Alabama-Birmingham Clemson truTV
Wednesday’s Games
6:30 PM Texas-San Antonio Alabama State truTV
9:00 PM Southern Cal Virginia Commonwealth truTV
Thursday’s Games
Time Team Team Network
12:15 PM West Virginia U A B/Clemson Winner CBS
12:40 PM Butler Old Dominion truTV
1:40 PM Louisville Morehead State TBS
2:10 PM Temple Penn State TNT
2:45 PM Kentucky Princeton CBS
3:10 PM Pittsburgh UNCA/UALR Winner truTV
4:10 PM Vanderbilt Richmond TBS
4:50 PM San Diego State Northern Colorado TNT
6:50 PM Florida U C-Santa Barbara TBS
7:15 PM Brigham Young Wofford CBS
7:20 PM Connecticut Bucknell TNT
7:27 PM Wisconsin Belmont truTV
9:20 PM U C L A Michigan State TBS
9:45 PM St. John’s Gonzaga CBS
9:50 PM Cincinnati Missouri TNT
9:57 PM Kansas State Utah State truTV
Friday’s Games
Time Team Team Network
12:15 PM Texas Oakland CBS
12:40 PM Michigan Tennessee truTV
1:40 PM Notre Dame Akron TBS
2:10 PM George Mason Villanova TNT
2:45 PM Arizona Memphis CBS
3:10 PM Duke Hampton truTV
4:10 PM Texas A&M Florida State TBS
4:40 PM Ohio State UTSA-Alabama State Winner TNT
6:50 PM Kansas Boston U TBS
7:15 PM North Carolina Long Island CBS
7:20 PM Purdue St. Peter’s TNT
7:27 PM Xavier Marquette truTV
9:20 PM U N L V Illinois TBS
9:45 PM Washington Georgia CBS
9:50 PM Georgetown USC/VCU Winner TNT
9:57 PM Syracuse Indiana State truTV

January 17, 2011

The PiRate Ratings’ NFL Playoffs Edition–Conference Championships

Sunday, January 23, 2011

3:00 PM EST on Fox-TV

Green Bay Packers (12-6-0) at Chicago Bears (12-5-0)


Pirate:       Green Bay 113.7           Chicago 104.1

Mean:        Green Bay 111.4           Chicago 103.8

Bias:           Green Bay 109.7          Chicago 104.5

HFA:                                                          Chicago     0.6


Vegas:        Green Bay by 3

Totals:       43 ½


PiRate:      GB by 9.0

Mean:        GB by 7.0

Bias:           GB by 4.6


100 Simulations:         GB 54  Chi 46

Avg. Sim Score              GB 20.2  Chi 17.9

Outlier A:                         GB 27  Chi 0

Outlier B:                         Chi 19  GB 3


5 PiRates Pick vs. Spread:   GB – 4         Chi – 1

5 PiRates Pick vs. Totals:    Und – 3      Ovr – 2

6:30 PM EST on CBS-TV

New York Jets (13-5-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (13-4-0)



Pirate:       Pittsburgh 107.8         New York 106.1

Mean:        Pittsburgh 108.0        New York 106.8

Bias:           Pittsburgh 109.1         New York 106.7

HFA:          Pittsburgh     3.6


Vegas:        Pittsburgh by 3 ½

Totals:       38 ½


PiRate:       Pit by 5.3

Mean:         Pit by 4.8

Bias:            Pit by 6.0


100 Simulations:         Pit 51  NYJ 49

Avg. Sim Score              Pit 24.2  NYJ 23.7

Outlier A:                         Pit 31  NYJ 13

Outlier B:                         NYJ 34  Pit 12

Note:                             Seven games decided in OT, including one that was decided with 2:17 left in the

second overtime


5 PiRates Pick vs. Spread:   Pit – 3        NYJ – 2

5 PiRates Pick vs. Totals:    Ovr – 4       Und – 1


We do not have official picks during the Playoffs, but here is our Unofficial picks for this week:

1. Green Bay & Chicago Under 21 ½ (Halftime Line)

2. Green Bay -3 vs. Chicago

3. Pittsburgh & New York Jets Over 19 ½ (Halftime Line)

4. Pittsburgh & New York Jets Over 38 ½

5. 10-point Teaser Parlay

1 Green Bay & Chicago OVER 33 ½

2 Green Bay +7 Chicago

3 Pittsburgh & New York Jets OVER 28 ½

February 3, 2010

PiRate Super Bowl Preview

The Particulars

Super Bowl XLIV—New Orleans Saints vs. Indianapolis Colts

Date: Sunday, February 7, 2010

Location: Sun Life Stadium, Miami

Turf: Natural Grass

Kickoff: Approximately 6:25 PM EST

TV: CBS (Pre-game coverage begins at 12:00 Noon)

Radio: Westwood One (go to for an interactive map of radio affiliates)

Forecast: Partly Cloudy with a 10% chance of rain and temperatures in the upper 60’s at kickoff falling to the lower 60’s by the end of the game.

The Numbers

Vegas Lines: Indianapolis by 4 ½, 5, and 5 ½

Offshore Lines: Indianapolis by 4 ½, 5, 5 ½, and 6

Totals: 56 ½ and 57 (both Vegas and Offshore)

Best New Orleans Money Line: +185 (MGM Mirage)

Best Indianapolis Money Line: -190 (Bodog)

100 Computer Simulations: Indianapolis 59  New Orleans 41

Average Sim Score: Indianapolis 30.2  New Orleans 25.6

Outlier Sim Score A: Indianapolis 41  New Orleans 17

Outlier Sim Score B: New Orleans 38  Indianapolis 23

An Explanation Of The Following Three Pro Football Ratings


The PiRate Rating


The NFL version of the PiRate Ratings was not the same as the collegiate version from 1979 to 2008.  The NFL version strictly used a statistical formula that could be reproduced by anybody who knew the equations used to devise the formula.  No subjective data was used.  Starting in 2009, a new PiRate formula was created and back-tested to 1999.  The results produced a more accurate rating.  This new formula is a close cousin to the formula used for years in the college PiRate formula.


The new formula begins with the previous season ending ratings with adjustments for experience, personnel aging, new coaching, injuries, and a couple dozen intangibles.  As the season progresses, the previous season’s results have less of an impact to where it has little effect by mid-October.  


The Mean Rating


Just like the PiRate Ratings, the NFL Mean Ratings are not the same as the collegiate version.  The NFL Mean Ratings consist of a dozen different calculations.  Three calculations consist of different ways to look at point differential and strength of schedule.  Five calculations look at yards gained and allowed rushing and passing and special teams play with the strength of the opponents’ rushing and passing.  Point values are assigned based on each set of data.  The remaining four ratings are my old four pro ratings from the 1970’s and 1980’s.  The 12 ratings are given equal weight, and then I take the average (mean) to get the rating.


The Bias Rating


The Bias Ratings consist of five of the components of The Mean Ratings.  The five ratings are not given equal weight.  The five ratings are weighted at 37.5%, 25%, 12.5%, 12.5%, and 12.5%.  I have back tested these ratings and found that this weighting gives the rating its best predictive percentage.

PiRate Rating Spread: Indianapolis by 1.3                  

Mean Rating Spread: New Orleans by 0.1

Bias Rating Spread: New Orleans by 5.0


Note: For the 2009 season, the Bias Rating was the most accurate, picking the winner against the spread almost 70% of the time.


It’s being billed as Peyton Manning versus Drew Brees.  Football historians compare this game to the 1998 Super Bowl between Denver’s John Elway and Green Bay’s Brett Favre.  For those older readers, you might better compare these two gunslingers to the quarterbacks of Super Bowl II.  Manning is Bart Starr, while Brees is Daryle Lamonica. 

Manning is the mechanical quarterback.  Just wind him up, send him out there, and he operates like a machine.  If he throws 30 passes, 29 of them will look the same, and maybe one will be altered a tad.  He’ll complete better than 60% of his passes, three or more of which will go for 25 or more yards.

Brees tends to be more of a gambler.  He might force a throw for the reward of a long gain.  He will average more yards per completion and will most certainly connect for more than one touchdown.

All this comparison stuff is great for nostalgia buffs, but if you really want to know how this game will turn out, you are looking in the wrong direction.  Manning and Brees are not like the starting pitchers of game seven of the World Series. 

This game, like almost every NFL game, will be decided in the trenches.  If Brees and Manning are perfect on every throw, what will it matter if their offensive lines cannot protect them against the opposing defensive lines?  So what if either passer finishes the game 18 of 18 for 220 yards and three touchdowns, but gets sacked eight times and loses three fumbles because his offensive line cannot protect him?  I dare say, the other team will score at least three touchdowns off these turnovers.

What if none of the rushing plays work because there is no blocking?  It matters not how great the running backs play if they simultaneously receive the handoff and the defensive hit. 

What if the receivers continually break free and find themselves wide open, but the quarterbacks don’t get the time to set up and find them? 

Yes, the major discussion of this game needs to center on the four interior units plus the linebacker trios.  Knowing which team has the advantage in these areas will lead you to your Super Bowl Champion.

Let’s get something straight before we begin comparing players.  It is totally ridiculous the way most of the nation’s media waste their time and yours telling you which team has the better center, the better middle linebacker, the better tight end, etc.  Who cares if Reggie Wayne is somewhat more talented at wide receiver than Devery Henderson?  Tell me, at what point in this game will Wayne and Henderson be opposite each other on a scrimmage play?

There is only one way for the serious student of the game to analyze the talent by position.  Compare the offensive line to the opposing defensive line.  Compare the passing game to the opposing pass defense.  It is foolish to compare one wide receiver to one cornerback.  On the surface, that may sound like the way to go, but on most passing plays that cornerback may not be the defender who must break up a pass to that receiver.  Thus, we must compare the entire secondary to the entire receiving unit.

Without further adieu, here are the unit breakdowns according to the PiRates.

Running Game vs. Run Defense

When Indianapolis Runs

The Colts’ offensive line is better suited to block for the pass than the run.  However, when the Colts need one or two yards to convert a first down or to cross the goalline, the offensive line succeeds more than it fails.  Some of this success can be attributed to the threat of a Manning pass, but give the Colts a little credit for their short running game.  A two yard run on 3rd and one is much more successful than a seven yard run on 2nd and 10.  Rushing averages can be misleading.  It’s the number of successful running plays that matter.

The Saint’s run defense is underrated, maybe even more than the Colts’ running game.  Yes, New Orleans gave up more than 120 yard rushing per game, but if you throw out a couple of bad games, the Saints played well in this area.  In the playoffs, they have not been exploited by the opposition’s running game.

Indianapolis will run the ball about 24 times for 80 yards in this game.  If Joseph Addai consistently picks up three yards when the Colts need two or two yards when the Colts need one, I don’t see the Saints holding Indy under 28 points.  Those 80 yards could be big if they are the right 80.  If on the other hand, Addai picks up 20 yard on two separate attempts and then consistently gains two yards when the Colts need three and one when they need two, the Saints will exploit Manning’s one weakness and hold Indy under 24 points.  Our guess is the extremes will be split.  Addai will be about 50% successful, and Manning will be able to move his troops on half of their possessions.

When New Orleans Runs

The Saints have quality and depth in this department.  Their offensive line consistently opens enough running space, that it really doesn’t matter who totes the pigskin.  Guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks will be the two best interior linemen on the field Sunday.  The Colts will have a hard time consistently stopping the inside running game, as middle linebacker Gary Brackett and defensive tackles Daniel Muhr and Antonio Johnson will need a lot of help here.  It will force Indianapolis to gamble with stunts and blitzes, leaving them vulnerable to quick hitters to the perimeter.

In past Super Bowls, teams that could consistently run the ball between the tackles have controlled the clock and kept their defense fresh.  I believe the Saints will run the ball about 22 times for 95 yards.  That comes out to a 4.3 yard rushing average.  I expect the Saints to pick up 40 yards in two of those attempts, so in the other 20 attempts, New Orleans should gain about 55 yards.  That’s just a 2.8 yard per carry average.  However, in about eight attempts, the Saints will be in a situation where one yard is needed to either convert a first down or score.  If they pick up that yard seven of the eight times, that will leave 48 yards for the other 12 attempts—the ones that will be vital in this game.  At four yards per carry in these attempts, Mardi Gras might begin around 9PM Sunday night.

Passing Game vs. Pass Defense

When Indianapolis Passes

Indianapolis’s pass blocking is second to none in the NFL.  Even so, they aren’t infallible.  The Jets forced Manning to the ground several times in the first half in the AFC Championship Game, and the Saints will affect his rhythm enough to force Manning into at least one mistake.  However, New Orleans could put themselves into a situation where they win most of the battles but lose the war if they become intent on getting into Manning’s head.  The warning that they are coming after him may not be the smartest ploy.  This pre-game threatening has backfired in past Super Bowls.  In the very first Super Bowl in Los Angeles in January of 1967, Kansas City’s Fred “The Hammer” Williamson told the press that he would put the hammer to Green Bay’s receivers and knock Carroll Dale and Boyd Dowler.  Dowler indeed left the game with an injury early in that Super Bowl, but Williamson had nothing to do with it.  Veteran Max McGee came off the bench with a hangover and promptly caught seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns.  As for Williamson, he was knocked unconscious in the fourth quarter when Green Bay running back Donnie Anderson banged his knee into the Hammer’s helmet.

As for this game, I expect Manning to play like a superstar.  He may go down a few times, but Manning knows how to take a dive better than Sonny Liston.  He won’t be injured, and he won’t pull a Favre and throw a dumb pass while under pressure.  If the Saints blitz too much, expect Manning to burn them with a big six on a long pass.

When New Orleans Passes

The strongest asset with the Saints’ passing game is its versatility.  Seven different Saints’ receivers caught 35 or more passes this season.  He can go deep to game breakers Marques Colston and Devery Henderson.  Tight end Jeremy Shockey commands attention in the middle zones, and a quick pass behind the line of scrimmage to Reggie Bush can quickly turn into a 20-yard gain.  Indianapolis cannot decide to stop one player and shut the New Orleans passing game down.

What hurts the Colts the most in this game are the hurts themselves.  End Dwight Freeney, their best pass rusher by a long stretch, has a severe ankle sprain that will greatly limit his effectiveness.  He might be able to hold his own against the run, but rushing the passer will be a tough assignment.   Cornerback Jerraud Powers is still questionable after suffering a foot injury against the Ravens and missing the game with the Jets.  The Colts have very little secondary depth, and no other linemen on the roster can begin to replace the effectiveness of Freeney.  Thus, I believe Brees will enjoy an excellent day, as the Colts may be forced to gimmickry to slow down the passing game.  Look for Brees to throw for 300+ yards in this game.

Special Teams Play

Special teams play is usually equalized in the Super Bowl.  Sure, you have your last second heroics in Jim O’Brien’s “kick heard ‘round the world” in Super Bowl V, and the missed chip shot field goal by Scott Norwood in Super Bowl XXV.  However, all in all, I don’t expect this game to be decided by special teams play.  

If one team returns kicks to the 30, while the other returns them to the 20, we’re talking one completed pass play’s worth of difference.  If one team has a net punting average of 42 yards, and the other just 38 yards, we’re talking a difference of one running play. 

The one true special teams stat that matters in this game will be which team kicks off the most.

Who Wins?

This is one tough game to predict.  As of Wednesday afternoon, the injury status of Freeney and Powers is still a concern, and both of these players need to be at least 75% effective if the Colts really do deserve to be the favorites.  If neither can effectively play, and I expect both to play, the Saints should be favored by up to a touchdown.

As I write this today, I expect New Orleans to prevail in an exciting game.  With the best quarterback in modern day football and A+ pass blocking, one can never count out the Colts’ offense as long as there is time on the clock.  However, the opposing offense isn’t chopped liver.  They will exploit the liabilities brought on by the injuries, and they don’t need much help to hang 35 points on the board.

My advice for those who must get action on this game is to find the most points you can get and take the underdog Saints and those points.  If you want to play the totals, look to the first half line.  There is always a chance the teams will begin playing a little tight and need a quarter to get their offenses really going.  At 28 ½ for a first half total, I see value in the UNDER here.  I wouldn’t play with the game total.  Miami is prone to pop-up showers, even in the dry season.  It has rained frequently, and there is a chance of rain.  

The Five PiRates Predict: New Orleans 30  Indianapolis 27

January 19, 2010

NFL Conference Championship Previews

And Then There Were Four

Okay, first let’s get the bad news out of the way.  Our picks straight up against the spread finished 2-2, which is mediocre, but great in comparison to the totals, which went 0-4.  That brings or NFL playoff record to 5-3 vs. the sides and 3-5 vs. the totals.  It gets much harder from here, as little things mean a lot.  Then again, missed chip-shot field goals and stupid mistakes shouldn’t be much of a factor when you get this far.  But then again, Vikings fans can remember Gary Anderson hitting every extra point and every field goal during the 1998 season, and then he shanked a simple 30-yarder that kept the purple and white out of the 1999 Super Bowl.

Sunday,  January 24

New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts

Time: 3:00 PM EST     Network: CBS

Forecast–Dome Stadium, No Weather

PiRate:  Colts by 6.5

Mean:  Colts by 2.9

Bias:  Colts by 0.8

100 Sims:  Indianapolis 52  New York 48

Avg. Sim Score: New York 18.1  Indianapolis 16.9  

Outlier Score A:  Indianapolis 20  New York 13 (6 others by 7 points)

Outlier Score B:  New York 24  Indianapolis 10

Vegas: Colts by 7 ½     Totals: 39   


The Colts have done it with timely Peyton Manning passes and just enough defense to get by.  Last week, the Ravens helped the Colts’ defense more than the Colts’ defense stopped the Ravens.  However, the Indy defense will face a considerably weaker Jets’ offense this week.  

The Jets cannot completely shut down Manning’s passing game unless they knock him out of the game.  Indianapolis cannot win running the ball, but they will get two yards on 3rd and 1.  That doesn’t show up in the statistics after the game, but it is successful when it accomplished that feat.

These two teams played in Week 16, when the Colts were 14-0 and the Jets were 7-7 and facing a must-win game.  Indianapolis led this game before removing the key starters, and then the Jets came from behind to win.  

All signs point to New Orleans becoming Peyton’s Place once again.  9-7 teams rarely beat 14-2 teams on the road, and there’s a reason the Jets lost seven times.  Passing and stopping the pass wins championships in the 21st Century.  The Jets cannot consistently stop the Colts’ passing game, while an average NFL defense can stop the Jets’ passing game.  Indianapolis has an above-average pass defense.

The spread is 7 ½ points, and we at the PiRate Ratings never recommend anybody giving up more than a touchdown in a playoff game.  We don’t necessarily like the Jets at +7 ½ either, but the logical choice is to take the Jets and hope they will lose by just a touchdown at the most.  We advise leaving this spread alone unless it drops below 7.

As for the Totals, we think New York will try their best to control the clock and make it a low-scoring game.  Miami tried that against Indy in September, and there were still 50 points scored in that game.  We believe Indianapolis will top 21 points in this game, but the Jets will be hard-pressed to get to 17.  If we have to choose, we’ll play the law of averages and take the OVER, but we aren’t in love with this pick either.  This is the week for a teaser play, and you’ll see it at the end of this feature.

Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints

Time: 6:30 PM EST     Network: Fox

Forecast–Dome Stadium, No Weather

PiRate: Saints by 1.9

Mean:  Saints by 3.0

Bias:  Vikings by 0.8

100 Sims:  New Orleans 61  Minnesota 39

Avg. Sim Score:  New Orleans 33.2  Minnesota 25.4

Outlier Score A:  New Orleans 37  Minnesota 17

Outlier Score B:  Minnesota 31  New Orleans 23

Vegas: Saints by 3 ½     Totals: 52  


This is the game most fans have wanted to see since early October.  The two best teams in the NFC face off in an emotional contest.  The Saints have never gotten this close to the Super Bowl, and they are one win away from hosting the big game in their own stadium.  As for the Vikings, they share the dubious distinction with the Buffalo Bills for being 0-4 in Super Bowls (at least the Bills have two AFL Championships to their credit).  

The key to this game will be defense.  It is a given that both teams can move the football on anybody’s defense.  It will be the defense that comes up with the big play at the opportune time that decides which way this game should turn.

New Orleans’ defense rose to the challenge against Kurt Warner last week, while the Vikings looked like the old Purple People Eaters of Alan Page, Carl, Eller, and company when they humiliated Dallas.

The Vikings’ defense has consistently shown they are capable of coming up with great efforts every week, while the Saints’ defense has had a tendency to follow up a good showing with a mediocre one.  

That’s where we think this game is headed.  It’s hard to select the enemy of the Packers with our former quarterback piloting the team, but that’s what we must do this week.  We believe Favre will get to close out his career with one final attempt to win a ring.  We’ll go with the Vikings to win a close one.  So, that means we take Minnesota and the points.

As far as the Totals go, 52 is an awful lot for a conference championship game.  Take the UNDER.

13-point Teaser


There are six different selections that can be made to satisfy the four picks in a 13-point Teaser.  They are: Jets +20 ½, Colts +5 ½, OVER 26, and UNDER 52 for the AFC game; and: Vikings +16 ½, Saints +9 ½, OVER 39, and UNDER 65.  Here are the four we’d take for our teaser:

Colts +5 ½, Jets & Colts UNDER 52, Vikings +16 ½, and Vikings & Saints UNDER 65.  That’s our one true recommended play this week.

January 12, 2010


We’re down to just eight teams left in the road to Miami and Super Bowl 44.  As luck would have it, one team from each of the eight divisions remains.

Due to a weather problem preventing us from gaining access to the computer simulator until late Friday last week, we refunded the purchases of everybody who purchased our playoff package.  For those who still had time to play our picks, we went 3-1 against the spread, losing only the Packers-Cardinals Game.  We were also 3-1 in totals, missing only on the Ravens-Patriots.

Because we had to refund the payment of all those who played, we are going to go ahead and give everybody the rest of the playoffs free here.

Satruday, January 16

Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints

Time: 4:30 PM EST     Network: Fox

Forecast–Dome Stadium, No Weather

PiRate: Saints by 7.3

Mean: Saints by 7.1

Bias: Saints by 6.8

100 Sims: New Orleans 79  Arizona 21

Avg. Sim Score: New Orleans 32.9  Arizona 23.3

Outlier Score A: New Orleans 45  Arizona 17

Outlier Score B: Arizona 37  New Orleans 27

Vegas: New Orleans by 7   Totals: 56 1/2


The Saints lost their final three games after beginning the season 13-0.  In 1969, the Los Angeles Rams won their first 11 games and clinched the NFC Coastal Division title, and then proceeded to lose their final three games.  Quarterback Roman Gabriel looked like the league MVP in the 11-0 stretch.  The Rams faced a tough first round foe in the 12-2 Minnesota Vikings, possibly the greatest defensive team in a 20-year period.  The Purple People Eaters got the best of the Fearsome Foursome that day, as the Vikings’ defense outshone the Rams’ that day.

40 years later, it’s all about the offense in this game.  Drew Brees against Kurt Warner in a shootout.  Can a team that has not won in five weeks beat a team that is fresh and playing unbelievable football on the attack side?  The Saints’ defense did not shine in several games, and Warner will find holes all day long.

The problem for the Cardinals is they could not stop Aaron Rodgers when they had to.  Sure, the sack and fumble recovery was the winning play, but the Cards cannot be counted on to get to Brees five or six times to stop drives. 

We believe this will be an ugly game with a lot of offense and more than average mistakes (penalties, fumbles, dropped passes, etc.).  We’re contrarians here, so we think the key play in this game is UNDER 56 1/2.  At seven points, we’ll take Arizona +7, but we aren’t in love with this line.  We think New Orleans will win by about four or five.

Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts

Time: 8:15 PM EST     Network: CBS

Forecast–Dome Stadium, No Weather

PiRate: Ravens by 1.5

Mean: Colts by 1.8

Bias: Colts by 1.0

100 Sims: Baltimore 56  Indianapolis 44

Avg. Sim Score: Baltimore 22.6  Indianapolis 20.4

Outlier Score A: Baltimore 34  Indianapolis 17

Outlier Score B: Indianapolis 31  Baltimore 10

Vegas: Indianapolis 6 1/2   Totals: 44


Here’s a game where the computer simulator believes it has found a big play.  The simulator uses a combination of least squares and absolute value regression, and it appears that the Colts not only have no homefield advantage, they play better on the road than at home.  The Ravens tend to perform just as competently on the road than at home.  Throw in the fact that Indianapolis rested its starters for two weeks, and the possibility of rust comes into play.  Could this be a big upset in the making?

The Ravens have twice knocked off the AFC team with the best record in this same situation (both times the Titans).  They will try to force Peyton Manning to throw short and then try to contain the receiver and limit yards after catch.  They should shut down the Colt running game.  The Ravens’ offense will try to hold onto the ball and keep Manning off the field, but don’t be surprised to see Joe Flacco throw long on play-action when the Colts least expect it (like 3rd and 1 at midfield).

We’re going to side with the computers.  We’re taking the Ravens to beat the spread at +6 1/2, and we think they have a 50-50 shot at winning outright.  As for the totals, we like the OVER here, but not by much.  We wouldn’t be surprised to see the total come within three of what Vegas says (44).

Sunday, January 17

Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings

Time: 1:00 PM EST     Network: Fox

Forecast–Dome Stadium, No Weather

PiRate: Cowboys by 0.2

Mean: Vikings by 1.3

Bias: Vikings by 1.1

100 Sims: Minnesota 61  Dallas 39

Avg. Sim Score: Minnesota 24.4  Dallas 20.1

Outlier Score A: Minnesota 37  Dallas 17

Outlier Score B: Dallas 35  Minnesota 16

Vegas: Minnesota by 3   Totals: 45 1/2


Everybody is jumping on the Cowboys’ bandwagon, already proclaiming them to be certain Super Bowl Champions.  Their defense is being compared to the best of the Tom Landry years, when Lee Roy Jordan, Chuck Howley, Mel Renfro, and company put a big hurt on opponents.

One of those great Cowboy teams back then, a Super Bowl participant at that, faced a Viking team not as good as this current edition, and Minnesota beat them at the old Metropolitan Stadium 54-13!

Favre knows this is more than likely his last chance to get another ring.  He has the tools to make it to Miami.  Remember all those years where John Elway couldn’t take Denver all the way?  In the playoffs, it’s almost impossible to take a team on your shoulders and knock off three great teams.  Once Elway had a great running game backing him up, the Broncos won two titles in a row.  Favre has one of the three best running attacks in the NFL, and the Viking defense is highly underrated for a division champion.  We see the purple and white advancing to the NFC Championship Game.

Minnesota is a 3-point pick.  It’s hard to win by less than three, especially when you know there cannot be a tie.  We’ll take the Vikings as a short favorite.  If the line moves to 3 1/2, things might change, and if the line moves down to 2 1/2, we will love this spread.  As for the totals, at 45 1/2 points, this is right on the mark we agree with.  We don’t like playing the totals in this game, but if we have to pick, we’ll take the OVER.  Dallas’s defense has possibly caused this number to be a point or two too low.

New York Jets at San Diego Chargers

Time: 4:40 PM EST     Network: CBS

Forecast–Low 60’s with a 30% chance of rain showers

PiRate: Chargers by 8.4

Mean: Chargers by 3.4

Bias: Chargers by 7.5

100 Sims: San Diego 51  New York 49

Avg. Sim Score: New York 21.5  San Diego 21.4

Outlier Score A: New York 23  San Diego 10

Outlier Score B: San Diego 17  New York 0

Vegas: San Diego by 7.5   Totals: 42


This one surprised all five of us.  We admit that we repeated the 100 game simulation several more times to make sure it wasn’t a mistake.  Every time, it came out basically a push, but the Jets continued to hold a small edge in average sim score. 

It’s hard to determine how the computer justified these results.  The Chargers appear to have a major advantage when you compare their passing game to the Jets’ pass defense versus the Jets’ passing game to the Chargers’ pass defense.

The Jets definitely have the advantage when comparing their running game to the Chargers’ run defense as opposed to the Chargers’ running game against the Jets’ run defense.

Here is a caveat:  weather is not a variable in the simulations.  If it indeed rains Sunday afternoon, the passing game could either be helped or hurt by the surface.  If it’s just wet enough to cause slippery conditions, then the receivers get a big advantage over the defenders (they know when they will change speeds or directions and the defense has to guess).  If it rains hard and affects visibility and makes it impossible to keep the ball dry, then the passing game will suffer.

The big part of this game is the spread.  It isn’t often that a playoff team with a playoff win already under its belt finds itself a 7.5 point dog.  The Chargers didn’t fold up at the end of the year like the Colts and Saints.  They kept playing to win and ended the season on an 11-game winning streak.  On paper, they look to us to have the entire package.  We think they are the favorite to go all the way, but we aren’t about to pick them to win by more than a touchdown.  Our selection is to take the Jets at +7 1/2 and to play the OVER at 42.

Playing A 13-point Teaser

For those of you who are not familiar with teasers, here is a brief explanation.   A teaser allows you to move the pointspread or totals of a game in either direction by the number of points in your teaser (A 13-point teaser would allow you to move the pointspread or total by 13 points in either direction).  Now, before you say you want to play one of these teasers, you can’t pick one team and move the spread by 13 points.  No, in a 13-point teaser, you must pick four games and win all four after you’ve moved the points by 13 in your favor.

We like 13-point teasers in the playoffs, but only when we use it to make a favorite into an underdog or an underdog into a huge underdog.  This week, we find some good possibilities.  The problem with teasers, and thus it’s why they get their name, is that it looked really easy when you move a line by 13 points.  However, one in four games typically deviates from the pointspread by 13 or more points.  So, it isn’t easy.  We picked 52 13-point teasers during the 2009 NFL regular season.  We won 32 of them and lost 20.  Of those 20 losses, we were correct on three of the four games in each teaser 16 times.  In four of those cases, we lost when one game hit the exact pointspread (unlike straight sides wagers, you lose if one team pushes).

Here are the teasers possibilities for you this week with our grade on their playability.  If you’re lucky, you can pick four choices from among this group and find yourself a winner.  Caution:  Teasers become addictive quickly.

New Orleans +6 vs. Arizona  Grade: B+

Arizona +20 vs. New Orleans  Grade: A-

New Orleans & Arizona OVER 43 1/2  Grade: A-

New Orleans & Arizona UNDER 69 1/2  Grade: B

Baltimore +19 1/2 vs. Indianapolis  Grade: A

Indianapolis +6 1/2 vs. Baltimore  Grade: C+

Baltimore & Indianapolis OVER 31  Grade: A-

Baltimore & Indianapolis UNDER 57  Grade: B+

Minnesota +10 vs. Dallas  Grade: A-

Dallas +16 vs. Minnesota  Grade: A-

Minnesota & Dallas OVER 32 1/2  Grade: A

Minnesota & Dallas UNDER 58 1/2  Grade: A

San Diego +5 1/2 vs. New York  Grade: C

New York +20 1/2 vs. San Diego  Grade: A+

San Diego & New York OVER 29  Grade: A

San Diego & New York UNDER 55 Grade: B-

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