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ATLANTA FALCONS 6:25 p.m. Thursday, January 13, 2011

Majority of country picks against Falcons

By Ken Sugiura

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Falcons fans who feast on the lack of attention and praise directed toward their team have full bellies this week.

Majority of country picks against Falcons

The majority of the country believes Green Bay has Saturday's game in the bag, according to an ESPN poll. On the website's SportsNation page, which polls fans with various sports questions, 55 percent of respondents predicted a Packers win, as of Thursday afternoon. Outside Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee, only New Hampshire went with the Falcons. Live free or die, indeed.

A number of pundits also went with Green Bay, including Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network, who called a Packers victory his lock of the week. A statistical analysis of the Falcons on a New York Times football blog concluded that they are "quite lucky to be where they are" and gave them a 33 percent chance of winning.

However, someone who makes a living handicapping games, MGM Mirage race and sports book director Jay Rood, predicts a narrow Falcons win.

"I just think the team that has the potential to get a big play on defense and put up steady points is Atlanta," Rood said. "I don't think it's going to be easy, but I think Atlanta will probably play with the lead throughout the game, and Green Bay's going to have to do a desperate drive to tie it up or win the game."

Place your bets

At the MGM Mirage, gamblers can place bets on which player will score the first touchdown. Running back Michael Turner is getting 2-to-1 odds, wide receivers Roddy White 7-to-2 and Michael Jenkins 6-to-1. Green Bay Packers running backs James Starks and Brandon Jackson are both 3-to-1.

On gambling website bodog.com, the over/under line for Turner's rushing yards total is 85 1/2. The over/under line for White is 80 1/2 receiving yards and for Ryan is 240 1/2 passing yards.

Bummed fan

One of the Falcons' biggest fans can't watch the game because he has to work. That would be Hawks forward Josh Smith, who will be playing Saturday night at Philips Arena, a few hundred yards from the Georgia Dome. Smith is friends with White and has known wide receiver Harry Douglas since they were kids.

Said Smith, "I want to be there so bad."

Can't hear you

The Falcons launched Project 115 on Thursday, their attempt to rile up fans to hit 115 decibels Saturday in the Georgia Dome. (The date is 1/15. Pretty clever, eh?) Since 2008, when the team began taking readings, the loudest recording was a 2008 game that hit 117.9. A rock-music concert is about 110 decibels; a jet plane taking off 100 yards away is 120.

On air

WAGA-TV will air a pregame show from 6:30 to 7 p.m. and then start postgame coverage after Fox's national broadcast goes off the air, with a show hosted by sports anchor Ken Rodriguez and former Falcons kicker Morten Andersen.

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Average fans don't understand how difficult it is to play on a short week with little practice to install a new gameplan. Plus, the emotional anxiety begins to kick in.

We will see if they can hang with a fresh team, not a banged up Iggles squad

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The NYT Blog mentioned above.

Brian Burke, a former Navy pilot who has taken up the less dangerous hobby of N.F.L. statistical analysis, operates Advanced NFL Stats, a blog about football, math and human behavior.

This week, let’s do things a little differently. I’m going to give you the stats of three playoff teams, and you can guess which teams they are. This little experiment might highlight how the consensus perceptions of some teams, which are largely based on team records, differ from the facets of performance that best predict game outcomes. (These statistics are actually as of Week 16, before many teams played meaningless final games.)

Team netYPA YPC Int% Fum% D netYPA D YPC D Int% PenRate

Team A 5.9 3.9 1.7 1.1 6.3 4.5 4.0 0.30

Team B 7.1 3.9 2.3 2.3 5.7 4.6 4.5 0.32

Team C 5.8 3.7 3.9 1.8 6.6 4.2 2.0 0.43

Avg 6.2 4.2 3.0 2.3 6.2 4.2 2.9 0.41

Knowing that offensive pass efficiency correlates most strongly with winning, and that defensive pass efficiency is the second-best indicator of team strength, which of the teams above would you say is its conference’s No. 1 seed? And which of the teams would be the wild-card team struggling to win on the road?

In many ways Team A is very similar to Team C. Team C has poorer turnover rates, but has a slightly better run defense. Both Team A and Team C are below average in all four core efficiencies: offensive and defensive running and passing (with the single exception of Team C’s run defense, which is average.)

Team B clearly appears to be the head of the class. It has much better passing efficiencies on both sides of the ball than the other two teams, plus very good turnover rates. You might think this is the No. 1 seed, with a clear road to the Super Bowl.

But it’s not. Team A is Atlanta, the N.F.C.’s top seed with a 13-3 record. Team B is Green Bay, a wild-card team that finished the regular season 10-6. And Team C is Seattle, the lowly division champion of the N.F.C. West, which has more losses than wins.

I chose those three teams for this silly exercise just to point out that the Packers are, if the statistics are any measure, objectively a better team than the Falcons, despite their respective records and seedings. And the Falcons are, in many ways, closer to the Seahawks than they are to the Packers. As I discussed in my Week 17 post, the Falcons are quite lucky to be where they are. The Packers-Falcons matchup is the one game this week in which the efficiency model differs from the broad consensus, and I think it’s because the Falcons are generally overrated.

By the way, a full statistical breakdown of each week’s games, including the core efficiency stats I usually discuss and  all kinds of other advanced team and individual stats, can be found at the matchup page at Advanced NFL Stats.

With that, here are the game probabilities for the divisional round. (These probabilities include stats through last weekend’s wild-card games.)

Win Chance GAME Win Chance

0.27 Baltimore at Pittsburgh 0.73

0.68 Green Bay at Atlanta 0.33

0.20 Seattle at Chicago 0.80

0.29 Jets at New England 0.71

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The advanced stats for football are useless. People try to treat the NFL like Major League Baseball, where statistical analysis is far more worthwhile than it is in football. The fact of the matter is that the Falcons' poor rankings in total yards on both offense and defense is more than made up for with their sound, fundamental approach to the game. Our coaching is excellent. Our players rarely make mistakes. When your defense takes the ball away at an elite rate and your offense gives the ball away fewer than all but a few teams in the league, you're going to win a lot of games. Couple that with a quarterback that rarely makes a poor decision and a gameplan that is sound and unwavering, and you've got a team that wins games because they've earned it, not because they've gotten lucky.

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The advanced stats for football are useless. People try to treat the NFL like Major League Baseball, where statistical analysis is far more worthwhile than it is in football. The fact of the matter is that the Falcons' poor rankings in total yards on both offense and defense is more than made up for with their sound, fundamental approach to the game. Our coaching is excellent. Our players rarely make mistakes. When your defense takes the ball away at an elite rate and your offense gives the ball away fewer than all but a few teams in the league, you're going to win a lot of games. Couple that with a quarterback that rarely makes a poor decision and a gameplan that is sound and unwavering, and you've got a team that wins games because they've earned it, not because they've gotten lucky.

Yes these models are based on yards. We sacrifice yards to gain advantage in other aspects of the game.

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Average fans don't understand how difficult it is to play on a short week with little practice to install a new gameplan. Plus, the emotional anxiety begins to kick in.

We will see if they can hang with a fresh team, not a banged up Iggles squad

exactly, the national pundits are act like GB didn't fly from philly back to GB, had 2-3 days to practice then to fly to Atlanta, and add in new plans. While we have been practicing and resting the whole time and putting in our plan. Also by 8 o'clock on a saturday night, the whole dome will be liquored up and crazy and WARM. The GA DOME wil be TONS louder then the Eagles game. ;)

Also notice the sports writers that have the best win loss record in their picks, pick the falcons, all the haters and homers with the worse records, like Lombardi and Banks and King are picking the Packers. :P

Edited by nativefalcon
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I've been saying the same thing. I think we win by at least 17.

That's where I've settled, too, BB. 17-20 point win. I think this team is p---ed about how they are being disrespected. I think they are focused and prepared, and I think with the HFA, the crowd, and the veteran leadership we have, the Falcons will take control of this game early and stay ahead.

We'll see what these idiots have to say come Monday if they can get the crow feathers out of their collective mouths.

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Guest atl.falcon4ever

Short week, The Pack's schedule, etc. may play a factor but I doubt it. I feel we will see there best out there Saturday. With that said I think you will see the Falcon's best come Saturday also. And even furthermore with there best v/s our best I still like our Atlanta Falcons to win this game. We are not a handicapped team who got here in a crap shoot. We were the best in the NFC this year and to be able to call yourself that you got to have the #1 seed in the playoffs which we do. For us to accomplish that in a division as tough as ours should say something.

What weakness do we have that make the Pack such a lock? :blink: Sorry but overall we have a more complete team, just using logic, so I do not get it!

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Guest atl.falcon4ever

I just have a feeling, I have for a while that it will be the Pats Vs the Falcons for the trophy. This team is not getting much as far as respect but respect has never earned a win, But a win earns respect. If they go in and beat the pack we will be the new darling.

Well I know mock drafts don't mean a whole lot. Because no one knows what these teams are thinking. But every mock draft I look at has us picking either 31 or 32 with New England having the other of the two picks. So for the guys who actually pay attention to the teams and not the media so much around the country seem to favor us as far as the draft position they project us at.

We do not need anyone to believe in us except the team. As long as they believe they can win the game we are and will be alright. I have heard everyone steps it up in the playoffs. Well if our offense steps it up with all our weapons, I feel the Pack will not have a chance. Some like to say close game, but I feel we are going to give them something they and the rest of the country need, "a reality check".

So bring it on, just remember we are watching this game from Atlanta and not Green Bay for a very big reason that everyone has forgotten about.

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Well I know mock drafts don't mean a whole lot. Because no one knows what these teams are thinking. But every mock draft I look at has us picking either 31 or 32 with New England having the other of the two picks. So for the guys who actually pay attention to the teams and not the media so much around the country seem to favor us as far as the draft position they project us at.

We do not need anyone to believe in us except the team. As long as they believe they can win the game we are and will be alright. I have heard everyone steps it up in the playoffs. Well if our offense steps it up with all our weapons, I feel the Pack will not have a chance. Some like to say close game, but I feel we are going to give them something they and the rest of the country need, "a reality check".

So bring it on, just remember we are watching this game from Atlanta and not Green Bay for a very big reason that everyone has forgotten about.

They will remember in a short time why the Birds got to rest for a week. This is the year.

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Yes these models are based on yards. We sacrifice yards to gain advantage in other aspects of the game.

Exactly. When I hear these statisticians talk about how we're lucky to be where we are and we're actually mediocre, it drives me nuts. I can understand if we went 5-11 and 6-10 the last two years and all of a sudden we won 13 games this year. Then, sure, call it a fluke. But this regime has won 33 games in 3 seasons playing this type of football, and without injuries last year, that number would be higher. This is when a logical person looks at the numbers and weighs them against the consistent success and says, "Well, this team is an anomaly." But they don't do that. They say we're mediocre and their system is infallible and there's no two ways about it. Ridiculous.

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One has to question the statistical validity when anything but a full sample size is included for data. The rationale for dropping that last game of the season is flawed as well for at least 3 of the four teams as ATL was playing for the 1 seed, SEA was playing for it's conference seed and GB was needing the win just to make it into the Playoffs. I dont know CHI's status as of the final week of the regular season, but at least those 3 teams had meaningful games. I wonder how the analysis is skewed by the remittanceof that last data set?

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This hoopla over the Packers is ridiculous. Yeah, they're a decent team, but if I remember correctly just 3 weeks ago the same media foaming all over them now were the same ones pointing out how Rodgers was suffering from his 2nd concussion, they had no running game, and were on the verge of missing the playoffs. Now by beating teams like the LIONS and a beat up Eagles squad where they had a rook run for a couple of decent games, NOW they've found a "running game", Rodgers is healthy as an ox AND elite, and the Pack are a lock to beat a #1 seed that's healthy, dam near unbeatable at home, and have been consistently handling any and every team they've faced all season save ONE game where they got dusted up in Philly early on in the season. I guess they must do this to get the ratings up as high as possible cause if people were told the truth (that the Falcons are going 2 beat that azz) they (the media) are afraid ppl won't watch the game (which is stupid)or something cause ...it's Atlanta.

I can't figure out any other explanation. <_<

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