2004 Season NFL Football Past Picks
February 06, 2005
This pick was released to clients on July 11, 2012 at 3:40PM ET.
New England at Philadelphia
Sunday 02/06 06:25 PM Eastern
4 units on New England -7 (-110) (risk 4 to return 7.64) RESULT: loss
1 unit on Game Total OVER 47.5 -110 (risk 1 to return 1.91) RESULT: loss
A friend of mine immediately called me after New England clinched their third trip to the Super Bowl in four years. He asked "who do you like?" I first blurted out the very obvious answer to me at the time: New England is going to crush the Eagles. I then paused and said that I needed to dig into the stats and analyze the game but my gut told me that I'm either laying off this game or going with New England. No way I'm fading the Pats any more this year. Well, I have now completed my analysis and guess what? It supports my initial gut feel in a big, big way. For those of you who enjoy the gory details, read on. For those of you who are still conducting your own statistical analysis, view a detailed statistical matchup for this game on my website.
New England is a piece of work. This team held the league's top offense to three points. Peyton Manning broke the "unbreakable" single-season touchdown record but couldn't do squat against the Patriots. New England then proceeded to score 41 points on the league's top defense - on their home turf! They held the NFL's second-best running team to under 100 yards and won on the road against a team that had won 15 straight games. Don't know about you but that's impressive in my book. But 7 points? Didn't Philly look good against Atlanta, a team that many thought could beat the Eagles? Yes they did. Will it matter? No way. Ladies and Germs, this spread couldn't be big enough.
In many ways this game mirrors what we saw last week in the Philadelphia / Atlanta matchup. In that game we had a big time mismatch. As impressive as Atlanta's record was this year, they were way overrated. They were not as good as Philadelphia. In fact, they were much worse. On Super Bowl Sunday, the Eagles will get a dose of their own medicine. Philadelphia is a good team. They are by far the best in the NFC - no question. But they are no match for New England. The Pats have a better offense and a better defense. New England's coaching staff is the best their is. And they have all of the emotional and intangible edges.
Emotions / Intangibles
The Pats have instilled a culture of winning, especially in big games. They will not be intimidated here. They have been here before and expect to win. Philadelphia threw a huge monkey off their back last week, finally advancing to the Super Bowl after three straight Conference Finals losses. That's going to hurt them here - not help them. Last week was, in many ways, Philly's Super Bowl. The players, coaches, owner and fans let out a collective sigh of relief at the end of that game. They did it! Finally. Notice the choice of words there? They did it. Their goal this season, whether they admit it or not, was to finally get to the Super Bowl. It was to win that game last weekend. They are happy and satisfied. Even if they lose the Super Bowl, they will view their season as a success. New England will of course not view anything but a win in the Super Bowl as success. New England is very disciplined (-192 net penalty yards) and Pats players come to play - on EVERY down. They simply don't let up at all. They want it more than their opponents and simply refuse to lose. They refuse to lose games but more than that - they refuse to lose any play within those games. And this week's Dumbo Moment brought to you by Freddie Mitchell. Did the Philadelphia receiver really bad mouth the Patriots secondary? Yes he did. Oooooh boy - let's give this defense some extra motivation here to kick your butt even more than they would have otherwise. Even the loud-mouth T.O. was smart enough not to do this.
Strengths / Weaknesses
Back to the relative strengths of these teams. Both of these teams were very stingy in giving up points this season. They allowed 260 each in the regular season or 16.25 per game. In their two playoff games, New England allowed 30 and Philadelphia gave up 24. But, remember that the Pats held Indy (a team that put up 33 points per game in the regular season and 49 in their first playoff game) to just 3 points. New England's defense is better. They are more physical and they can play the run, unlike Philadelphia. New England held opponents under 100 yards per game this season and just 9 rushing TDs while the Eagles gave up nearly 120 per game and allowed 13 rushing touchdowns. Philadelphia's saving grace is that they did a great job at keeping opponents out of the end zone. I don't expect New England, with Corey Dillon and the unflappable Tom Brady to have trouble punching it in. Philadelphia did a good job defending the league's best rushing game last week but don't get too excited about that. Atlanta was a one-dimensional team as their passing game was worse than mediocre. Philadelphia won't have the luxury of loading up in the box against the Pats who can beat you in the air and on the ground.
Philadelphia Offense vs. New England Defense
Philadelphia's offense strength is Donovan McNabb. As predicted, he had a field day against a bad Atlanta pass defense. But while Atlanta allowed 63.4% opponent completion percentage (worst of any playoff team besides Indy), New England holds opposing QBs to just 58.6%. They shut down Peyton Manning and can also shut down McNabb. They confuse and frustrate opponent offenses not only by getting in the head of the quarterback, but by playing physical with the receivers. As was the case with Indianapolis, Philadelphia's receivers are physically weak. T.O.'s another story and if he can play at full speed (very unlikely), he'll make a difference. But Pinkston, Mitchell and Lewis are fragile guys. Pinkston, especially, will be a complete non-factor in this game. Lewis has emerged recently as a deep threat for McNabb which has opened their passing game. But, the guy is small. New England won't let him off the line and will out fight him for jump balls. Philadelphia's receivers won't get open here. The biggest threat would have been big tight-end Chad Lewis. But now he's out. Without him and without a healthy T.O., McNabb will find himself checking down to Brian Westbrook a lot in this game. And, New England's quick reacting defense will be all over him like a fly to flypaper. The Pats are is 5-1 ATS vs. good passing teams averaging 7 or more passing yards/att. and 5-1 ATS vs. good passing teams with a completion pct. of 61% or better this season. No surprise here but I expect Philly's offense to struggle a lot in this game.
New England Offense vs. Philadelphia Defense
When New England's got the ball, they'll move it with relative ease. Corey Dillon will have a lot of success between the 20's against the Eagles' weak run defense. The Pat's averaged 134 yards per game on the ground during the regular season. Philadelphia gave up 119. As mentioned earlier, Philadelphia has had success keeping the opposition out of the end zone, despite their propensity to give up yards. Can New England score against this Eagles' defense? One stat I like to look at in big games is Offensive Points per 100 yards. It's a measure of how prolific a team is at scoring. It's calculated by taking the team's points and dividing by their yards gained and multiplying by 100. New England scores 7.6 points per 100 yards gained. That's excellent. The only playoff team this year that had them beat in that category was Indianapolis (8.1). In case you're wondering, Philadelphia scores 6.9 points per 100 yards gained. Also, New England is 9-1 ATS vs. good defensive teams who give up 17 or less points/game over the last 3 seasons. The above-mentioned stat and trend helps support what my gut tells me - New England will find a way to score points. In addition, as we have seen, the Pats defense is usually good for a score or two in big games.
Trends and Angles and Systems
In the Super Bowl, teams with a positive difference in win-loss ratio of .07 (more than 1 game better in win-loss record) (include playoff games) are 80% ATS. In addition, favorites in the Big Game with three or fewer losses on the season are also 80% ATS if they have two weeks to prepare. Do you think New England is going to win the game outright? Consider that only 6 times out of 37 has the winning team failed to also cover the spread (although it did happen last year). Also, the team with the better regular season straight-up winning percentage has covered the spread in the Super Bowl 20 out of 32 times.
I've got three independent statistics systems that I use for the Super Bowl to predict the winner. I like to use multiple systems that look at different information. This way, I can see if they agree or conflict. In this game, all three point to New England. Last year two of the three indicated a New England cover (the other made "no pick"). And while New England did not cover last year due to a Carolina back-door, I personally still feel very good that all three of these tell me New England will cover the number.
Sure, seven is a lot of points but not for this New England team. They are 11-3 ATS as a favorite this season. The Patriots scored 30.6 points per game on the road this season while allowing just 20.2 The Eagles won their road games by an average score of 23.2 to 17.6. If we average these out, we get a score of NE 24-17. However, in big games, New England steps it up, as they did the past two weeks, easily winning by more than 7 points against two teams that are better than Philadelphia. In Super Bowl games played on grass fields, 15 have gone OVER while just 7 have gone UNDER. That's a nice 68% cover rate. Games where the total is between 42.5 and 49 points and features a solid team that is outscoring opponents by 7 or more points/game (Philadelphia), after allowing 14 points or less in 2 straight games have gone OVER 38-10 (79%) over the last 10 seasons. Also, Games where the total is between 42.5 and 49 points featuring a quick starting offensive team scoring 14+ PPG in the first half (New England), after a playing a game where 50 total points or more were scored have gone OVER 57-25 (70%) over the last 5 seasons.
I predict a New England win to the tune of about 42-24. I like New England big for four stars and I like the OVER a little for one star. Even if the game goes UNDER, New England will win it and cover the spread. A good teaser would be to tease New England down to -1 and the total down to 41.5 (taking New England and the Over).
For those of you who care, I like Corey Dillon OVER 95.5 yards, Todd Pinkston under 45.5 yards, Corey Dillon MVP (6 to 1), Patriots win by 22+ points (6 to 1).