Divisional Round Power Rankings: I Just Hope We Can Win a Game!

Welcome to the Divisional Round edition of Someone Still Loves You Alberto Riveron’s weekly NFL power rankings. To help us make sense of what happened during this last batch of NFL action, we’ve asked former NFL coach and current NFL Network analyst Jim Mora to share his thoughts with us below. Please enjoy.

Well, I’ll start off my remarks by saying this: I’m sure there are a lot of wiseacres and a bunch of Chuckling Chesters out there who are doubting my credentials as a PLAYOFFS? analyst and saying to themselves, “Hey, what’s old man Mora doing lecturing us on PLAYOFF? keys to success? He never even won a PLAYOFF? game! He’s probably still wandering around the Superdome turf looking for Bobby Hebert’s jockstrap!” Well, Brian Baldinger, I’ll have you know that I gave up my search for Bobby’s lost treasure of youth a full decade and a half ago and have completely made my peace with that decision! Furthermore, I’d like to remind all you naysayers that there’s only one person talking right now who won 125 games in the National Football League and immortalized himself through a series of ornery yet ultimately lovable quotes as an irascible curmudgeon. As I told the waitress at Steak ‘N Shake the other day after my Double ‘N Cheese Steakburger came back chillier than Marion Campbell’s disposition: you don’t know when it’s good or bad. You really don’t know, because you don’t know what I’m trying to do, you’re not trying to eat this sandwich. You don’t know what happened. You really don’t know. You think you know, but you don’t know. And you never will. That’s why I got kicked out of Steak ‘N Shake and that’s why I’m talking to you about PLAYOFFS? today.

Believe me, though, regrets? OF COURSE I HAVE REGRETS. Don’t talk to me about regrets! I had one of the greatest collections of linebacking talent any single team has ever had on the Saints. Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, Sam Mills, Vaughan Johnson – you ask anyone, all great players, all great guys, all great shuffleboard players. Of course, I’m naturally stuck in the NFC West at the same time as Joe Montana and Steve Young’s peaks when I’m trying to compete with Steve Walsh and John Fourcade as my quarterbacks. You kiddin’ me? Then my fortunes flip around and I get young Peyton Manning as my quarterback in Indianapolis, young Edgerrin James as my running back, and young Marvin Harrison as my #1 receiver. I’m thanking my lucky stars for a reprieve from the horsestuff and malarkey I was saddled with in New Orleans. Then our defense diddly-poos the bed one year and I refuse to fire Vic Fangio as my defensive coordinator – a guy who’s having just A LITTLE BIT OF SUCCESS in San Francisco right now – and that’s that. All she wrote for old Jimmy. I tried to live vicariously through my son’s coaching career for a few years, but it became apparent pretty quickly that not a whole lot of the coaching talent passed on in that parent/child exchange. The boy sure does know how to grill a portobello mushroom, though, I give him that.

You know me, though. I’m not gonna say, “I coulda done this. Let me do this over and I woulda done that. Maybe I shoulda avoided kneeling on every play in the second halves of playoff games that my team led.” Nope. The good coaches don’t come in and say, “Coulda.” They get it done! All right? It’s that simple! Now allow me to rank the remaining PLAYOFF? teams for you all as rated by my patented Diddly-Poo Meter. This trusty invention of mine works equally well when you’re trying to sniff out leftover doggy goodies in your local park (a key component of my rise to the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award back in 2003) and when you’re looking around for a secret stench in an NFL organization. And by “secret stench,” I of course am referring to stenches of the metaphorical type. If you’re looking for a literal stench, the team bathrooms are obviously a good starting place – especially if it’s enchilada day at the cafeteria. Let’s just dive right into this outhouse, shall we?

New England Patriots. Tom Brady reminds me a lot of that smiling, pretty-boy pain-in-the-keester from my coaching days, Joe Montana. Joe was a pure rat fink. Ninety percent of the time, he’d get the ball out within three or five steps and not let you get any real chance at wringing that little chicken neck of his. But then that last ten percent, it was like he was messing with you. He’d scramble around and obviously he wouldn’t go very far because he was slower than Morten Anderson but he’d always twist away at the last second and flick a thirty-yard pass off to Jerry Rice. It was like he would just toy with you out there. God, I hated that guy. Diddly-Poo Meter: 1.5 out of 10 (Clean as a Whistle)

San Francisco 49ers. See, Jim Irsay? This is why I told you I wasn’t going to fire Vic Fangio after 2001. Give him a little bit of talent to work with and he’s going to mold a defense into a top-five unit. Buddy Ryan himself couldn’t have done anything with Chad Cota and Idrees Bashir stuck as his safeties. By the end of that season, I was just hoping we could force an incomplete pass. Diddly-Poo Meter: 2 out of 10 (No Colon Troubles Here, Colonel)

Baltimore Ravens. I’m proud of that kid, the Flacco. People give him a lot of horsestuff and malarkey for not being as good as Johnny Unitas or Peyton Manning. Of course he’s not as good as Johnny or Peyton! Those are two of the most boring guys I ever met – both football machines. Couldn’t have any sort of discussion about politics or music with either of them. You don’t want to be a robot, do you, Joe? I didn’t think so! Anyway, I like this team but the fact of the matter is they wouldn’t be here if that Denver free safety doesn’t have his head up his butt on that long throw at the end of the game. That angle he took to the ball had me vomiting in my living room. Of course, that could also be due to the flu bug I caught last week – it’s really spreading far and wide, ain’t it? Diddly-Poo Meter: 4.5 out of 10 (A Faint Sniff of Desperation)

Atlanta Falcons. Look, I’ve got no respect for the way they handled themselves after scooping their bacon out of the fire at the last second Sunday. After they won that game, they jumped up and down and giggled and cried like they were little schoolgirls just asked out to the spring formal by Joey Travabotsky. All for winning a game! And this is the team that’s supposed to be the #1 seed in the conference and march down to the Super Bowl with no problems? What a disgrace. You didn’t see me celebrating like that after any of my PLAYOFF? games! Diddly-Poo Meter: 7 out of 10 (Holy Crap, That Thing’s About to Blow)

So if the Diddly-Poo Meter is to be trusted – and there’s no reason not to, other than the lack of scientific testing and strange warts it applies to your skin if you hold it too firmly – I’d say we’re looking at Patriots-49ers in the Super Bowl a few weeks from now. These are two teams with strong identities and few noticeable weaknesses. There’s no Wade Wilson at quarterback or an aging Chad Bratzke masquerading as your best defender – nope, just two balanced teams that could win with just about ANY coach at the helm. *sighs* I’m gonna go back to work on that time machine Rick Venturi was telling me about and see if there’s still some way to transplant Peyton Manning back into 1987. There just has to be…THERE JUST HAS TO BE…

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Once again, here’s the updated power rankings of the remaining playoff teams (with all eliminated teams denoted with the exceptionally-fun-to-use strikethrough function). Baltimore has been the most impressive team in both metrics in each of the first two weeks of the postseason; their win over Denver made their rating almost equal to the Broncos, an impressive feat considering how far ahead Denver was coming into the playoffs. San Francisco is the other big winner in both metrics this week.

Adjusted Yards per Play Differential (league average: 0.00): a descriptive metric that is designed to give an accurate representation of how each team has played thus far.

  1. San Francisco2.12 (Final regular season ranking: 1)
  2. Seattle1.70 (Final regular season ranking: 2)
  3. New England1.59 (Final regular season ranking: 4)
  4. Denver1.24 (Final regular season ranking: 3)
  5. Baltimore1.08 (Final regular season ranking: 9)
  6. Washington: 0.97 (Final regular season ranking: 5)
  7. Houston0.90 (Final regular season ranking: 7)
  8. Atlanta0.68 (Final regular season ranking: 10)
  9. Green Bay0.60 (Final regular season ranking: 8)
  10. Cincinnati0.54 (Final regular season ranking: 12)
  11. Minnesota-0.09 (Final regular season ranking: 15)
  12. Indianapolis-1.59 (Final regular season ranking: 30)

Offensive Adjusted Yards per Play (league average: 4.99)

  1. Washington: 6.24 (Final regular season ranking: 1)
  2. New England6.23 (Final regular season ranking: 3)
  3. San Francisco6.21 (Final regular season ranking: 4)
  4. Atlanta5.86 (Final regular season ranking: 5)
  5. Seattle5.84 (Final regular season ranking: 7)
  6. Green Bay5.73 (Final regular season ranking: 8)
  7. Baltimore5.62 (Final regular season ranking: 12)
  8. Denver5.50 (Final regular season ranking: 9)
  9. Houston5.49 (Final regular season ranking: 11)
  10. Minnesota4.87 (Final regular season ranking: 15)
  11. Cincinnati4.73 (Final regular season ranking: 17)
  12. Indianapolis4.64 (Final regular season ranking: 19)

Defensive Adjusted Yards per Play (league average: 4.99)

  1. San Francisco4.09 (Final regular season ranking: 2)
  2. Seattle4.14 (Final regular season ranking: 3)
  3. Cincinnati4.19 (Final regular season ranking: 5)
  4. Denver4.26 (Final regular season ranking: 4)
  5. Baltimore4.54 (Final regular season ranking: 11)
  6. Houston4.60 (Final regular season ranking: 8)
  7. New England4.64 (Final regular season ranking: 9)
  8. Minnesota4.95 (Final regular season ranking: 16)
  9. Green Bay5.13 (Final regular season ranking: 15)
  10. Atlanta5.18 (Final regular season ranking: 18)
  11. Washington5.28 (Final regular season ranking: 22)
  12. Indianapolis6.22 (Final regular season ranking: 31)

Predictive Yards per Play Differential (league average: 0.994197): a metric which doesn’t give as large a penalty or bonus to turnovers or touchdowns, will also take into account strength of schedule and will (theoretically) better able to predict future performance. This metric uses probabilities drawn from research Brian Burke did back in 2008 in trying to determine which stats best correlated with future play. For example, because offensive performance is much more consistent from week-to-week than defensive performance, offensive play is more highly prioritized in these rankings.

  1. San Francisco1.986312 (Final regular season ranking: 1)
  2. Seattle1.87382 (Final regular season ranking: 2)
  3. New England1.476964 (Final regular season ranking: 5)
  4. Green Bay1.422286 (Final regular season ranking: 4)
  5. Denver1.388711 (Final regular season ranking: 3)
  6. Baltimore1.361961 (Final regular season ranking: 12)
  7. Washington1.309908 (Final regular season ranking: 7)
  8. Minnesota1.24276 (Final regular season ranking: 11)
  9. Houston1.141174 (Final regular season ranking: 16)
  10. Atlanta1.140645 (Final regular season ranking: 17)
  11. Cincinnati0.923978 (Final regular season ranking: 19)
  12. Indianapolis0.263978 (Final regular season ranking: 31)

Offensive Predictive Yards per Play (league average: 2.847355)

  1. San Francisco: 3.440079 (Final regular season ranking: 3)
  2. Seattle: 3.43701 (Final regular season ranking: 2)
  3. New England: 3.370899 (Final regular season ranking: 5)
  4. Washington: 3.336472 (Final regular season ranking: 4)
  5. Green Bay: 3.221276 (Final regular season ranking: 7)
  6. Atlanta: 3.147389 (Final regular season ranking: 13)
  7. Baltimore: 3.072787 (Final regular season ranking: 14)
  8. Denver: 3.000000 (Final regular season ranking: 11)
  9. Minnesota: 2.949878 (Final regular season ranking: 15)
  10. Houston: 2.876786 (Final regular season ranking: 18)
  11. Cincinnati: 2.696806 (Final regular season ranking: 20)
  12. Indianapolis: 2.549182 (Final regular season ranking: 24)

Defensive Predictive Yards per Play (league average: 1.853158)

  1. San Francisco1.453767 (Final regular season ranking: 2)
  2. Seattle1.563191 (Final regular season ranking: 3)
  3. Denver1.611289 (Final regular season ranking: 4)
  4. Minnesota1.707118 (Final regular season ranking: 8)
  5. Baltimore1.710826 (Final regular season ranking: 12)
  6. Houston1.735612 (Final regular season ranking: 10)
  7. Cincinnati: 1.772828 (Final regular season ranking: 13)
  8. Green Bay1.798991 (Final regular season ranking 11)
  9. New England1.893935 (Final regular season ranking: 20)
  10. Atlanta2.006744 (Final regular season ranking: 24)
  11. Washington2.026564 (Final regular season ranking: 25)
  12. Indianapolis2.285204 (Final regular season ranking: 32)
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