After a few weeks off, I finally have my act together enough to post my weekly picks before the games are played (trust me, I was great in the weeks I didn't publish, only missed two games the entire time). All the picks are below, but in going through the data, I wanted to focus on one pick in particular. It should come as not shock that the model picks the Steelers to beat the Bengals in Cincinnati. The Steelers are 5 and 2 and at the top of the division while the Bengals are 2 and 5 and in the cellar of the division. The data though has two interesting bits of information, one about the Steelers, and one about the game.
The Steelers defense is in line to be epically good against the run. On 158 attempts, the Steelers' opponents have logged a total of 412 yards or 2.6 yards per carry. The next closest average is the Jets which give up 3.4 yards per carry. Since 2000, only 3 defenses have finished the season allowing fewer than 3 yards per carry ('00 Ravens 2.7, '07 Ravens 2.8, & '06 Vikings 2.8). Even more impressive perhaps, is that they allow only 1.9 yards per carry on 1st down. Since none of their remaining opponents have truly dominant run games (depending upon how you feel about the Jets and Raiders) they could finish the season allowing less than 2.5 yards per carry. Historic defense really is sexy.
Now for the game, the model suggests that while there is a 66% chance the Steelers will win, there is a 70% chance that they won't cover the 6 point spread. You have no reason to believe this, particularly after I just got done explaining how epically good the Steelers defense is, but give me a chance to explain. The Bengals passing attack is about average and so is the Steelers pass defense, particularly on first down. What the Bengals are doing well though is taking advantage of the fact that they gain 50% more yards on first down when they pass than when they run. They have the fourth highest first down passing rate in the league, which will allow them to continue to do what they do well, most frequently. The Steelers on the other hand get more than double the yards passing than running on first down yet have the lowest first down pass rate in the league (32%). The Bengals are using their limited resources in a far more efficient manner. This effective use of resources may not be enough to win the game, but it will likely be enough to keep it close.
On to the rest of the picks:
Minnesota (28) vs Arizona (20)
Buffalo (14) vs. Chicago (17)
Green Bay (26) vs Dallas (19)
Philadelphia (24) vs. Indianapolis (21)
Oakland (18) vs Kansas City (21)
Baltimore (21) vs. Miami (16)
Cleveland (20) vs. New England (26)
Carolina (14) vs. New Orleans (21)
Houston (18) vs. San Diego (21)
Atlanta (24) vs Tampa Bay (23)
Note: Giants and Jets predictions are available in the New York edition of the Wall Street Journal.