NFL Divisional Round Predictions: Data-Driven Picks for Eagles vs Giants, More
Steph Chambers/Getty Images. Pictured: Brian Daboll.
Billy Ward: In the Wild Card Round, there were three games with differing spreads and relatively low totals. I attacked that by targeting the other side of this prop at -200, and went 3-for-3.
The logic: In a lower scoring game, each point is worth considerably more. Additionally, the big spread means one team is much better, and also very likely to score first.
Flipping that logic on its head, we have an edge on the other side of that bet in the Divisional Round. Depending on how we break this up, this should be a nearly even money bet.
Games with spreads of seven or more and totals in the 50s actually have the first scoring team lose slightly over 50% of the time. While that’s likely more of a statistical anomaly than a relatable trend, various other subsets of the data still arrive at close to 50%.
For example, all games with a total of 48.5 or higher – regardless of spread – have roughly 44% odds (+127) that the first scoring team loses. The logic is somewhat intuitive here. The high total means the underdog is likely to find offensive success, too, and each individual point has less overall impact.
Nick Giffen: Starting with the basics: Kirk has a median of 74 receiving yards in 2022. That jumps to 78 if we just look at games in which Kirk played at least 90% of snaps.
That’s important because we should expect Kirk to play nearly every snap possible in a playoff game. Last week, he played on 99% of Jacksonville’s snaps in their comeback win against the Chargers.
The Jaguars may have to attempt another comeback as a nearly double-digit underdog against Kansas City. There’s a real chance that not only will Kirk be on the field for nearly every snap, but Jacksonville may have to throw the ball at an extremely high rate.
The matchup also favors Kirk, as the Chiefs are second worst against the slot in a geometric mean of yards per route run, yards per game and touchdowns allowed.
What’s more, the Chiefs play man defense at the eighth-highest rate in the NFL. That should suit Kirk well, as he has more than a full yard per route run against man coverage than against zone coverage. In the five games against teams that play man coverage at a top-10 rate, Kirk gained a minimum of 74 yards receiving.
That includes a 105-yard game against Kansas City in Week 10, when the Chiefs played man coverage 45.1% of the time.
If you plot a graph of the percentage of time the Jaguars faced man defense against Kirk’s receiving yards, there is an extremely strong linear correlation.
I have Kirk sailing over this projection, and would bet it up to 67.5.
Sean Koerner: Jones is the forgotten pass-catcher in the Jaguars' passing attack. However, I think he correlates the best with Lawrence’s passing yards over and has some sneaky upside.
Since Week 12, Jones has averaged only a 69% routes run rate, but that shot up to 90% against the Chargers. The main reason for that was due to the Jaguars getting into a trailing game script early, which forced them to use more 3-wide sets over 2-TE sets. We will likely see the Jaguars use a similar strategy against the Chiefs.
Kansas City has generated pressure at the fifth highest rate this season. The player who benefits the most on the Jaguars when Lawrence is under pressure is Jones.
Jones' target rate goes from 12.7% when Lawrence has a clean pocket to 17.8% when Lawrence is facing pressure. His +5.1% increase in target share makes him the only full-time Jags player who sees an uptick when Lawrence is under pressure.
I’m projecting Jones' median closer to 34.5 yards and would bet this up to 29.5.
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Billy Ward: Philadelphia first half overs is a road we’ve traveled often this year, with largely solid results. The key is for it to be a winnable game for the Eagles, who tend to play highly aggressive football until they get to a comfortable lead, then slowly bleed out the clock.
While these teams met in Week 18, that was a meaningless game for the Giants, who rested their starters. Prior to that, they met in December in a game that produced 30 first half points against a 44.5 total.
With Jalen Hurts off the injury report, the Eagles should look like the team that led the league in first half scoring this season.
New York’s offense is less inspiring, but it seems to be clicking at the right time. The Giants have topped 30 points in both of their last two meaningful games, and probably only need to contribute a touchdown for this line to work out.
Getting 23.5 against a full game total of 48 is a gift, as it implies more of the scoring will happen in the second half. That’s simply not the likeliest outcome when the Eagles are playing, especially as considerable favorites.
Nick Giffen: We’ve talked about this nearly every week with Elliott, but Philly passes up on field goals on fourth down at the highest rate in the NFL. They kick eight fewer field goals than expected according to my model.
The Giants are fourth best on third down defense. As a result, they’ve allowed the third most field goals in the league. However, New York is just 29th in overall defensive DVOA. When plotting all 32 teams in third down defense vs. defensive DVOA, the Giants show as the largest outlier, meaning their defense on third downs is likely to revert toward league average over time.
There’s strong value on both under extra points and field goals made, so those also work as plays. Personally, I prefer to combine them and back under 7.5 kicking points, which I have happening 58% of the time.
I’d bet under 7.5 to -120.
Sean Koerner: Bellinger averaged a 96% routes run rate from Weeks 15-17, which led all tight ends. But despite truly elite usage, he only averaged 24 yards per game over that stretch.
His routes run rate fell to 82% last week against the Vikings, as Lawrence Cager saw a huge increase in playing time with a 30% routes run rate. My guess is Cager's 8/69/0 receiving game in Week 18 earned him more playing time. He is a former receiver and could give the Giants' passing attack a bit more pop.
It’s going to be much tougher for Bellinger to clear this number with a decrease in playing time, especially against an Eagles defense that ranks sixth in DVOA against TEs.
In fact, his playing time may take an even bigger dip because he didn’t stay in to pass block on a single snap in the Wild Card Round. Typically, Bellinger stays in to block on an average of 2.5 plays, so his routes run rate may fall lower if he stays in to block at his typical rate and the Giants continue to use Cager at a similar clip.
While Bellinger has a 91% catch rate on the year, and a low aDot of 4.1, it’s a rate that’s likely unsustainable. It also means he could conceivably catch three passes and stay under this number, like he did the previous time he played against the Eagles in Week 14, when he went for 3/19/0.
Between his high catch rate and low aDot, something has to give going forward and it will only make it more difficult for him to clear this total. I’m projecting Bellinger's median closer to 19.5 and would only bet this down to 22.5 because every yard in a market like this is massive.