Monday, September 1, 2014

NFL 2014: The Sports Savant's AFC NORTH Preview

Welcome to Part II of my 2014 NFL Divisional preview!  I've covered the AFC EAST and today, it's a preview and record predictions for the AFC NORTH!

The AFC NORTH is a division that has been owned by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens since its inception when the NFL realigned the divisions back in 2002. Even the Cincinnatti Bengals have top this division on three occasions in its 13 year history with the Cleveland Browns being the only team in this division to have never won the AFC NORTH. In 2014 this division looks like it will be a complete toss-up between 3 of the 4 teams with Pittsburgh and Baltimore regressin in the last couple of years and the Bengals beginning to have some of the young talent they have drafted in the last few years finally coming to fruition.  The Bengals won the division last season and are looking to repeat.  Can they stave off the Ravens and Steelers?

Cleveland Browns

In Mike Pettine's first year as head coach for the Cleveland Browns, he faces many challenges with a team that lacks elite talent at any position.  The first thing that has to be discussed when talking about the future of this team in 2014 is whether or not their highly publicized 1st round selection, QB Johnny Manziel, will supplant QB incumbent Brian Hoyer for the starting QB job.  Neither showed much to be confident about going into this season as they have both performed poorly in the preseason games.  It looks as if Hoyer will maintain the starting job for now, but it will be no surprise if this team moves to the future by starting Manzeil at some point early in the season.  Look for Manzeil to replace Hoyer if the team has a bad start, which by all accounts, they are expected to do.

Though the QB situation is still unsettled, this team did improve in the off-season through free agency.  Key contributors on this team could be some of the new faces they brought in, particularly on offense. RB Ben Tate is finally getting his first opportunity to be a starter in the NFL after being known as the best backup RB in the league on Houston's team, buried on the depth chart by Arian Foster for the last few years.  Even if this team can't pass the ball effectively, which there is no reason to think that they will, they should have a fairly stout running attack.

Additions at WR include decent talent with WR Nate Burleson and WR Andrew Hawkins joining the team, but these guys were 2nd and 3rd options on their previous teams so they shouldn't be too impactful.  When you talk about the Browns offense though, the biggest story of their season will be the absence of star WR Josh Gordon who is serving a one year suspension for a variety of drug related violations of the NFL's substance abuse policy.  This team was already going to be very average with his presence, but they offense will be downright bad without him.

The defense was one of the league's more potent last year and made a huge addition in adding free agent SS Donte Whitner from the San Francisco 49ers defense.  He is an All-Pro safety that hits as hard as anyone in the NFL.  The defense looks to be as formidable as they were last year and maybe even a bit better with the addition of Whitner.

In all, there isn't much to expect from this team.  They are still very clearly a rebuilding project with no discernible purpose in 2014 in terms of winning anything.  All this team can really hope for is noticeable maturity and growth from their newly drafted QB and hope he can help them start to develop a positive future, but this is the only thing to play for in 2014 for the Cleveland Browns.

Savant Record Prediction: (4-12, 4th place)

Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens are coming off of their worst season under John Harbaugh in the 7 seasons he has coached their.  Last year was the first season in that time that the Ravens have failed to make the playoffs.  Was it the proverbial "Super Bowl Hangover" from winning the title in 2012?  For this team, I'm afraid it's more than just that.  This is a team that is getting older and key players are either gone or nearing retirement since their Super Bowl win just two seasons ago.

This team's issues start at the QB position.  We have all seen QB Joe Flacco have flashes of brilliance in key Ravens victories, none more than his improbable playoff run that rivaled the greatest we've ever seen in the NFL.  What we also knew was that Flacco could not maintain that level of play based on his playing history.  But because Flacco got hot for 4 games in the playoffs and won the Super Bowl, he was rewarded with the largest contract in NFL history at the time of it's signing in 2013.  This was a contract for a QB who historically has been average to sub-par and he showed it last season by being one of the lowest rated QB's in the league while earning the biggest salary.  The bigger issue for the Ravens in this deal is that his salary eats up such a large portion of their salary cap space that it leaves them little room to spend money on free agents.  They are essentially handcuffed by the contract they gave Flacco that everyone knew was a mistake.

As if the Ravens needed any more problems after last year's 8-8 season, then there was the off-season domestic violence incident that got their lead RB and historic horse, Ray Rice, suspended for the first two games of the NFL season.  They have a pretty capable backup in RB Bernard Pierce, but it's been the distraction of the event that has taken more of a toll than Ray Rice's aging legs will provide the Ravens.  Rice is clearly on the down-slope of his career and with only guys like WR Torrey Smith and TE Dennis Pitta to throw the ball to, this offense is not scaring anyone.  Also not to be forgotten is that this team lost it's best offensive tackle, Micheael Oher, to free agency leaving a giant shoes to fill at the all-important left tackle position.

Equally as concerning is their defense, that has almost entirely turned over since the 2012 Super Bowl season.  Many of their key defensive players were let go to make room for Joe Flacco's giant contract and it showed last year as the Ravens slipped from being one of the league's great defenses as they were for years to a very average one.  There isn't much you can look at to find improvement for this team from last year, in fact, I think they have regressed.  I don't see a playoff bid for this team in 2014 making two years in a row they will not have made the playoffs.  Because of his giant salary, look for the potential for Flacco to be cut after this season if he performs poorly again.

Savant Record Prediction: (7-9, 3rd place)

Pittsburgh Steelers

The 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers are a team that has been getting a pass on past success but is facing scrutiny now for under-performing in the last few years.  Head Coach Mike Tomlin is starting to feel the heat and it will only get hotter if this team does not make another playoff run this season.  What does not bode well for the Steelers is that it appears that their departed players from last season are outweighing the acquisitions they made.  Staples of past Steelers defenses were all dismissed in the off-season including familiar names Ryan Clark, Larry Foote, Brett Keisel and Lamar Woodley, all from the defense.  The offense also lost WR Emmanuel Sanders with no solid replacement to lineup across from WR Antonio Brown.

The Steelers did acquire goal-line specialist, LeGarrette Blount and promoted their young stud RB, Le'Veon Bell, to the starting position, but both of these players face potential suspension for marijuana possession charges and in Bell's case a DUI.  These players could end up missing some time this season which will be critical to the Steelers running game.

To replace the departed receivers, the Steelers did go out and sign WR Lance Moore and WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, but neither has a history of performing on a high level as the second WR option on previous teams, especially Bey who was the 7th overall pick in the '09 draft and has been a bust ever since.  They like the talent they have brought in through this year's draft in Martavis Bryant and last year's draft in Markus Wheaton, but Wheaton's rookie season was forgettable last year so both are only a glass full of potential until we see something from these guys on the field.

The defense, which had finished in the top 10 in total defense for 10 straight seasons before last year is completely revamped and younger than ever.  They are relying on major development of young defensive players to keep the Steelers tradition of dominant defenses alive in 2014.  The secondary is still lead by veterans Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor but the front seven is now filled with rookies and second/third year players like Cameron Heyward and Jason Worilds and rookies Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt who will have to step in for big names who have been let go.

This is a team that is just not yet built for playoff success.  The turnover rate was too high to have consistency on defense and the players are still learning on the job so mistakes will be made that will cost this team games.  Add that to an offense that is without major receiving threats and what looks to be an average running game and this looks like a team that may come up just short of the playoffs.

Savant Record Prediction: (8-8, 2nd place)

Cincinnati Bengals

The 2013 Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC NORTH division for the first time in four years and they are looking for their first ever repeat.  They look primed to do so with a myriad of weapons at their disposal and returning one of the league's best defenses from 2013.  There was little turnover for the Bengals as few notable players departed or were added.  Worth noting though is the addition of backup QB Jason Campbell, who is a very nice insurance plan should starting QB Andy Dalton suffer any injuries this year.  Even if Dalton is out, Campbell has a history of winning games in the NFL and they won't miss much of a beat should Campbell have to play a few games.

What will really determine this team's fate the most is if Andy Dalton can continue his progression as a starting QB in the NFL.  He has won 9, 10 and 11 games in his first 3 seasons as the Bengals signal caller.  If he can continue his ascent, this team could not only take the division again, they could get their first playoff win in 24 years.

The progression of Andy Dalton won't be the only deciding factor, however.  They are going to need a breakout year from their second year RB Giovani Bernard this season, who will be taking over as the lead back with the release of BenJarvis Green-Ellis this preseason.  Bernard has all of the talent to be a quality back in his first year as the full-time starter and I expect him to have a top 10 RB season for the Bengals.  Of course, no one can forget that this team has one of the elite WR targets in the NFL in A.J. Green as well.  This trio of QB, RB and WR will be very dangerous for opposing defenses.

The one potentially key loss that the Bengals had this off-season was the loss of DE Michael Johnson, but this was a loss the Bengals anticipated and addressed in the draft by picking up Margus Hunt and Will Clarke in the 2nd and 3rd rounds in 2013.  These players have some of the same raw talent that they once had in Michael Johnson so it's reasonable to expect they won't miss much of a beat at the defensive end position.

If this team fires on all of it's cylinders this season, the sky is the limit for them.  This is a team with a real outside chance of making it to the AFC title game.  Because of their superior roster and the youth they have at most of the key positions, they should have no problem winning the AFC NORTH by at least a couple of games.  The Cincinnati Bengals will be your 2014 AFC NORTH Champs!

Savant Record Prediction: (11-5, 1st place)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

NFL 2014: The Sports Savant's AFC EAST Preview

Welcome back to The Sports Savant's Sports Blog!  Today, I'm writing the first of my NFL divisional previews in an eight part series covering the four divisions of the AFC and NFC with predictions on records and final standings of the teams in each division.  Up first is the AFC EAST...

The AFC EAST is a division that has been dominated by a single team for the better part of a decade, but this year, the division looks as wide open as it has looked in a long time.  The team that has dominated is, of course, the New England Patriots.  They've won the AFC EAST an astronomical 13 times in the last 15 seasons with exception to the 2002 New York Jets and 2008 Miami Dolphins, respectively.  It's been nothing short of a stranglehold by the Patriots, on the AFC EAST, usually winning the division by multiple games each year.  But in a year that sees the skills of the AFC EAST's leading QB, Tom Brady, diminishing and a cast of young, inexperienced skill players on offense, the division is looking winnable for other AFC EAST teams hungry for a long overdue division title.  Will the Patriots win the division again or will a new AFC EAST team taking the title?

New York Jets

In Rex Ryan's 6th season as the New York Jets' head coach, he has more to prove than ever before.  Coming off of last year's 8-8 season and a combined 22-26 record over the last three years, this is a make or break year for the coach.  Rex Ryan teams are usually lauded for their defense, but the 19th ranked defense from last year could not do enough to overcome the Jets' 29th ranked offense in 2013.

This year, the Jets added a couple of potentially key contributors to their offense, signing free agent WR Eric Decker from the Denver Broncos and the unceremoniously departed RB Chris Johnson from the Tennessee Titans.  For the Jets, both of these guys need to prove something to themselves and the league.  Decker has yet to prove he can be a #1 WR in a below average offense and show that he is not just good when he has Peyton Manning throwing him the ball with one of the league's most dangerous WR threats on the other side of him(Demaryius Thomas).  Chris Johnson is coming off of his worst season of his career and lowest yards per carry average in 2013 with the Titans, not far removed from his 2,006 rushing yard season of a few years ago.

The biggest question mark for this team will be at the QB position where embattled veteran, Michael Vick, who was signed as a free agent this off-season, will compete with second year QB, Geno Smith, for the starting position.  The thought is that Geno will be the starter since he showed some signs of being a quality NFL starter last year and he clearly would be the future of the Jets organization whereas Vick is in the twilight of his career but would serve as one of the most dynamic backup QB's in the league.  This could change by Week 1, but I don't see the team too differently despite who is starting at QB.

What worries me about this team most is that their very average defense last year only got worse with the departure of top-notch CB Antonio Cromartie and they didn't bring in any difference makers in free agency to help that 19th ranked D from last season.  So far, young CB, Dee Milliner, has not lived up to his highly touted talent coming into the league last year as a 1st round pick.  If this defense is going to be better next year, they are going to need Milliner to become the All-Pro NFL talent he is supposed to become very quickly.  I otherwise don't see a much better outcome for the Jets in 2014 on defense.

It's hard to have any faith that this team can make a big turnaround in 2014 with their roster as it is currently constructed.  I imagine they will continue to take their lumps while Geno learns on the job and that average defense will continue to be mediocre.  This very well may lead to the firing of Rex Ryan, which I see as a real possibility when this team finishes dead last in the AFC EAST.

Savant Record Prediction: (6-10, 4th place)

Buffalo Bills

Second year head coach, Doug Marrone and the Buffalo Bills come into the 2014 season from last year's 4th place finish in the AFC EAST last season.  A team that had didn't have high expectations last year, the Bills never did quite get off of the ground because of inconsistent play from rookie QB E.J. Manuel and a flurry of injuries between both of their pro-bowl level RB, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.  Though finishing last in their division last year, their were positives to take from the season, including the development of Manuel.

What Manuel lacked last season was a discernible threat at the WR position, but the Bills took care of that need in this year's draft with their 1st round pick, WR phenom Sammy Watkins from Clemson.  Watkins has already shown flashes of his brilliance at the position in training camp and preseason.  His addition should open things up a bit more for Manuel and the Bills offense.  If the Watkins effect works as planned and if even one of the two star RB, Spiller and Jackson, can stay healthy all season, this could be a pretty good offense.  Much better than the one we saw in 2013.

The defense took a critical hit in their secondary losing Pro-Bowl SS Jairus Byrd to a free agent deal with the New Orleans Saints and losing their 2013 leading tackler, LB Kiko Alonso, for the 2014 season after suffering an off-season knee injury.  Byrd and Alonso were the two most critical parts of their 10th ranked defense last season with their exceptional combined tackling and coverage skills keeping teams bottled up underneath.  These are two players that cannot be replaced easily and it will be a task filling those shoes for this defense.  They, of course, have the services arguably the best DE in the game in Mario Williams, but other than him this team is sparse on defensive talent.

Overall, I see this team making an improvement from last year's 6-10 mark but with Manuel still learning on the job, Watkins adjusting to playing in the NFL in his rookie season, the potential for injury to their running backs and the defense looking much worse on paper than it did last season, I'm only giving Buffalo one additional win over last season.  This team is too young on offense and doesn't have enough play-makers on defense to take a big step toward the playoffs.

Savant Record Prediction: (7-9, 3rd place)

Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins are a team of close calls in the last few years.  Each year for the last several seasons they have been just a play or two away from winning a couple of additional games and then consequently end up just a game or two away from making the playoffs.  Since 2008, when the Dolphins last won the AFC EAST division in an 11 win season, they have combined to win 35 games to 45 losses never winning more than 8 games and never losing less than 7 games in the 5 year span.  The consistency with which this team finishes with 7 to 8 wins shows how long they've been on the verge of a playoff berth with most #6 seed AFC Wild Card Playoff teams finishing with 9 to10 win season. Will the Dolphins be able to get over the playoff hump?

The Dolphins come into the 2014 NFL season lead by second year head coach, Joe Philbin, and 3rd year starting QB Ryan Tannehill who's looking to make that leap from average NFL starter to consistent quality starting QB.  Tannehill showed flashes of being just that but a porous offensive line and limited overall skill at the WR and RB positions made it difficult for a QB of his young pedigree in 2013.  The O-line was typically not able to create enough pocket time for Tannehill to hit the Dolphin's new(and expensive) free agent WR pickup, the speedy Mike Wallace, and was not threatened in the run game by any discernibly fast or powerful RB leaving defenses free to constantly drop 7 defenders into coverage, a defensive scheme difficult to pass on with the extra defenders not rushing the passer or committing to the run.  One of Miami's biggest challenges this year will be creating more time to throw the ball vertical to their big play threat at WR and make defenses respect their run game to make defenses commit more players to the run.

What did the Dolphins do to improve these weaknesses?  They went out and signed one of the most prolific offensive tackles in the NFL right now in Branden Albert who was a former 15th overall pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008.  He will be a welcome upgrade over the controversially departed Jonathan Martin and should do wonders to protect the all important "blind side" for the Dolphin's QB.  To help out the running game, they brought in veteran RB Knowshon Moreno from the Denver Broncos who rushed for over 1,000 yards and 10 rushing TD's in the Broncos pass-heavy offense.  The Dolphins didn't add any new splash player on defense, but expect them to come back this year with a similarly stout defense, returning most of the players that made them the 8th best defense in the NFL.

Between that solid defense and the improvement made on the offensive line, I see the Dolphins and Tannehill taking a step forward and improving on their 2013 campaign, but I don't see positive things for the running game featuring an underacheiving Lamar Miller and the aging Moreno who know longer get's to face defenses in fear of Peyton Manning's colossal 340 passing YPG average.  Add the fact that Moreno had a scope surgery on his one healthy knee and a repeat of his success from last year looks unlikely leaving the Dolphins exposed on the ground.  I see a potential playoff run for the Dolphins in 2014 but not a division title.  Look for them to potentially secure a 5 or 6 seed in the AFC this year.

Savant Record Prediction: (9-7, 2nd place)

New England Patriots

Coming off of his worst season since his rookie campaign, Tom Brady is looking to bounce back from what was a very average year by most QB standards.  Despite the down numbers for Brady, head coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots found a way to win the division once again for a 5th consecutive season.  No one knows how to make the most out of a roster lacking talent than the Patriots coaching staff.  Just when everyone thought the Patriots were vulnerable to losing the AFC EAST crown after a season-ending knee injury to their biggest offensive weapon, TE Rob Gronkowski, they pulled it together and rode the remaining roster to an overachieving 12-4 record.

Though not a team with any major strengths outside of having Tom Brady's veteran leadership, the potential for another big year from Gronk and a great head coach, they are also a team without any glaring weaknesses on defense.  The weakest point on this entire roster is their noticeable lack of depth at the WR position.  WR Danny Amendola has proven he can be a quality slot receiver in the NFL but his propencity for being out of the lineup long periods of time is alarming.  They like the prospects of 2nd year WR Kenbrell Thompkins and how he can mature into a quality WR but it's clear that Thompkins can never reach the explosive playmaking ability found amongst the NFL's elite wideouts.  It will be a challenge again this year for Brady to put many throws outside the numbers which shrinks the field and makes it harder to complete passes.

The running back attack remains a running-back-by-committee scenario with their two good backs, Shane Vereen and Brian Bolden, but the loss of their power back, LeGarrette Blount, will have an impact on the running game.  Vereen and Bolden excel running to the outside and in the passing game, but none of the Patriots backs are designed to churn out the tough yards near the goal line or on 3rd and short.  Their offense will take a step back this year as a result of an inability to pick up short yardage on the ground.

An upside for this team was the signing of defensive backs CB Darelle Revis and SS Brandon Browner.  Revis' was once touted as the best shutdown corner in the game but has not been the same since a torn ACL a couple of years back.  He is still a quality CB and will help the defense.  Browner is a hard hitting safety that brought his talents from the Seattle Seahawks this off-season. Both will give the defense a boost in defending the pass, which the Patriots struggled with at times in 2013.

Even with the signing of Browner and Revis to help the defense, I see the 2014 Patriots taking a step back this year from their 12-4 clip in 2013.  Though I believe they will be an inferior team to the 2013 version, it won't be enough for them to back out of the AFC EAST division title once again.  The Patriots may be down this year, but with the other teams in this division having young QB's still learning on the job and the Patriots having their Super Bowl winning captain leading the ship, they should be able to do enough to reach 10 wins and be your 2014 AFC EAST champions.

Savant Record Prediction: (10-6, 1st place)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Sports Savant is Back!

Hello sports fans and welcome to The Sports Savant's Sports Blog!  In case you forgot or this is your first time visiting my blog, I'm Forrest Doran, a professional writer and sports guru who has a passion for NFL and NCAA football.  It has been nearly a year since I have created a new blog entry here and I apologize for disappearing on my readership last football season. Last NFL season, an unexpected set of circumstances that took priority over this blog left me no choice but to take a year hiatus and regroup.  Now I'm back and proud to announce that the Sports Savant's Sports Blog will be fully operating this NFL season and you can expect more of the same great NFL game predictions that made me the most accurate prognosticator of NFL outcomes on the entire World Wide Web!  I beat all of ESPN, CBS, FOX, Yahoo, HBO and all experts in 2011 and 2012 in win predictions and I'm ready to outdo them all once again in 2014!

Just as exciting as the return of this blog is to me and the many who relied on my NFL expertise in the two full seasons it operated in 2011 and 2012, I am very pleased to announce that I am reconnecting my partnership with my friends at Last Word On Sports!  I'll be featured on weekly radio spots with them through their online radio station, Last Word Radio, providing analysis, predictions and even fantasy football strategy throughout the 2014 season!(

Consider this blog post my reintroduction to the public and look for more than just game score and win predictions this year.  I'm planning on taking my blog to the next level with analysis and opinions on players, teams and NFL news. It's great to be back doing what I love and have a special talent for.  Stay tuned to my blog for NFL news stories and predictions starting this week!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

NFL Week 1: Win, Spread, Over/Under and Game Score Predictions - 2013

Welcome Back to The Sports Savant's Weekly NFL Picks, 2013 Edition!

It's that time of year again!  It's time for the 2013 NFL season!  With the return of the season comes the return of my Sports Savant NFL picks!  We're set for another exciting and unpredictable year of NFL football, but that's why the Sports Savant is here to guide you through your NFL picks, every week, every team, to win, against the spread, and the over/under, for every game, through the Super Bowl, all year!

My picks last year were so accurate that an independent study done by the NSPL(National Score Predicting League) found that amongst all published records, of those who picked every game of the season in 2012, I finished first in the nation in multiple prediction categories including a first place finish in "Composite Winning Percentage", "Aggregate Composite Wins", "Aggregate Wins Vs. The Over/Under", and "Aggregate Perfect Games and Percentage of Total Predictions"! (See list of these results at the NSPL website...NSPL National Ranks)  Needles to say, the Sports Savant's NFL Weekly Picks was one of America's most trusted sources for NFL predictions all last year!  I'm hoping for even better results this season!

Enough of the 2013 introduction though.  Let's get to my Week 1 picks!

NOTE: The team with a negative number in parenthesis "(-3)" next to their name is the favorite to win the matchup and the number represents how many points the favorite has to score more than the underdog to count as a winning bet.  The over/under for the game is represented by a number in parenthesis with the letters o and u "(o/u 46)".  The number represents the amount of points you are wagering whether or not the two team's combined score will be in excess of or short of.  Official betting lines courtesy of 

Baltimore @ Denver(-7.5)  (o/u 48)
Savant Spread Pick: Denver and the points to win ~ 31-21
Over/Under Pick: Over

Buffalo v. New England(-10)  (o/u 51)
Savant Spread PickNew England and the points to win ~ 34-17
Over/Under Pick: Over


Tennessee @ Pittsburgh(-6.5)  (o/u 42)
Savant Spread Pick: Pittsburgh and the points to win ~ 24-17
Over/Under Pick: Under


Atlanta @ New Orleans(-3)  (o/u 55)
Savant Spread Pick: New Orleans and the points to win ~ 34-28
Over/Under Pick: Over


New York(A) v. Tampa Bay(-3.5)  (o/u 39.5)
Savant Spread Pick: Tampa Bay and the points to win ~ 23-10
Over/Under Pick: Under


Jacksonville v. Kansas City(-3.5)  (o/u 42.5)
Savant Spread Pick: Kansas City and the points to win ~ 17-13
Over/Under Pick: Under

Cincinnati @ Chicago(-3)  (o/u 42)
Savant Spread Pick: Chicago and the points to win ~ 23-17
Over/Under Pick: Under

Miami @ Cleveland(-2)  (o/u 41)
Savant Spread Pick: Cleveland and the points to win ~ 16-13
Over/Under Pick: Under

Carolina v. Seattle(-3)  (o/u 45)
Savant Spread Pick: Seattle and the points to win ~ 24-13
Over/Under Pick: Under

 Minnesota @ Detroit(-4)  (o/u 46.5)
Savant Spread Pick: Minnesota to win ~ 28-24
Over/Under Pick: Over

 Oakland @ Indianapolis(-10.5)  (o/u 46.5)
Savant Spread Pick: Indianapolis and the points to win ~ 28-10
Over/Under Pick: Under

 Arizona @ St. Louis(-4)  (o/u 41.5)
Savant Spread Pick: Arizona to win ~ 23-17
Over/Under Pick: Under

 Green Bay @ San Francisco(-4.5)  (o/u 48.5)
Savant Spread Pick: San Francisco and the points to win ~ 27-21
Over/Under Pick: Under

 New York(N) @ Dallas(-3.5)  (o/u 49.5)
Savant Spread Pick: Dallas and the points to win ~ 27-23
Over/Under Pick: Over

 Philadelphia @ Washington(-3.5)  (o/u 52)
Savant Spread Pick: Washington and the points to win ~ 24-20
Over/Under Pick: Under

 San Diego v. Houston(-4.5)  (o/u 44.5)
Savant Spread Pick: Houston and the points to win ~ 27-21
Over/Under Pick: Over

Saturday, February 2, 2013

SUPER BOWL XLVII: Win, Spread, Over/Under, Game Score and Player Stat Predictions

Welcome Back to The Sports Savant's Weekly NFL Picks, SUPER BOWL XLVII Edition!

It doesn't feel like it was 12 months ago that we were all preparing for a Giants/Patriots Super Bowl, but here we are just a short countdown away to Super Bowl XLVII with last year's conference champion losing teams from last year's playoffs.  The 49ers and Ravens were teams that probably should have played each other last year in the Super Bowl if not for a couple of colossal meltdowns by 49ers WR/PR Kyle Williams and Ravens K Billy Cundiff who both completely blew their teams chance of winning their respective championship games.

Nonetheless, the teams got it together and gave us the Harbaugh Bowl we all thought we were going to see in Super Bowl XLVI.  It's a rematch of the 2011 Thanksgiving Day game the Ravens won 16-6 in Baltimore.  It was a defensive struggle for both teams, but the Alex Smith lead offense just couldn't finish off drives.  What goes unremembered was a 75 yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn Jr. that was called back by a highly questionable illegal chop-block call that would have given the 49ers the lead early in the game.  Despite the teams playing in that game last year, both are considerably different than they were when they played that short time ago.

With the final game of the 2012 season, it was another very successful year for The Sports Savant and my NFL picks.  I'm proud to have finished well above .500 picking every NFL game against the spread getting 52% of the spread picks correct with only the Super Bowl left to play.  I came up short of last year's monster record of 180-87 which was good for a 67.4% rate of success(which lead the nation of NFL experts) but with a winning prediction in this year's Super Bowl I will still finish the season with a solid 174-92-1 record.  That would be good for a 65.2% success rate to reach my personal standard of finishing better than 65%.  To top off a nice year, I was very successful against the over/under, picking the winner at a 54% success rate.

Before we look at my player stat predictions and pick SUPER BOWL XLVII, let's take a look at how last weeks picks shaped up and my overall record for the 2012 NFL regular season and postseason...

*Conference Championship Round RESULTS*

Winner: 1-1
Winner w/ Spread: 0-1-1
Over/Under: 2-0
Trifecta: 0
Strikeouts: 0
Perfect Team Score Predictions: 0
Perfect Game Score Predictions: 0

*2012 Overall Record*
Winner: 173-92-1 (.652)
Winner w/ Spread: 134-125-7 (.517)
Over/Under: 140-119-7 (.541)

Trifecta: 69
Strikeouts: 44
Perfect Team Score Predictions: 31   [Week 1]: New England  [Week 2]: Indianapolis, San Francisco [Week 3]: Chicago, Washington, New York(A)  [Week 4]: Cleveland, Philadelphia  [Week 5]: Green Bay, Seattle, San Diego  [Week 7]: St. Louis, Tampa Bay  [Week 9]: Miami, Tennessee, Green Bay, Arizona  [Week 11]: Detroit, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Indianapolis 
[Week 12]: San Francisco  [Week 13]:Chicago, Houston [Week 14]: Detroit  [Week 15]: Miami 
[Week 16]: Jacksonville, Washington  [Week 17]:Cincinnati, St. Louis 
[Wildcard Round]:Green Bay
Perfect Game Score Predictions: 2   [Week 9]: Arizona @ Green Bay  [Week 11]: Carolina v. Tampa Bay

NOTE: The team with a negative number in parenthesis "(-3)" next to their name is the favorite to win the matchup and the number represents how many points the favorite has to score more than the underdog to count as a winning bet.  The over/under for the game is represented by a number in parenthesis with the letters o and u "(o/u 46)".  The number represents the amount of points you are wagering whether or not the two team's combined score will be in excess of or short of.  Official betting lines courtesy of 

Before I give you my SUPER BOWL XLVII score and player stat predictions, here is a look at the last 2 years of Super Bowl predictions I have made since the inception of The Sports Savant's Sports Blog.  This was my prediction and results of the 2011 Super Bowl...

Super Bowl XLV Winner and Final Score Prediction

Prediction: Green Bay Packers - 31  Pittsburgh Steelers - 24

-->Result:  Green Bay Packers - 31  Pittsburgh Steelers - 25

Super Bowl XLV MVP Prediction

Prediction: Aaron Rodgers wins MVP

-->Result:  Aaron Rodgers wins MVP

Super Bowl XLV Quarterback Statistics - Aaron Rodgers

Prediction: 29/38(76.3%)  312 yards  3 TD  1 INT

-->Result:  24/39(61.5%)  304 yards  3 TD  0 INT

Super Bowl XLV Quarterback Statistics - Ben Roethlisberger

Prediction: 16/26(61.5%)  189 yards  1 TD  2 INT

-->Result:  25/40(62.5%)  263 yards  2 TD  2 INT

Since I did so well on predicting the game score and individual statistics of the QB's in the 2011 game, I took on a prediction for last year's Super Bowl score and more individual player predictions and even I was impressed with how extremely accurate I was in my prognostications.  Here were my Super Bowl Predictions and the results in 2012...

Super Bowl XLVI Winner and Final Score Prediction

Prediction: New York Giants 27  New England Patriots 21

-->ResultNew York Giants 21  New England Patriots 17

New England Patriots
Prediction : Tom Brady - 28/42(66.7%)  282 yards  2 TD's  1 INT  1 Fumble
-->Result: Tom Brady - 27/41(65.9%)  276 yards  2 TD's  1 INT 

Prediction : BenJarvus Green-Ellis - 12 carries  68 yards/rushing 1 TD  2 receptions  14 yards/receiving
-->Result: BenJarvus Green-Ellis - 10 carries  44 yards/rushing 0 TD  2 receptions  15 yards/receiving

Prediction : Aaron Hernandez - 5 receptions  58 yards  1 TD
-->Result: Aaron Hernandez - 8 receptions  67 yards  1 TD

Prediction : Wes Welker - 8 receptions  96 yards
-->Result: Wes Welker - 7 receptions  60 yards

Prediction : Rob Gronkowski - 4 receptions  21 yards
-->Result: Rob Gronkowski - 2 receptions  26 yards

Prediction : Deion Branch - 3 receptions  16 yards  1 TD
-->Result: Deion Branch - 3 receptions  45 yards  0 TD

New York Giants
Prediction : Eli Manning - 23/34(67.6%)  337 yards  2 TD's  0 INT
-->Result: Eli Manning - 30/40(75.0%)  296 yards  1 TD  0 INT

Prediction : Ahmad Bradshaw - 19 carries  92 yards/rushing 1 TD  4 receptions  54 yards/receiving
-->Result: Ahmad Bradshaw - 17 carries  72 yards/rushing 1 TD  2 receptions  19 yards/receiving

Prediction: Brandon Jacobs - 6 carries  31 yards/rushing
-->Result: Brandon Jacobs - 9 carries  37 yards/rushing

Prediction : Hakeem Nicks - 5 receptions  114 yards  1 TD
-->Result: Hakeem Nicks - 10 receptions  109 yards  0 TD

Prediction : Victor Cruz - 8 receptions 124 yards  1 TD
-->Result: Victor Cruz - 4 receptions 25 yards  1 TD

Prediction : Mario Manningham - 3 receptions  28 yards
-->Result: Mario Manningham - 5 receptions  73 yards

Prediction : Jake Ballard - 4 receptions  39 yards
-->Result: Jake Ballard - 2 receptions  10 yards


The 49ers and Ravens defenses are considerably the same as they were last year.  Most of the impact starters on defense are as they were in 2011, but it's the offenses that have changed.  The well documented story is the takeover of the 49ers starting QB position by Colin Kaepernick.  Alex Smith was forced to leave a game versus St. Louis with a concussion half way through the season and subsequently missed the next couple of weeks in which Kaepernick ran with the job and never gave it back.  He has since had the highest QB rating from his first career start through last week's Conference Championship game.

Where the Ravens made their big move was when they fired offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron, and replaced him with former Indianapolis Colts Head Coach and OC(from the Peyton glory days), Jim Caldwell, who brought a new offensive strategy to the team.  His new system is what has helped transform Joe Flacco from a QB that had the two lowest single game Total QBR ratings since the statistic's inception in 2008, to the guy who has 8 TDs and 0 INT in the playoffs.  The genius in what Caldwell has done with Flacco is that he has improved his effectiveness in deep pass plays with his power run scheme he calls with their elite RB, Ray Rice.  The Ravens love the play-action deep ball and have used it a lot in this postseason with great success.

Where the 49ers defense is well suited for Jim Caldwell's offense is they have the dominant defensive line necessary to get pressure on the QB with just a four-man rush.  This leaves the linebackers free to roam the intermediate routes in zone and cover the flats for a check down to the RB or TE.  The domino effect of that is that the 49ers ball-hawking safeties can get deeper on routes and not have to worry about covering up routes in the intermediate.  The 49ers four-man pass rush will mean everything for how well the 49ers can neutralize Joe Flacco and Jim Caldwell's deep passing attack.

The real key to the Super Bowl will be the 49ers offensive line against the Ravens defense.  This 49ers OL is one of the most dominant in the NFL and will be the most physical the Ravens have faced the entire season.  The 49ers can stonewall any defensive line in the NFL with their enormous line that weighs in at 1,994 combined pounds.  For all of the focus that the media and Ravens have put on Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore will be the guy who has the biggest day for the 49ers.  The 49er line has been creating gaps so large in defenses of late, Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick are getting 5-10 yards down field before they are even touched.  We've seen how the Ravens can be susceptible to the run this year against teams that can create seals for talented running backs.  The Ravens gave up 4.0 yards per carry and was ranked 20th against the run in 2012.  The 49ers dominant offensive line versus the aging Raven defense will be the reason the 49ers get the edge they will need to come out of Super Bowl XLVII as champions.

And now the predictions you've waited for all year, The Sports Savant's Super Bowl - Super Game Score and Player Statistic Predictions...

Baltimore v. San Francisco(-4)  (o/u 47.5)
Savant Spread Pick: San Francisco and the points to win ~ 31-24
Over/Under Pick: Over

Baltimore Ravens - Player Statistics Predictions

QB Prediction : Joe Flacco - 21/34(61.7%)  247 yards  1 TD  1 INT
RB Prediction : Ray Rice - 19 carries  86 yards 2 TD - 4 receptions  36 yards

TE Prediction : Dennis Pitta - 3 receptions  38 yards  1 TD

WR Prediction : Anquan Boldin - 7 receptions  78 yards

WR Prediction : Torrey Smith - 4 receptions  54 yards

WR Prediction : Jacoby Jones - 3 receptions  27 yards

K Prediction : Justin Tucker - 1/1 FG  49 yards   

San Francisco 49ers - Player Statistics Predictions

QB Prediction : Colin Kaepernick - 18/26(69.2%)  259 yards  2 TD  0 INT - 7 carries 47 yards 1 TD

RB Prediction : Frank Gore - 16 carries  92 yards 1 TD - 1 receptions 11 yards

RB Prediction : Kendall Hunter - 6 carries  41 yards - 2 receptions 18 yards

TE Prediction: Vernon Davis - 3 receptions  47 yards

TE Prediction: Delanie Walker - 2 receptions  21 yards

WR Prediction : Michael Crabtree - 7 receptions  101 yards  1 TD

WR Prediction : Randy Moss - 3 receptions  61 yards  1 TD

K Prediction : David Akers - 1/1 FG  41 yards 


Thanks for visiting to check my game picks all season long and don't forget to check my picks every week of every NFL season on here and on at The Sports Savant channel!