Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lions season outlook, week 15

That was close. For a few minutes, it looked like the Lions would throw away an opportunity to move toward their first playoff spot in 12 seasons (an opportunity, as it turned out, to make up ground on every NFC wild-card contender except Atlanta). Fortunately, the refs helped Detroit on the final play, and instead of getting an embarrassing loss to a weak team with a third-string QB, the Lions hang on to pick up their 8th win, something that hasn't happened since 2000. It's turtles all the way down from here, though: one important game followed by another important game ...

Massey projections:
Week 15: at Oakland, slight favorite
Week 16: San Diego, slight favorite (moved down)
Week 17: at Green Bay, overwhelming underdog (moved down)

Tossups are 50%; slight favorites are up to 3-2 (60%), then favorites up to 3-1 (75%), then heavy favorites up to 5-1 (86%), then overwhelming favorites. Slight underdogs are down to 2-3 (40%), then underdogs down to 1-3 (25%), then heavy underdogs down to 1-5 (14%), then overwhelming underdogs.

San Diego drops again as the Chargers seem less likely to have thrown the season away and Detroit nearly loses a game they should have won easily. Green Bay does slide, as I thought it would. Expected wins are up a tick to 9.28, which is unusual given that two of their three remaining games dropped in probability.

The Playoff Odds report is below, and this time, it's just the injury-adjusted version:

Mean wins: 9.4, up 0.2
Playoffs: 74.1%, up 8.1 points
NFC title: 2.4%, down 0.1 points
Super Bowl win: 1.0%, unchanged

Nothing unusual here: Chicago and Dallas rocket downward, with Atlanta and Detroit the beneficiaries. NFC and Super Bowl chances are unlikely to change much, if at all.

Stafford did not carve up the Minnesota secondary. Jared Allen did cry about the officiating, but in this case, his complaints were justified: that was absolutely a face mask penalty that went uncalled, and bad calls in game X don't justify bad calls in game Y. Still, the defense swarmed Ponder and Webb (6 turnovers, 4 sacks, 2 touchdowns – I really should have started them) and built a big enough lead to give Detroit the chance to hold on when the second half, for a change, did not go their way. That should happen this week as well. Carson Palmer has played just one good defense, and he actually had a decent day against Chicago ... but he's thrown 3 or more picks in three of his seven games, all of which came against teams with average to below-average pass defenses. Detroit's pass defense is second in the league. If Houston or Delmas is healthy, this could be ugly for Oakland; if the Lions aren't careful, though, they could struggle against the Raiders' defense. (Oakland does give up a lot on the ground, but with Kevin Smith injured, the Lions would have no one to take advantage of that.) I think they will be careful, and I think Detroit's defense will give them their ninth win of the season. Lions, 24-14.

Last week: predicted 37-21, actual 34-28

Current mood: cautiously optimistic

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