2012 Divisional Playoffs Betting Preview: Patriots/Texans by the Stats

Tom Brady and the Patriots are historically efficient offensively, but defense (or at least balance) really does win championships.

And you thought the Falcons were disrespected? Vegas gives this game - between two teams that went 12-4, mind you - a 9.5 point spread in the Patriots' favor. The moneyline is Texans +370, meaning that Vegas predicts the Texans have roughly a 21 percent chance of winning. Barely a single person, even including our own experts, give the Texans a chance to win.

Absolutely no respect. But should they be getting any? That's what I intend to find out, using numberFire's sweet, sweet stats.

With an eye towards our Net Expected Points (NEP) figure, which measures a player's contributions to a team's expected points above or below the league-average play and is explained fully in a past MVP Watch article, we look at the major numbers behind the final playoff game of the weekend. With the help of numberFire's premium product, here's what we're expecting on the field. Read on, my friend.

Tale of the Tape

Overall Ranking16
Offensive Ranking112
Defensive Ranking205
Total Offensive NEP Gained260.5485.85
Passing Offensive NEP Gained227.94119.34
Rushing Offensive NEP Gained12.24-31.80
Total Defensive NEP Allowed56.51-46.31
Passing Defensive NEP Allowed94.3910.36
Rushing Defensive NEP Allowed-60.75-61.42

Just a quick note about the Net Expected Point figures: since the passing and rushing totals are adjusted for each opponent, and there aren't an equal number of passing and rushing plays in each game, the figures won't add up exactly. And since passing is much more efficient than rushing in today's NFL, you'll often see teams both gaining more NEP on the offensive end and allowing more NEP on the defensive end through passing than rushing.

Defense Wins Championships?

Here's a spoiler alert for an article that I haven't written yet: Tom Brady should be this year's MVP. He gained the Patriots 221.21 points above expectation this year, the seventh-highest single season total since the beginning of the 2000 season (the first year NEP stats were kept).

Relying essentially on Brady and Brady alone, that figure helped the 2012 Patriots be the second most efficient offense since that 2000 season after adjusting the NEP figures for opponents. The only team that was better? The 2007 Patriots, which as you may remember didn't lose a game the entire regular season.

But when I say, "Brady alone", I mean it. He certainly didn't receive much help from his defense. New England's 56.51 points over expectation allowed to opponents places them 20th in the NFL; it's a testament to their offense that their defense is able to place in the bottom half of the league and they're still the No. 1 team on our power rankings.

So how much does the phrase "Defense wins championships" actually apply, especially when it applies to an elite offense? I decided to take a look at every single offense that has finished in the top three of offensive NEP since 2000, then see how their defense finished. Those with defenses in the bottom half of the league are listed here. And a funny, funny trend emerges.

YearTeamTeam NEPOff. RankNEP AllowedDef. RankRecordPlayoffs
2000IND150.42257.232710-6Wild Card Loss
2000MIN131.333115.803011-5NFC Champ Loss
2000STL167.52157.152610-6Wild Card Loss
2002SF120.65227.552210-6Divisional Loss
2003IND143.10131.402512-4AFC Champ Loss
2003KC140.74236.272613-3Divisional Loss
2005CIN128.38327.702411-5Wild Card Loss
2006IND182.59187.453012-4Super Bowl Win
2006NO117.29332.012312-4NFC Champ Loss
2008IND164.97252.812112-4Wild Card Loss
2010ATL135.29221.501913-3Divisional Loss
2010NE240.31135.332214-2Divisional Loss
2011GB239.42337.331815-1Divisional Loss
2011NE240.921104.432913-3Super Bowl Loss
2011NO240.14249.202213-3Divisional Loss

Since 2000, 20 teams have had a top three offense and a defense in the bottom half of the league. Exactly one won the championship: Peyton's 2006 Colts squad. Only one other even got to the big game: last year's Patriots. Of the 10 teams that accomplished the feat and finished the season with at least 12 wins (as Brady's Patriots did this season), six of them lost in their first playoff game.

Yes, Brady may be able to do magical things, but he can only play half of the game. Watch out for overrating the Patriots.

To Be the Best, You Must Beat the Best

It's obvious that the Texans have a strong defense; allowing 46 points under expectation in a season where only seven teams allowed points under expectation because of how relatively strong NFL offenses are this year. They proved it again last week, as Andy Dalton looked like a vintage Bengals QB from, oh, every single Bengals QB ever.

The Patriots, though, are a completely different animal; I've already mentioned how they had the second most efficient offense since the start of the 2000 NFL season. The Texans already played them once and were trounced 42-14. But one game does not a trend make, so how did the Texans do against the rest of the most efficient offenses, or even the top half of the most efficient offenses in the league?

WeekTeamOff. RankResultHOU ATSHOU NEP Allowed
Week 3DEN5HOU 31-25Win (HOU -1.5)-4.16
Week 6GB2GB 42-24Loss (HOU -4)+15.42
Week 7BAL16HOU 43-13Win (HOU -6.5)-19.74
Week 14NE1NE 42-14Loss (HOU +5.5)+10.37
Week 15IND13HOU 29-17Win (HOU -10.5)-5.18
Week 16MIN11MIN 23-6Loss (HOU -7.5)+0.73
Week 17IND13IND 28-16Loss (HOU -6.5)+9.72

Houston was favored in six of their seven games against offenses in the top half of the league; they won exactly three of them straight up. They went 3-4 against the spread in those games (lining up perfectly with their wins and losses straight up), and they allowed at least 23 points in five of those games.

More interesting to a stats nerd like myself, though, is the points against expectation they gave up in those respective games. While they did have one exceptional defensive game against a top half offense (dead last in the top half, but I digress), they struggled mightily against the best of the best. Their worst two defensive performances of the year, in which they gave up at least 10 points over expectation, came against the top two offenses. And remember, these stats are adjusted for opponents, meaning that the Texans failed worse than the average team would be expected against the Patriots and Packers specifically. That's not good.

Oh, and those four losses against the top 13 offenses? Those were the only four losses Houston had all season. Well, at least there is a specific type of team that they lose to. And the Patriots are it.

The Final Predictions

I'm good for the reasoning behind the decision making. But if you want to know whether the Texans actually have a chance, you'll need to go to a different part of the site. For our official predictions about the totals line, pick against the spread, moneyline, and all sorts of other goodies, you'll need to become a premium numberFire member. Go ahead and check it out today! For the Divisional Playoffs, we have one five-star and three three-star selections this week. It's easy money, courtesy of your friends at numberFire.