2012 AFC Conference Championship Betting Preview: Patriots/Ravens by the Stats

The Patriots don't even need Tom Brady's best game to head to the Super Bowl.

"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

"History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies." - Alexis de Tocqueville

"Oh, I'm in no condition to drive. Wait a minute. I don't have to listen to myself. I'm drunk." - Homer Simpson

Two of these three quotes should apply to you when betting on Sunday - I've never done it, but I have to assume that sports betting while drunk is a quick way to lose a lot of money. Know what's not? Basing your decisions on math instead.

That's what we're good at here at numberFire: taking the stats and playing around with them, just for you. And in a battle between our No. 1 overall team and the overacheivers from Baltimore, there's plenty interesting to look through. You can't predict what's going to happen in the future without knowing exactly what's happened in the past.

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 second game on Sunday. 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 Ranking114
Offensive Ranking116
Defensive Ranking2013
Total Offensive NEP Gained260.5449.90
Passing Offensive NEP Gained227.9449.02
Rushing Offensive NEP Gained12.24-14.81
Total Defensive NEP Allowed56.5117.87
Passing Defensive NEP Allowed94.3954.81
Rushing Defensive NEP Allowed-60.75-21.90

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.

Over, Under, and Around

A 51.0 point totals line? In a game involving the Baltimore Ravens? Believe it.

The current 51 point totals line is the second-highest totals line in a conference championship since the 2006 season, which is slightly less believable than Lennay Kukua when you consider the amount of Mannings and Rodgerses and Breeses and Bradys that have played in those games over that time span.

Unsurprisingly, Vegas sorely underestimated the offensive firepower in those games, with the Over winning the totals line in six of the eight matchups between 2007 and 2010. But might we now be seeing a swing in the opposite direction?

SeasonMatchupTotals LineFinal PointsO/U

Last season, both conference championship games went under, but not by much: both games were within one touchdown of the totals line. Still, there is a common thread. Of the past two conference championship games the Patriots have been to, both had the same profile of Pats team (strong passing game, weak secondary), similar opponents (the 2007 Chargers also had a weaker passing offense, strong running attack, and above-average defense), and similar totals lines. And both went under by at least six points.

Who Needs Brady?

Earlier this week, we took a look at Tom Brady and said why he might not be the best playoff QB of all-time, but he's certainly up there. You don't get to five Super Bowls by sitting on your hands, at the very least.

But how exactly did Brady get to be 5-1 in conference championship games? It's worth looking at the quality of defenses that he faced. Here, we turn back to our Net Expected Points figure and determine just how good these defenses were at stopping the pass during the regular season, then compare that to Brady's performance in the conference championship game.

SeasonOpponentOpp. Pass NEP AllowedDef. Pass RankingBrady CC QB RatingFinal Score
2011BAL-26.10257.523-20 NE
2007SD-31.62366.423-20 NE
2006IND45.072079.523-20 NE
2004PIT-26.975130.523-20 NE
2003IND1.761476.123-20 NE
2001PIT-20.051184.323-20 NE

In his 23 career playoff games, Tom Brady has topped a 100 QB rating in eight of them, or a 35 percent success rate. But given that number, it's a bit odd to see that in conference championship games, he usually dips a little: only the 2004 Pittsburgh matchup saw him even top a 90 QB rating. In the most recent two games, he threw a combined five picks and two TDs against Baltimore and San Diego, and those contests were the worst games that he put together in those respective playoff runs.

And oh yeah, perhaps now would be the time to mention again that he still won. That's the key takeaway here: no matter the strength of the defense, the Patriots were still able to pull out the victory on Tom Brady's back, even if he has an off game. They won't need to rely on Brady exclusively to carry them through this game; that's not how they won four of their five most recent conference championship games. In fact, it took Peyton Manning to beat Brady in a conference championship game, and the Colts had one of the weaker playoff secondaries that season.

The Final Predictions

I'm good for the reasoning behind the decision making. But if you want to know whether the Ravens have a shot or if Brady's going to Super Bowl No. 6, 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!

As a treat, I can tell you that on this game alone, we have one three-star selection in this game with the totals line. And that's in addition to our four and five star selections for the Falcons/49ers game. It's easy money, courtesy of your friends at numberFire.