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Sunday Morning Bloody Mary: Packers at Falcons

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By record and reputation, the Green Bay Packers playing the Atlanta Falcons is the game of the week. It pits the 8-2 Falcons against 7-3 Green Bay in Atlanta. Both teams are considered Super Bowl contenders. Both teams start young franchise quarterbacks, and because both teams start young franchise quarterbacks, both teams are expected to continue to be Super Bowl contenders for years to come. Matt Ryan is 25 and Aaron Rodgers is about a week from turning 27. This is the kind of football Seahawks fans want for themselves: competitive, relevant and sustainable.

By advanced statistics, this is either a close contest or a sizable mismatch. According to Football Outsiders, Green Bay is the fourth best team in football. They have posted a 25.9% DVOA. The Falcons are the ninth best team in football. They have posted a 14.6% DVOA. Factor in Atlanta's home field advantage, and this looks like a close game, perhaps favoring Atlanta.

According to efficiency rating, Green Bay is the third best team in football and Atlanta is the 19th. That ranking is so contrary to common perception, Brian Burke wrote an article in explanation. Which produced this timeless comment among a host of others.

This is bullshit and stats are for losers. Just another attempt to put down the Falcons because your fav teams to talk about are not doing well i.e. vikings and cowboys. Falcons will continue to win with or without your approval. Which your approval means not a damn thing.

Burke projects Falcons-Packers as such a mismatch that despite Atlanta's home field advantage, the Packers are 68% favorites.

Now, I don't know enough about either team to argue, but there are a few things about this debate I would like to point out. First, in a 512 regular season schedule, it would not be too surprising for a 2 to 1 underdog -- like Atlanta supposedly is -- to win, but if they do, you know Burke will take hell and more than a few people will discredit his stats. Which is a good example of how poorly most people understand statistics and also how totally some people have become dependent on partial news providers that filter information through an agenda. Your political party is always right! Your music is always cool! Your tastes in movies is always accurate! It staggers fans when anyone suggests that their team got a call, that their team might not be as good as their record suggests, or that their team's front office may have made a mistake.

The other thing is, there's a sizable discrepancy between DVOA and ER. This won't determine the better system, but it's a fun little showdown. A kind of meaningless test of each's effectiveness. People will cry "small sample! small sample!" and trust me, I understand, but what is a single game if not a small sample. That doesn't make it any less fun.

Anyway, if you needed another angle to enjoy this game by, or an explanation if Green Bay beats living heck out of Atlanta, there you go.

This is an open game thread.