Harvard people are smart, for the most part, so by and large we pay attention when they speak about things.
Kurt Bullard of the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective tried to formulate a mathematical method of picking the NFL’s playoff teams, using Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value statistic, crosschecking it with a few other analytical numbers from other sites and coming up with a talent rating and the percentage likelihood for every NFL team’s chances to make the postseason.
Bullard’s findings were interesting.
It’s not stunning that his top-rated team — in both talent at key positions and percentage to make the playoffs — was the Seattle Seahawks. Considering they’ve been to the past two Super Bowls and have prevented getting gutted, personnel-wise, after both of them, it sounds like a smart prediction.
But the team most likely to face them in the Super Bowl, per Bullard? That would be the Miami Dolphins.
(We hate to interrupt this programming for this service announcement, but, please: If you do choose to send us an email on this, we’re more than happy to read it. But know that these are the predictions of another man, not us. You’d think that would go without saying, but …)
Yes, the Dolphins, which lost to the New York Jets in Week 17 in a listless performance, are ready to take a huge leap, per Bullard. Clearly, the additions of Ndamukong Suh, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and others and the development of Ryan Tannehill and a talented defense factor in heavily here, too. And Bullard suggests that it will be enough to overtake the New England Patriots, both as the AFC East winners and the defending champs.
The Patriots, Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos are all at 62 percent for likelihood to make the playoffs behind the Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs (66 percent) among AFC teams. The Green Bay Packers are second to the Seahawks in the NFC at 93 percent. The third-highest NFC team: the Detroit Lions, at 53 percent.
Clearly, this is not a foolproof method, and it’s all likely to go out the window with a few injuries, suspensions (or suspension reductions — hint, hint), rookie surprises or veterans who inevitably fall off the cliff.
The biggest surprises in the Harvard study? None bigger, perhaps, than the Baltimore Ravens with a 9% (!!!) chance to make the playoffs. Yeah, they lost a lot … but nine?
It’s all fun. And a reminder: It’s not us. This is not a Yahoo prediction. It’s a Harvard thing. Which normally is something you’d want to take quite seriously, but … well, you judge for yourself.