Bing Predicts was 4-0 over a Divisional Round weekend, which saw all four home teams victorious by exactly a touchdown – Arizona just didn’t need to kick the extra point to make it a 7 point margin as they scored the final TD in overtime. The conference championship games have four teams who come in averaging 13 wins in the regular season, the most for four conference championship participants since the 2004 regular season, which had the top two seeds from each conference also participating. That group had one more win in aggregate and averaged 13.25 wins per team.
Each of the four semifinalists had long win streaks this season, as Carolina started the season with 14 straight wins, New England started 9-0, Denver started 7-0, and Arizona reeled off a 9-game win streak from October 26 to end the calendar year. This group includes the top 3 scoring teams this year, and the Carolina (15-1) versus Arizona (13-3) game is the first playoff game between teams with 15+ and 13+ wins since the 2004 conference title game between New England (14 wins) and Pittsburgh (15 wins).
Bing Predicts moves to 6-2 in the playoffs.
Figure – Playoff bracket from Bing Predicts
In the early game Sunday, New England visits Denver in a rematch of the overtime classic Thanksgiving weekend and also a rematch of the 2014 conference championship two years ago. New England, making their 5th straight trip to the conference finals (2-2 in the previous 4 games), looks to reverse the decision from those two games as Denver won each of those at home.
New England brings a healthier core to Sunday’s game compared to when they last met, while Denver’s offense has struggled at home since that game, scoring only six touchdowns over four games. Our models show New England will prevail in a close contest at Denver.
In the late game, Arizona travels to Carolina for a rematch of a wild card game from last year, also played at the same site. The game marks the first time two former Heisman quarterbacks square off in the playoffs. The Carolina team of 2015 is much stronger than the playoff team from last year, as the 2014 team qualified by winning the division title despite having a losing record (7-8-1), whereas this year’s team became just the 7th since the league moved to 16 game seasons (1978) to win 15 or more regular season games. We expect this to be a high scoring game, with our projections showing that Carolina takes the win.
Figure – Bing Predicts’ Conference title weekend predictions with probabilities
Divisional Round weekend summary:
Kansas City’s ending to New England was reminiscent of the 2004 season’s title game where Philadelphia, then coached by KC’s current coach, did not appear to play with urgency despite being down two scores. After Kansas City scored with 73 seconds to go, New England just needed one first down, happening with a fortunate tipped ball, to get the win.
Arizona also was the recipient of a fortunate tipped pass that ended as a touchdown, and they also clawed out a win which was as close as a coin toss – maybe two in this case. Carolina held off a 24 point second half run by Seattle in a game reminiscent of their Week 15 escape against New York. In both cases, Carolina jumped out to 28+ point leads into the 3rd quarter before giving up four scores in both games. Denver finished the weekend’s games with a come from behind win, reaching the end zone finally after 57 minutes of game play.
With all four quarterfinal games coming out as the model had predicted, our models for both the semifinals and final remain the same. If New England and Carolina prevail as we predict, we still see New England defeating Carolina in a high scoring contest down in Santa Clara in February.
As always, Bing has all your professional football needs covered this season. Whether you want to know the chances of your team winning in the upcoming week, the likelihood of your favorites making the playoffs, or key strategies to help your fantasy team get the edge, Bing boosts your confidence to compete. And of course, we help you discover all the information you need for schedules, score, standings, teams and players.
– Walter Sun, Bing Predicts Team Lead