Analytics predicts: winners for NFL Conference Championship games

NFL Divisional Round: We already know who is going to the Super Bowl because DVOA says so We started with 14 teams looking to make it to the Super Bowl at the start of the NFL playoffs and now we are down to four. Four of the best with two top seeds and two third-seeded teams facing off in the AFC Championship Game and NFC Championship game this weekend.

The other 28 teams are sitting at home wondering, wishing and planning how they can make it further next season.

In general, there are no sure-fire ways to predict NFL games. If Stefon Diggs was able to haul in Josh Allen’s bomb or Tyler Bass made his game-tying field goal attempt, the Buffalo Bills not the Kansas City Chiefs could be heading to take on the Baltimore Ravens for the AFC crown.

While the Bills are the most recent, most teams are familiar with the feeling and thought of “what if.”

So far, our use of the analytics tool DVOA to predict this year’s playoffs has been less reliable than last year. In the Wild Card round, DVOA only got half the predictions correct. Last week, in the Divisional round, DVOA was better, hitting on three out of the four results.

Despite the less-than-stellar performance overall, we are more confident that DVOA will help us make the right predictions. DVOA breaks down the quality of play compared to the league average while adjusting for the strength of the opponents being played. It is one of a couple of catch-all analytics measures that help us understand the beautiful game of football better.

While no data point can help us clearly understand why Patrick Mahomes is dominant despite limited weapons around him, DVOA is our best predictor of outcomes. To be clear, DVOA isn’t perfect nor would it claim to perfectly predict the winners of certain games. Too many variables that cannot be codified, like weather, injuries, officiating and more, can play a role in a one-game sample.

We turn our attention to the conference title games and what DVOA can tell us about who will win.




Gideon Canice

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