Republicans loathed statistician Nate Silver last November when he accurately predicted every state in the Presidential election.
Falcons, Packers and 49ers fans probably do, too, because he’s picking the Seattle Seahawks to go all the way to the Super Bowl.
Silver has a history of looking at sports statistics. Long before he began predicting political outcomes, Silver developed the Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm (PECOTA), a system to predict Major League Baseball player performance.
On ESPN’s First Take Thursday, Silver said he used the Football Outsiders system to make his playoff predictions. He said it looks at individual plays and puts them into what he calls football context.
“If you gain a yard on 3rd and 1, then that gets you a lot more credit than it does if it’s 2nd and long,” said Silver on ESPN’s First Take Thursday. “It applies some common football sense to the numbers.”
Silver said the way the Seahawks ended the season, with blowouts of the Cardinals, Bills and 49ers, played a big part in his predictions.
Even though he’s picking Seattle to win the NFC, Silver believes New England and Denver from the AFC are the two best teams in the league. Silver predicts the Seahawks will face the Patriots in New Orleans, even though Seattle has to make it there without defensive end Chris Clemons.
“There’s always uncertainty in any metric,” said Silver. “I do think with a Seattle team that did come on so strongly in the second half, you worry, can other coaches readjust to them, potentially? Talent-wise I’m not sure it’s a team that has as much talent, pure talent, as certainly a New England or Denver might, and that’s why the coaching could catch up to them eventually in the postseason, I think.”
The Seahawks defeated the Patriots, 24-23, in Week 6 thanks to a fourth quarter comeback at CenturyLink Field.
Football Outsiders is actually predicting the 49ers as a slight favorite to win the NFC over Seattle.
“San Francisco, obviously, also played very well for much of the year,” said Silver, “In terms of the balance overall between offensive and defensive play, Seattle had that best balance throughout the year and really, again, in the second half, were blowing people out by 50-to-7 scores and so forth. So, they had the best stats from the regular season.
“Will teams adjust to them? Will Russell Wilson be a guy that won’t surprise people as much in the playoffs now? But I think, if you have to pick one team in the NFC, I’m still comfortable with the Seahawks,” said Silver.
But Silver is not foolproof. He said he would bet that Notre Dame would at least cover the spread in the BCS National Championship. The Irish got trounced by Alabama, 42-14.
In addition to a perfect score predicting the 2012 Presidential election, Silver got 49 of the 50 states correct in the 2008 election.