Commentary

AccuScore numbers game: Favre outduels Manning

The Packers have a slight edge over the Giants in AccuScore simulations, mainly because of superior play at quarterback.

Originally Published: January 14, 2008
By Stephen Oh | AccuScore

Who will prevail in the NFC Championship Game? Judging by AccuScore simulations, the Packers will be representing the NFC in Super Bowl XLII. Green Bay is winning 62 percent of simulations by an average score of 25-21.

It looks like the temperature will be under 10 degrees in Green Bay on Sunday, but it does not look like it will snow like it did for the Seahawks game. Giants QB Eli Manning is playing the best football of his career and his simulation numbers are good: 224 passing yards and 1.5 touchdowns per simulation. In fact, Manning's numbers are not that much lower than those of Brett Favre, who averages 250 yards and 1.6 touchdowns per simulation.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images The Giants' hopes could hinge on QB Eli Manning's ability to move the chains and minimize his mistakes.

However, Favre is averaging less than one interception while Manning is averaging more than one interception, and that is a key difference in the game. Both teams run the ball well. The Giants' Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw are posting 140 combined rushing yards per simulation and well over 5 yards per carry. The Packers' Ryan Grant registers more than 5.5 yards per carry and more than 100 yards.

The game is close, with 25 percent of simulations coming down to a field goal or less. For the Giants to win, Manning needs to outplay yet another quarterback. In simulations in which the Giants win, Manning averages more passing yards, 0.6 more touchdown passes and fewer interceptions than Favre.

How important is home-field advantage?
The Giants have lost just one road game this season, and Manning's passer rating has been higher on the road than at home for the past two seasons. Not surprisingly, home-field advantage is not nearly as meaningful in this game as it is in other games. The Giants' winning percentage improves by 13 percentage points at home. For comparison's sake, the Chargers' winning percentage improves by nearly 19 percentage points if their game versus New England were in San Diego.

Is Grant more valuable than Favre?
Grant is forecasted for more than 100 yards and more than 5 yards per carry against the Giants. In simulations in which Grant is not playing and Green Bay starts Brandon Jackson with Vernand Morency as a backup, the Packers are winning 54 percent of the time -- a decline of 8 percentage points.

Favre is also forecasted for an excellent game -- a 62 percent completion rate, 250 yards and 1.6 touchdown passes per simulation compared to just 0.8 interceptions. However, if backup QB Aaron Rodgers plays, the Packers are still winning 56 percent of simulations -- a decline of only 6 percentage points. The problem with this analysis? It's difficult to measure the intangible leadership quality that Favre brings, but from a purely statistical standpoint, Grant is more valuable to the Packers than Favre.

Do the Giants miss Jeremy Shockey?
It does not look like they do. Without Shockey, Giants tight end Kevin Boss and rookie WR Steve Smith have gotten more passes thrown to them. Manning's completion percentage, touchdown rate and first-down conversion rate are slightly higher passing to Boss and Smith combined than it was to Shockey. In simulations with Shockey playing, the Giants are still winning 38 percent of the time, confirming that the team can continue to win without its star tight end.

Can the Giants' pass rush disrupt the Packers' passing game?
The Giants are sacking Favre twice per simulation. Even when we doubled the number of times the Giants sack Favre, the Giants' winning percentage (from 38 to 43 percent) does not improve as much as one would expect. The reason is the Packers throw a lot of short, slant passes, and even if the Giants blitz a lot, Favre still completes a high percentage of those passes to keep the ball moving.

Stephen Oh, an NFL analyst for AccuScore, is a contributor to ESPN.com.

ALSO SEE