Steve Kornacki is back at the big board taking on NFL data

NBC Sports

So: Steve Kornacki is a Patriots fan. “But not a recent one,” he said. “I’m a Pats fan from the 1-15 years.” But he got to be a political nerd growing up in a politics hotbed, eastern Massachusetts, and this running the election boards at NBC, obviously, is perfect for him. He loves everything about the process of knowing voter trends and learning the voting habits of counties and states. “I took my dad to Ohio on a driving tour for two weeks in 2018,” Kornacki said. “I just wanted to get to know the state.” Now that’s dedication to job.

Soon after the election this year, NBC Sports called NBC News to see if Kornacki—who’d become a sensation during the presidential election—might want to do some football forecasting. “I got a call from my boss, I wanna say, a week after the election just saying that like NBC Sports had some ideas, wanted to talk. I’d say about the last two weeks, we put it together.”

Once the playoff race started to be defined, Kornacki would do several segments in the NBC studio on Sunday night. He debuted Sunday night, taking Pro Football Focus data—Cris Collinsworth is majority owner of the analytics site—to project the playoffs. Kornacki did it the same way as with the politics, tapping on a big board to bring up AFC and NFC playoff data, and excitedly projecting and circling and tapping to make his points. The three takeaways from his first week of playoff forecasting:

Minnesota vs. Arizona. Tiebreakers put the 6-6 Vikings as the seventh seed in the NFC this morning, with 6-6 Arizona out of the money at eight. But the PFF data suggest Arizona has a 52 percent chance to make the playoffs and Minnesota 32 percent—mostly because the Vikes play of their last four on the road at Tampa and New Orleans. “When I saw those numbers,” Kornacki said, “I did a double take. I went back to Pro Football Focus. I said, ‘Are you sure about this?’ In my mind, I’d put them even right now.” I agree, in part because one game that looked soft two or three weeks ago, Arizona at the Giants this weekend, now looks really tough for the Cardinals.

Chicago plummets. PFF has the Bears, 5-7, having a 6 percent shot to make the playoffs. And with the next three games against .500 or less teams—Houston, at Minnesota, at Jacksonville—the offensive offensiveness of Chicago makes 6 percent “sound about right” to Kornacki, he said.

Rise of the Giants. New York entered the day 4-7 and with a 32 percent chance of making the playoffs. That rose to 45 percent with the win over the Seahawks, and will rise more if Washington (4-7) loses this evening in Pittsburgh. “Assuming that Pittsburgh beats Washington, I think the Giants probability number would probably move north of 50 percent,” Kornacki said.

Kornacki was smooth on TV, and smooth with me. He might have a future in this business.

Read more from Peter King’s Football Morning in America column here.