With the season ¾ of the way complete I wanted to post my updated power rankings and do a brief forecast for the remainder of the year. If you are unfamiliar with these metrics they score teams based on how much more or less they score than their opposition generally allows and how much they hold teams under their averages. So a team with a 24% scoring efficiency scores 24% more than their opponents allow against other opponents and a -24% defensive efficiency would indicate that they hold a team to 24% less than their normal scoring output. Total efficiency is simply the combination of the two numbers and the predicted record is a historical look at what teams with these efficiency score would normally finish the season at. For our forecast well look at the upcoming SOS and see where matchup issues may occur.
The one thing that has remained constant this year is the lack of dominant teams. While teams like Dallas and New England are certainly very good there are usually at least a few teams that track towards a 13 or 14 win season. Both of those teams should actually get to those numbers but it seems that some of the top teams this year have more than a few balls bounce their way in close games or an easy schedule. That should make the playoffs pretty wide open.
The Patriots should be favored to run the table with Denver being their biggest stumbling block. Baltimore could pose a slight threat, but the Jets and Dolphins closeouts look to be blowouts. This should be a 13 win and possibly a 14 win team….For Buffalo to make the playoffs they need to run the table and they will have a chance at doing that if they can beat Pittsburgh. The Bills problems lie more on defense though their offense is inconsistent outside of LeSean McCoy, who is a player I was dead wrong on when they traded for him. They should finish with 9 wins unless they quit on the year…Miami Miami has been able to take advantage of an easy schedule this year but ranks 25th in the NFL. They should only be favored one more time this year but they also play the Cardinals in Miami and Arizona has been awful in those situations….The Jets only decent chance to win will be this weekends toilet bowl against the 49ers.
The Steelers should run away from the Ravens but if they lose to the Ravens they may not make the playoffs. Outside of that game it’s the Bills this week that would be most concerning. The Steelers are closing strong and up to 4th in our rankings…Its hard to see the Ravens, who rank 12th based strictly on the strength of their defense, finding a way into the playoffs if they lose to Pittsburgh. They are most likely to finish as a 9 win team…The Bengals have had a down year and they should not have any exceptional close to the year to change that….Nothing has gone right for the Browns who should be better than a winless team, but that looks to be their end game.
The South continues their run as the worst in the NFL and their representative will be an 8 win team. The Colts are the highest ranking team and they rank 22nd, which is pretty bad. There was a time when the NFC West was like this, but I don’t think they went this many years in a row being this pathetic. Indy should be the slight favorite here to win but they don’t have any locks on the schedule nor are they consistent enough to assume they will beat even a team like the Jaguars…The Titans have two games against the west teams which will make it hard for them to win the division. They will need to beat Denver to accomplish it…The Texans still have a shot but will be underdogs in 3 of 4…The Jags are in a spoiler role but would need bad efforts all around to get another win.
Three playoff teams project to come out of the west. The division winner should be decided Thursday night when the Raiders and Chiefs play. The Chiefs, who rank 9th, should be very slight favorites to pull the game out. If they do they should finish with 12 wins on the year and the number 2 seed….The Raiders will also finish with 12 but lose that tiebreaker to Kansas City. They have 3 of 4 on the road as well which will make it hard to even reach that 12 number but they are all winnable games….Denver has the toughest schedule with a road game against the Titans which could be a bad matchup as well as the Pats, Chiefs, and Raiders. They should get two of those games to win the wildcard but it would not be shocking if they only pulled out 1….The Chargers should make it to 7 wins but they have clearly underperformed. They are the best ranking bad team at 14 overall but they play terrible down the stretch and Rivers at times just makes terrible decisions. That coach needs to go.
Dallas should have a clear path to a 15 win season. They close against the Giants, Bucs, Lions, and Eagles and they should be at least a 4 point favorite in each game. They may rest guys down the stretch even though they said they would not, but if they don’t its hard to see a loss…Washington tracks to come in second with games against the fading Eagles and terrible Bears on the road and home game against the terrible Panthers and mediocre Giants. They should finish with 9 or 10 wins, either of which should be enough for the playoffs…While I personally think the Giants could match up well with the Cowboys (though the JPP injury is tough) they have played like an 8 win team and will end up around that. They should be underdogs in all their remaining games, though projecting a loss against the Eagles when so much of the Eagles success is based on early season play is probably wrong, and if they close out winless I don’t think anyone will stunned….Speaking of the Eagles the Giants are the only team they really should have a chance of beating as they will be crawling to the finish line. They spent most of the year ranked near the top but it wouldn’t stun me if by years end they are around 20th.
The Lions are the textbook definition of an average team, but they have been able to win some close games this year and if they can continue that against the Giants and Packers that should get them to 11 wins and a surprising division title. Unlike the other possible playoff teams they don’t really do anything well so it would be hard to see them making noise in the playoffs but they can take advantage of a down year for the Packers….The Vikings defense has helped them stay in the playoff hunt but their offense is terrible. That said expect a big close from them with games against the Bears, Jaguars, Colts, and Packers. 9 wins gives them a good chance to get in. Green Bay has been so inconsistent its hard to see them making a run. The Bears are a layup but the Vikings and Lions are both going to be very difficult and unless Seattle has a no show game that’s probably a loss as well….Chicago should continue to be a doormat.
While the Falcons seem to back in their annual mode of a late season fall, this is different than last years squad that had a bunch of wins with smoke and mirrors. Atlanta is a terrific team that ranks 3rd overall mainly from the strength of their offense which makes up for the poor defense. Though they are one dimensional they are good enough at that one dimension to make some playoff noise. They should cruise to the finish with games against the Rams, 49ers, Panthers, and Saints, and it would be surprising if they were not an 11 win team….The Buccaneers have two with New Orleans, plus Dallas and Carolina. Their playoff hopes will rest with how they match up with the Saints. Right now they would probably be a slight underdog when playing on the road and slight favorite at home. They should split the other two. The Bucs are a slightly worse version of the Lions in that the record is probably inflated compared to their actual performance…The Saints will be headed to either another 7 win season or a 6 win season. They are simply stuck in neutral and show no signs of moving from there…Its likely that Carolina won’t win another game this season and right now they look as if their Super Bowl team is going to be looked at in the same light as teams like the Chargers and Falcons.
If Seattle had any consistency on offense they would probably be the best team in the NFL, but they have far too many clunkers on that side of the ball. Still they rank 5th overall and should have a strong close. The teams that will match up best with them are Green Bay and Arizona who have enough on offense to benefit from a Seahawk offensive no-show. Still they are more likely to be the two seed with 12 wins than anything else…The Cardinals are an interesting team to watch. They rank 16th and have a favorable schedule with Miami (20), LA(29), and NO (15) plus the Seattle game. They will likely need to run the table which they can do but it will require them to somehow play well at 1PM on the east coast this week an also upset Seattle. Its not impossible but they will probably be 8-6-1 and thinking of games they blew earlier in the year. I wouldn’t rule out losing to Miami and just tanking the rest of the year as well…Neither the Rams nor 49ers are any good but they do play each other one more time and someone has to win. It should be the Rams to get to five wins on the year. SF’s best shot comes this week against the Jets.
Here are the efficiency metrics for each team through 12 weeks. The predicted wins is what the model suggests would be a teams record.
|New England Patriots
|Kansas City Chiefs
|San Diego Chargers
|New Orleans Saints
|New York Giants
|Green Bay Packers
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|Los Angeles Rams
|New York Jets
|San Francisco 49ers