Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Projecting final standings

We're now 7 weeks into the season and can get a sense of how good teams really are. Using point differential, we can project final standings, so let's see how we'd expect teams to finish. Of course there are caveats: for example this won't account for remaining strength of schedule or significant injuries, but it's something. Let's see how close to reality we get!

The model uses the very strong correlation of every 2 points differential per game with 1 game away from 8-8. Due to rounding errors, the total wins and losses in the table might not quite add up.

AFC East
New England Patriots15-1
New York Jets12-4
Miami Dolphins9-7
Buffalo Bills8-8

AFC North
Cincinnati Bengals13-3
Pittsburgh Steelers10-6
Baltimore Ravens6-10
Cleveland Browns6-10

AFC South
Indianapolis Colts6-10
Tennessee Titans6-10
Houston Texans5-11
Jacksonville Jaguars4-12

AFC West
Denver Broncos11-5
Oakland Raiders7-9
Kansas City Chiefs6-10
San Diego Chargers6-10
NFC East
Philadelphia Eagles10-6
New York Giants9-7
Washington Redskins7-9
Dallas Cowboys5-11

NFC North
Green Bay Packers13-3
Minnesota Vikings10-6
Detroit Lions4-12
Chicago Bears3-13

NFC South
Carolina Panthers12-4
Atlanta Falcons11-5
New Orleans Saints6-10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers5-11

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals14-2
Seattle Seahawks10-6
St Louis Rams7-9
San Francisco 49ers3-13

The predictions generally feel sound, though it's unlikely that Arizona will go 9-0 the rest of the season, or that the Bears or 49ers will only win one more game. I'd also guess the Jags are trending upwards and will finish with more wins than the Texans, but the projections pass a gut check.

In the AFC playoffs we have division winners New England (bye), Cincinnati (bye), Indianapolis and Denver along with wildcards New York and Pittsburgh. The Colts would be the worst-ever division winner, but the AFC South looks to be really that bad. Looking at their schedule, their likely wins are in the last 6 weeks of the year when facing the Bucs, Jags, Texans and Titans.

In the NFC playoffs we have division winners Arizona (bye), Green Bay (bye), Carolina and Philadelphia and wildcards Atlanta and Seattle or Minnesota depending on tie-breaks. I personally feel better about Seattle's chances of getting to 10-6; the Vikings have tough games left against likely playoff teams Green Bay (twice), Atlanta, Seattle and Arizona, while St Louis and the Giants aren't easy outs either. Seattle's tough games are Arizona (twice), Minnesota, Pittsburgh and St Louis.

Tony Romo and Dez Bryant may return just in time to get the Cowboys a few wins and take them out of prime drafting territory. Early indications show 4 top-tier quarterbacks who could all go in the top 10; the rest of the top 10 is dominated by offensive tackles and defensive ends. Going from 5 wins to 7 would mean moving from picking around 3-5 to around 12-15. They'd miss out on either a blue chip player or the opportunity to wheel and deal.

San Francisco and Chicago would pick 1-2. Both have franchise quarterbacks who are underperforming. The top picks would be great opportunities to take a shot at the future. In our scenario, the Jags and Lions pick next. I think neither needs a QB so they get to make prime picks. Next come the Texans (need a qb), leaving the Cowboys to play host to a potential bidding war by quarterback-needy Cleveland and Kansas City, and maybe even New Orleans and/or San Diego if they're looking to the future. In other words, a lot rides on the draft order this year. It seems to be a rare year for quarterback talent and there's always more demand than supply. Then again, these draft player projections will change drastically by next March. They always do.

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