NFL Efficiency, Week 13
The last two years I have done the playoff predictions using the efficiency ratings during this week with decent success. I think last year I whiffed on two teams in the playoffs- I called Denver as the 5 seed in the AFC and the Giants as the 6 seed in the NFC- and the year before on the Jets as the 3 seed (that one still hurts bad) and the Buccaneers as a 2 seed. I don't even expect to do even close to that well this season as the league is just jumping all over the place on a weekly basis as anyone could see if they read my predictions threads and how horrible they have done this year. It is actually a system I have used for years just for kicks and is usually very good straight up but not great ATS. This year its just outright terrible.
I do not know if the league has finally reached that state of parity they want, if players are thinking of the potential lockout, or the coaching has become that bad, but there is a real performance shift this season. Normally after the first four weeks when you have a few surprises things begin to balance out. The good teams rise and stay there while the bad teams fall apart. Sure you get upsets in the NFL, like the Charger/Raider game this past weekend, that defy explanation but most teams only have one or two of those a year. Everything else tends to go by the numbers. This year is the exact opposite where teams are having unexplainable games every few weeks. There are a few teams that do play to form such as the Jets, Ravens, and Packers, but the rest of the league fluctuates wildly. Most years there are a clear top 2 or 3 teams that normally stay ranked there from weeks 5 or 6 thru 17. This year it is like college. A team gets to number one, throws in 2 clunkers in 3 weeks, and next thing you know is ranked outside of the top 10. It is a crazy season, but that is what makes the NFL exciting. Anyway, lets move onto the rankings and predictions.
Back in mid October I used the model from the efficiency ratings to project the AFC East. At the time I thought both the Pats and Jets had a chance to run to 14-2, but if the Pats got there they would win the division. The Jets minimum was put at 11 wins. Id say that looks accurate. Miami's max wins was 8 and they will maybe get there. Buffalo I maxed at 3. So its not too far off. As for how things stack up now:
New England has taken control of the division and arguably of the NFL with the win against the Jets. The rank 1st in the three important categories of overall play, home play, and road play. They hit everywhere this season by eeking out the wins against San Diego and Indianapolis, which were the real killer games, and then demolishing New York. The projection has not changed and they should finish 14-2 with the best record in the AFC even though they have two tough games remaining. They should be favored by 8 to beat the Bears, 17 over the Bills, and 16 over the Dolphins. If there is a place where they could stub their toe it will be the game they host against the Packers in two weeks. Green Bay plays dominant defense on the road and would look to be a 2 point or less underdog in the game.
The Jets have fallen down in the rankings due to uninspired play against some bad teams which was then followed up by the annihilation in New England. The Jets host the Dolphins and Bills and travel to Pittsburgh and Chicago. That is a tough schedule. Both are top 10 teams and the Steelers are the second toughest home team in the NFL. The Jets have slid all the way to 17th on the road after the disaster in New England. Miami is a top 10 team on the road while the Bills rank 18th. The division is likely out of reach for the Jets so at this point in the game all they need is 11 wins to get into the playoffs. Will they get there? As crazy as it sounds they might not. The game with Miami looks to be a dead heat, with the Jets having maybe a 1 point edge. They will be field goal underdogs in Chicago and 8 point dogs in Pittsburgh. They will be heavy double digit favorites against the Bills. So 10 wins is a guarantee, which will likely be enough to get in, but the Miami game is going to be a lot harder than people expect.
Miami at 6-6 needs to run the table just to have a chance. They have been doomed by their putrid play at home where they rank 25th in the NFL. Miami used to at least be a hard place to play at early in the year, but that is no longer the case. On top of that the fan base looks to have disappeared and the stadium is half empty for many of their home games which takes the atmosphere advantage away. If Miami played at home as well as they did on the road they would have 8 wins right now. They will travel to New York and New England and host the Bills and Lions over the course of the next 4 weeks. They will be a 1 point underdog to the Jets and a huge underdog to the Patriots. They will be a 2-3 point favorite to beat the Bills and Lions. Its possible that they could reach 9 wins if they get the game this weekend. If they do not they still should make it to 8-8.
The Bills play hard and with games against the Jets and Patriots may relish the role of spoiler. They will be huge underdogs in both games. They will be a slight underdog in Miami and also a slight underdog when the host the Browns. The Browns game is important. If they lose to Cleveland it is probably a signal that they pack things up and hand wins to the remaining 3 opponents. If they win they will continue to play hard. Right now the fair thing to say is that they will be 2-10.
The Steelers rank third in the NFL and are one of the few teams who look to have a legit chance at the Super Bowl. They have the 2nd best defense in the league and are the 2nd best home team, though they are not nearly as good on the road. They have a very easy road to the finish. They host the Bengals, Jets, and Panthers before closing out in Cleveland. Those road teams are all in the bottom half of the NFL and the Browns are nothing special at home. They will be a 14 point winner against the Bengals, 8 points winner against the Jets, 16 point winner against the Panthers, and 4 point winner in Cleveland, unless the Steelers pull their guys. 13-3 with a first round bye for Pittsburgh.
The Ravens talk a tougher game than they actually play. For a team everyone puts in the too 3 in the AFC they only rank 7th. Their offense is below average and they only rank 13th overall at home, a place where they used to always be in the top 3. They are going to need at least two more wins to get in and will be facing Houston, New Orleans, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. Baltimore will be almost a TD favorite to win in Houston and a 5 point favorite at home against the Bengals, assuming the Bengals are still showing a pulse. That's the 10 win mark. The Saints game is impossible to call based on the numbers. Its almost a dead heat and will be won by whomever forces the style of play. They should beat the Browns by about 3 points. Most likely they will be 11-5.
Cleveland is trying to finish the season with 8 wins, which will require a 3-1 record and an upset of either Baltimore or Pittsburgh. It starts with game in Buffalo and Cincinnati, where they will be favored 4 and 3 points. If they can pull those games off they are not so much worse than Baltimore that they can not pull off an upset. Still, 7-9 is probably a step in the right direction.
Cincinnati has already given up and is one of the worst teams in the NFL. They have a brutal schedule to end the season and unless the Chargers don't show up in late December they will finish the year 2-14, which has to be one of the biggest drops ever for a divisional champion from the year before.
This is the big shocker of the year as the Indianapolis Colts look to be in serious danger of missing the playoffs. Peyton Manning's decision making has looked so bad these last few weeks in inexplicable losses to Dallas and San Diego that there must be serious concerns about where he is at right now. Manning is the premier QB in the league but does not look it right now. Clearly the injuries have taken their toll on the team, but this is the first time I can ever remember people saying that Manning needs help. Is all hope lost? Not yet. Though the team is trending downward they do still rank 11th overall which says they have the ability to change things around. Sometimes all it takes is a win to do that. The worrisome aspect is that the Colts were so dominant early in the year at home and have fallen to 10th in the NFL. They are a below average road team. The remaining schedule consists of a home and away against the Titans, the big home game against the Jaguars, and a trip to Oakland. The Colts should win a close game against the Titans at home, but lose their road game in similar fashion. Tennessee has totally fallen apart of late so a sweep is certainly a possibility. They should be a slight underdog in Oakland, but should beat the Jaguars by about 3 or 4 points. Most likely this will be a 9-7 team and odds are that won't cut it.
Jacksonville's story is not that much different than their story at this time last year. Last year at this time they controlled their destiny and many were writing them into the playoffs, but they were a paper tiger. The same holds true this year as evidenced by their number 23 ranking. They are an awful home team on the year, but have played well on the road and have taken advantage of an easy schedule. They will host the Raiders and Redskins while traveling to Indianapolis and Houston. Oakland looks to be a loss, while we have already called the Colts game as a loss. Washington should be a very close game with the Jaguars having the slight edge by something like 2 or 3 points. It could all come down to the Texans game. Statistically the game, at this stage of the year, is a dead heat, but you also have to consider that the Jaguars could be playing for the division while the Texans are simply waiting for vacation to begin. Beating Houston will likely give Jacksonville the tiebreaker against the Colts even if they lose to them in 2 weeks. As crazy as it sounds they should be the favorite to win the division at 9-7.
The Titans are one of those teams that shows just how crazy the year has been. At one point in time they were statistically the best team in the NFL and looked to have a good chance at winning the division. The problems at QB, both inside the locker room and on the field, have had a drastic effect. They still rank 12 but that ranking is misleading because the early game stats are weighed equally with the later game stats. Besides the two Colts games they will also host the Texans and travel to Kansas City. They should beat the Texans by about 5 and lose to the Chiefs by about the same amount en route to limping to an 8-8 record.
Houston has once again disappointed and will be playing the spoiler role from here on out. They host the Ravens next week before traveling to Tennessee and Denver before closing out at home against the Jaguars. Houston has not been a good home team this year and should be a 6 point underdog to the Ravens. The Denver game is the one where they should be a strong favorite, but this looks like a fourth place finish for the club at either 6-10 or 7-9.
With the Chargers stubbing their toe early this is a great race to the finish. The Kansas City Chiefs have a commanding 2 game lead at 8-4 and have to be breathing a sigh of relief as the Raiders knocked off the Chargers this past Sunday. The Chiefs are a relatively average team, ranking 14th overall, but are the 5th best home team in the NFL where their defense has been dominating. They are holding teams a full 7 points below their road average in Arrowhead and are by far the best home defense in the NFL. They have two huge divisional games remaining with a trip to San Diego next week and then they close the season by hosting the Raiders. Both have such huge implications that the middle games in St Louis and home against the Titans are almost meaningless. Unless the Chargers pull one of their patented no shows the Chiefs look to get whacked by 14 points next week, but would still hold a 1 game lead after a loss. The Rams game will be tough and the Chiefs looks to be a 5 point underdog before becoming a favorite against the Titans. They should close the season as a touchdown favorite against division rival Oakland. Those two wins will get them to 10-6.
San Diego is just a team nobody can figure out. They are so poorly coached and so poorly prepared it is not even funny. Every year is the same story with them and they are almost the toughest team in the league to predict. They rank 6th in the NFL and are the 4th best home team in the league, but that means nothing when you have Norv Turner as head coach. They now have a major uphill battle having been swept by Oakland within the division. Luckily for them the schedule is easy as they play the Chiefs and 49ers at home wile traveling to Cincinnati and Denver. The rankings of those teams are 14, 26, 25, and 28 respectively so its an easy path to 10 wins and a divisional win based on tiebreakers. But then again is anything easy with San Diego?
Oakland has certainly surprised me with a 6-6 record and a number 15 ranking. While that is just average, in most seasons Oakland is in the bottom 4 so this represents major progress for the franchise. With the tiebreaker edge against the Chargers and a game left against the Chiefs they have to at least like their chances here, but it will take a lot for Oakland to reach the playoffs. The team travels to Jacksonville and Kansas City and hosts the Colts and Broncos. The killer game there is the Chiefs game where the Raiders look to be a big underdog. The will go into the Colts game a heavy underdog but should walk away with the win. They should be an 8 point favorite against Denver. There is an excellent chance for the Raiders to get to 9-7. That will not be enough for the playoffs but still is a giant leap forward.
Denver has been a disaster from the midpoint of 2009 thru today and they are limping to the finish. The defense ranks 31st in the NFL and the offense is now about to drag into negative territory as well. They travel to Arizona next week where they look to be a 4 point favorite. That should be the only win they have from this point out as they end up 4-12 on the season.
Final AFC projections
This is a two horse race to the finish with the Dallas Cowboys getting a chance to play spoiler. The Philadelphia Eagles have a tiebreaker edge right now over the New York Giants, but will have to face the resurgent Cowboys two times in the next four weeks along with a trip to New York to battle the Giants. The Eagles rank 6th overall and are very good both at home and on the road, something that bodes well for them in the race to the finish. The one worry they have is that the offense is carrying the team on the road and if the opponent can keep QB Mike Vick in check the defense is not good enough to keep the game within striking distance, which is exactly what happened in Chicago. If things simply go according to plan the Eagles should wrap the division up in the next two weeks with wins in Dallas and New York before returning home. They should beat the Cowboys by at least 8 and the Giants by a field goal, though the Cowboys are a complete unknown since the coaching change. They should also beat the Vikings by about a touchdown and the Cowboys to close the year out by around 4 or 5 points. Unless Dallas really screws things up for the team they look to have an excellent shot at 12-4.
The Giants have the much tougher road since they travel to Green Bay. Though the Giants are the third best road team in the league the Packers are the second best home team in the NFL and much more consistent than NY. The Giants have been marred with inconsistency this year but seem to be in a good stretch which may help them when they host the Eagles in 2 weeks, but they should be an underdog in the game. The Giants should be 9-4 going into the Eagles game as they look to be around a 6 point favorite against Minnesota. Most likely they will be a 7 point underdog to the Packers before closing things out with a double digit win in Washington to reach a 10-6 record, which likely wont be enough in the NFC.
The Redskins look totally shot and it's a miracle they ended up with 5 wins on the season. They rank 24th overall and have one of the worst 5 offenses in the NFL. Don't expect Donovan McNabb to return next season as he does not fit in the offense and is totally unproductive. They likely will not win more than 1 more game this year. They will be close to a TD underdog against the Buccaneers, FG dogs to Dallas and Jacksonville, and a 10 point underdog to the Giants. They will not be better than 6-10.
Jerry Jones has to wonder what could have been had he fired head coach Wade Phillips earlier in the year. Dallas did not even try when he was head coach and it ruined their season. They likely wont beat the Eagles, but if they are going to do so it will happen in the first game while the Cowboys have the momentum. They should be a slight favorite to beat Washington and a 6 point favorite, if not greater, to beat Arizona. Anything less than 7-9 would be disappointing for Dallas, but 8-8 is not a crazy thought.
This has turned into quite the race between the Chicago Bears, who are steadily improving, and the Green Bay Packers. The Bears rank 7th overall and have the third best defense in the NFL while the Packers rank 2nd and field the best defense in the NFL. Both teams have interesting home/away splits. Green Bay is dominant at home. Their offense is ranked fourth at home with a 28.08% efficiency rating, but on the road that number falls to -2.98%. What they are able to do on the road is play incredible defense which allows them to smother teams like the Jets who are a terrible home offense for a good team and win a game 9-0, but its not enough to beat a team like Atlanta who has a terrific home offense. Chicago is a mediocre home team despite the reputation that Soldier Field is a tough place to play. They play slightly below average offense and only slightly above average defense. On the road the offense completely goes in the tank, a -20.90 ranking, the 27th worst in the NFL, but the defense is second only to the Packers road defense. Clearly the Packers are the better team, but how will things shake out?
The Bears will host the Patriots and Jets and travel to Minnesota while the Packers play at Detroit and New England and then host the Giants. The Bears and Packers play each other in Green Bay on the final week. Chicago should split with the Patriots and Jets and then be the slightest of favorites to win in Minnesota. They will likely be either 10-5 or 11-4 heading into the final game. Green Bay is a slight underdog in New England and about a 6 point favorite in Detroit. Its safe to call that a split. They should be a TD favorite to beat the Giants. That will make them 10-5 heading into that final game. If both teams are 10-5 it's a simple winner take all game. If the Bears are 11-4 its possible that the game could be meaningless depending on how strength of victory tiebreaker plays out, but that still should be a winner take all game. I believe the difference in records will be the Dolphins/Seahawks for the Bears vs. the Giants/49'ers for the Packers. That favors Green Bay. As for the showdown the Packers would look to win the game by about 6 points creating an 11-5 tie between the clubs.
The Vikings goal at this stage has to be to finish 8-8 and then get ready for another offseason of Brett Favre drama. It will be tough to reach the goal of 8-8. They will be a heavy dog against the Giants and Eagles which would put them at 9 losses. Chicago is a winnable game, but they will have to play better than usual to get the win. The will actually be a 3-4 point underdog in Detroit. Don't be stunned if they finish 5-11.
Detroit has shown some good flashes this year and it does look like they have a decent nucleus in place. The thing that is going to hold them back is the QB. Matt Stafford simply cant stay healthy. The team just has to learn to win having lost 4 games by 3 points or less. Provided they continue to play hard they have a chance to beat both the Buccaneers and the Vikings and should be a slight favorite in both contests. Being that we know they lose the close games we will guess it's a split to finish 3-13, but 4-12 is also within reach.
This is another wild race due to the Saints pulling out some miracles early in the season to stay within a game of the Falcons. Atlanta ranks 4th in the NFL and is a borderline elite team, while the Saints rank 10th and are nowhere near an elite level. New Orleans actually plays better on the road than they do at home while Atlanta plays pretty well in both spots, but is very sharp at home. Atlanta has an easy path with two games remaining against Carolina as well as a trip to Seattle. They play New Orleans in week 16. The Falcons will be at least two touchdown favorites in both Panthers games and a 4 point favorite in Seattle. The worst they will be is 13-3. They should be a slight favorite to beat the Saints which would make them 14-2.
The Saints will host the Rams and Bucs and travel to Baltimore and Atlanta. They will be 13 point favorites against the Rams, but that is the only game where they hold a big advantage. The Ravens look to be a 1 point winner and the Falcons also a slight winner. Don't be stunned if the team that upsets the apple cart is the Buccaneers, especially if the Saints beat Atlanta to move into a tie for first place. Tampa Bay is a solid road team and should win the game by 3 or 4 points. This is an 11-5 football team.
The Buccaneers have done far better than anyone expected, though their number 22 ranking is very poor. Tampa is an awful home team that ranks 29th in the NFL. They rank 13th on the road. That tells a lot about the team. They are not very good, but teams are overlooking them. When a team goes on the road they sometimes will stay focused for the game moreso than against a team they feel is bad in their own building. Tampa takes advantage of that and caught teams off guard away from Tampa. The coach still feels they have a shot, but they will need to play far better at home to do so. They travel to Washington this week where they should win by 6. They will then face Detroit and Seattle at home. Those are the key games as neither is a good road team where they rank 27 and 31 in the league. The Detroit game is the tougher of the two as they will be favored by 1 there and by a field goal against the Seahawks. They should upset the Saints. They can get to 10-6.
Carolina is a mess and look to get routed in 3 games that are left. They also play Arizona but look to lose to them by 5 or 6 points too. 1-15.
This is a disgrace to the NFL. The highest ranked team is 26th overall. You will never see a division that bad. Just by mistake one team should at least be in the teens, but these 4 squads are so pathetic they are not even close. The Rams are 6-6 and the current favorites. Do they do anything well? No, but the defense is close to average which makes them the best of the west. They play New Orleans, Kansas City, San Francisco and Seattle to end the year. That will go loss, loss, win, win to finish 8-8 and at least avoid the stigma of being 7-9 and in the playoffs. Seattle will wind up 6-10, San Francisco 6-10, and the Cardinals 4-12. Final NFC projections
2010 NFL Efficiency Ratings, thru week 13
|Rank||Team||Scoring Efficiency||Defensive Efficiency||Overall Efficiency|
|1.||New England Patriots||46.00||-2.27||43.73|
|2.||Green Bay Packers||13.31||28.86||42.17|
|6.||San Diego Chargers||15.06||8.54||23.60|
|8.||New York Giants||6.02||7.29||13.31|
|9.||New York Jets||-2.54||15.82||13.28|
|10.||New Orleans Saints||7.70||2.02||9.72|
|14.||Kansas City Chiefs||-0.39||8.20||7.80|
|22.||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-6.99||-5.56||-12.55|
|26.||San Francisco 49'ers||-23.80||1.02||-22.78|
|29.||St. Louis Rams||-24.18||-3.13||-27.31|