It’s sure to cause some controversy. It’ll no doubt lead to unhappy feelings amongst certain fan bases.
For others, however, it will bring some needed pride and optimism.
Brace yourselves. There are some surprises. We’ll explain later.
How do we arrive at these standings? Well, our model takes into account several factors, including quarterback value, pass-catching, running back talent, run blocking, pass protecting, run defense, pass-rush ability and pass defense data to create team scores. From there, we create win probabilities for each game based on those team ratings.
We begin in the AFC East, where the New England Patriots are back on top and the New York Jets, well, are the New York Jets. Now that Tom Brady is gone, many believe the Buffalo Bills will become the first team to knock New England off the throne for the first time since the Miami Dolphins in 2008.
But Cam Newton wouldn’t be the first player to be rejuvenated under Bill Belichick and the Pats are projected to have a seriously good ground game that should help him out. The Pats and Bills make the NFL’s revamped playoff system out of this division.
With Ben Roethlisberger back from injury, the Pittsburgh Steelers are projected to return to the top of the AFC North. Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens take a step back, while the Cleveland Browns finally take a step forward.
Though it’s a rough season, the Cincinnati Bengals have a bright future with Joe Burrow. The Steelers and Ravens are in the postseason from this division.
Philip Rivers turns back the clock and leads the Indianapolis Colts to the AFC South crown. The Tennesse Titans aren’t projected to build on last year’s magical playoff run and the Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t as bad as you might think after shedding some formerly key players.
It’s a disappointing projection for Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans. They’ll probably miss DeAndre Hopkins, but it’s more likely to be a porous pass defense that leads to their demise. The Colts are the only playoff qualifier out of the South.
In a shocker to be sure, the model projects the Los Angeles Chargers to push the Chiefs out west. Tyrod Taylor figures to play well as he replaces Rivers in that scenario. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility. He has a 2.4 career TD/INT ratio and once led the Bills to the playoffs. The Chargers defense should be strong even without Derwin James, and the upgrades they made on the offensive line has the model pointing to a playoff push.
The Raiders finish at the bottom of the division in their first season in Las Vegas.
The Chiefs and Chargers qualify for the postseason from this group, rounding out a postseason that looks like this: 1. Steelers (first-round bye), 2. Chiefs, 3. Colts, 4. Patriots, 5. Chargers, 6. Bills, 7. Ravens.
Maybe it’s the new name? The model really likes the Washington Football Team at an eye-opening 9.1 wins, more than the Philadelphia Eagles. The best guess is that this is a solid overall “football team” and if the light goes on for Dwayne Haskins – watch out.
It’s another down year for the New York Giants in the challenging NFC East, which the model believes will have three teams in playoff contention.
Minnesota Vikings fans aren’t going to be happy about this one. Let us explain (for the model). We don’t really believe the Vikings are going to win fewer than five games, but they have serious question marks in the secondary and a finish below expectations is certainly possible.
Does the model have Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles starting at quarterback for the Chicago Bears? Either way, it projects a big move for the 2018 NFC North champs. The Packers repeat in this division, while the Bears also qualify for the postseason as a wild card. It’s obvious the model has the New Orleans Saints as its odds-on Super Bowl favorite. It has them with the best offense AND defense in the league. The Atlanta Falcons look to be back in the playoffs, while Brady and Gronk lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a big improvement but not into the postseason.
Teddy Bridgewater scored a big contract with the Carolina Panthers after leading the Saints to a 5-0 record last year, but our data isn’t very flattering of his abilities and the Panthers’ projected finish is likely somewhat of a reflection. The model doesn’t project the defending NFC champs to be as good as last year, but it has them repeating atop the NFC West. The biggest surprise here might be the Arizona Cardinals, who the data points to as a big mover behind Hopkins and Kyler Murray.
The Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks will be disappointed to find that they’ve missed out of the postseason.
With that, the NFC playoff seeding is as follows: 1. Saints (first-round bye), 2. Packers, 3. 49ers, 4. Cowboys, 5. Falcons, 6. Bears, 7. Football Team.
If you’re looking for a Super Bowl prediction, a matchup of the model’s projected win total leaders would be Saints–Steelers.
Don’t be angry with the messenger.
Data modeling and analysis provided by Kyle Cunningham-Rhoads.
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