We’re almost to the halfway point of the season; after next weekend, every team will have played eight games (edit: all except four. For some reason no one has byes in week 10 but the last few teams do in week 11). Let’s see what we know.
Those are the updated power rankings after week 8′s games. The top three teams stayed the same, including the Patriots. The Pats did actually drop after their loss to the Steelers, but everyone else did as well. The Saints put up a stinker against the Rams, Baltimore was unimpressive against the Cardinals, and no one else was really within shouting distance. The Packers still lead the way after their bye. Looking down the list a bit, the Steelers actually fell in the rankings even though they increased their score. Buffalo, Philly, Cincy, and San Fran all had better weekends; Houston and Baltimore were already ahead. The Lions only moved up three spots but they’re now more similar to the Steelers instead of the Redskins, so it was a good move. Interesting games next week, in terms of having somewhat evenly-matched teams (ignoring home field), should be Miami-Kansas City (although I bet KC will be a solid favorite after their win and being at home) and Baltimore-Pittsburgh (similar situation for the Steelers being the favorite).
How about looking through the rest of the season? Here are the predicted season records for each team.
Nothing has changed dramatically from last week, but we can take the usual look at lucky and unlucky teams. The Packers, 49ers, and Steelers are probably the luckiest ‘good’ teams, by which I mean everyone thinks they’re good. The unluckiest teams seem to be the Cardinals, Dolphins, and Eagles. Arizona in particular is having a rough time of it. Yes, they’re only 1-6, but four of those losses are by 4 points or less. The Giants and Redskins games were particularly egregious.
How about the playoff picture? In the NFC the division winners look to be the Packers (13 wins), Giants (9.25, barely ahead of the Eagles), Saints (10.5), and 49ers (12). The wild card leaders look to be the Lions (10 wins) and either Chicago (8.5) or Philly (8.8). The Eagles’ win over the Cowboys, coupled with the Washington loss, has teased out the NFC East to some extent. Dallas is still projected to win 7 or 8 games, so another little swing could muddy things right back up. But the Giants and Eagles certainly helped themselves by winning, and Detroit solidified their wild card position with their showing over the Broncos. The AFC division winners look to be the winner of the week 17 game between the Patriots and Bills (both teams at 11 wins), the Steelers (11), Houston (10.5), and perhaps the Chargers (8.6 wins). The wild cards would be the loser of Pats/Bills and either the Bengals or Ravens (both at 10 wins). The Chiefs and Raiders are also both right around 8 wins, so the AFC West is not set at all. Compared to last week the Steelers-Patriots game gave the Steelers an edge and moved the Pats back into a tie with the Bills, so it was fairly critical. The Chargers’ loss also moved them back into the pack with the rest of the West. The second place team in the AFC East is going to need to be careful that they stay above the rest of the North; there could be five teams with 10 or 11 wins fighting for the two division winner spots and both wild cards.