Not only was it a disappointing weekend for the Lions, it was a disappointing week for the model. Here’s the rundown, followed by a slightly more thorough than usual playoff breakdown.
The over/under went 6-10 to get to 83-88-4 on the season. I expect a better showing next week just because I expect the predictions to end up around chance. There were an ok number of upsets as far as Luigi is concerned, only going 10-6 in picking straight-up winners. Seattle and Kansas City were two of the bigger ones that I think everyone would agree with. That puts the season record at 107-69. Moneyline picks were only 2-8, which is a little unusual when there are more upsets. That’s because no moneyline was listed for a number of games. The moneyline picks are 43-68 on the year.
In all games against Bodog spreads Luigi was only 6-10, moving to 86-82-8 on the year. A few games were too close to call though; take those out and Luigi was 5-7, which is a little better. The season record in pickable games is 71-62-7 and just in the black. My SuperContest picks of the Colts, Texans, Bengals, Browns, and Lions went 2-3 for an overall record of 34-27-4 for 36 points. Finally, Bill Simmons went 8-8 against his lines for an overall record of 97-87-8 while Luigi went 7-9 for an overall record of 99-85-8, so I still have a two game lead with four weeks to go. If memory served we ended the regular season pretty close last year and then I did a little better in the playoffs, so it looks to be similar this year as well.
Here are the power rankings after this week. The top 5 is unchanged although the Saints made up some room on the Packers (mostly caused by the Packers dropping a bit after the close Giants game).
And here are the season predictions, which take schedule into account. Usually I use these as a shorthand for the playoff picture, but below the table I’ll be using NFL Forecast this week to put probabilities on everything.
In the AFC East things are pretty settled as the Patriots will take first and the Jets come in at second. The AFC North seems to have swung to the Ravens (60% to come in first) on the strength of their tie-breaker advantage over the Steelers (40%), who are projected to have the same number of wins. If the Bengals can take advantage of Houston’s injuries this upcoming weekend though, things might still be interesting. Speaking of Houston, they own the AFC South. And in the West it looks like Tebowmania will reign as the Broncos are the slight favorite to win the division, 53% to Oakland’s 40%. The odds might be even better since Denver hosts Chicago this weekend, who look to be missing both Cutler and Forte. In terms of playoff seeding it’s still murky; the Patriots, Ravens, and Texans all have about a 26% chance at a bye. Since the Texans and Patriots have the better chances at 13 wins, we’ll say it’s them. You would then have Baltimore at 3 and Denver at 4 hosting the Steelers at 5 and one of the Bengals, Raiders, or Titans. The Bengals have the inside track with a 39% chance of making the postseason while the Titans are at 31%. Whoever doesn’t win the division in the West probably won’t make it.
In the NFC East things have broke for the Cowboys, who have a 69% chance of winning the division. The Giants have a 29% chance. Of course, they still play each other twice. If each team wins at home it help the Cowboys, who move to 84% to win the division. If the Giants manage to win both, they take the division 91% of the time. I think that means this weekend’s game is must-win since the Giants are on the road. Much like the AFC West, whoever doesn’t win probably doesn’t make the playoffs. The NFC North belongs to Green Bay, obviously. They have a 35% chance of going undefeated, although we’ll speak to that in a minute. Detroit has a small advantage over Chicago for coming in second right now, 52% to 48%. The ‘but’ here moves us to the NFC West, where the 49ers also have it locked up. Green Bay is 12-0 and faces Oakland (should win), Kansas City (should win), Chicago (should win), and Detroit (should win). The 49ers are 10-2 and face Arizona (should win), Pittsburgh (tough game), Seattle (should win), and the Rams (should win). That means that in two weeks the Packers will likely be 14-0 and the 49ers will be either 11-3 or 12-2. If the 49ers lose to the Steelers, the Packers will have locked up first place before they play the Bears. However, it seems unlikely to me that they’ll rest their starters two weeks early. If the 49ers beat the Steelers, the Packers have to win one more game to lock up first place, and they should be favored over Hanie and the Bears regardless of if Forte is better or not by then. Going to the last week then, the Packers will be 15-0 and the 49ers will be 12-3 or 13-2. The Packers can definitely rest at that point against the Lions. If we grant the Lions the week 17 win, they move to 78% to come in 2nd. A definite Packers win over the Bears moves the number to 86%. But, if the Packers decide to play the Lions for real and go undefeated (also beating the Bears), the Lions are back to 54% to come in second. So a lot of the playoff scenario comes down to how much the Packers want to win at the end of the season. In the NFC South the Saints are clearly ahead of the Falcons.
As the Packers discussion suggested, the playoff positions in the NFC are unclear. The Packers are pretty obviously going to get first and the 49ers second, with the Saints having about a 17% chance of passing the 49ers. Otherwise the Saints will be in 3rd and either the Cowboys or Giants will get the 4 seed, with preference going to Dallas. As it stands right now with the probabilities from my model, the Falcons have the best shot at the 5 seed with a 38% chance, followed by Chicago (32%) and Detroit (23%). The 6 seed looks like Detroit (33%), Atlanta (28%), Chicago (27%). Right now the Lions are on the outside because they lost to Atlanta and Chicago is better in-conference. It looks like the Lions better hope the Packers decide to play in week 16 but not 17, or that Forte’s injury is worse than expected.