There were a couple of potentially big games this past weekend, in terms of notable performances that might change your mind about a team. For example, Baltimore threw a dud against the Jaguars and lost on Monday night. The Saints obliterated the Colts. The Chiefs throttled the Raiders, picking off two quarterbacks three times each. On the other hand, these teams have all played at least five other games. So taking the whole season into account, how do things look?
Above are the power rankings. We can see that Baltimore dropped a bit, but not dramatically. Why? Because even though they laid an egg offensively (and honestly, what happened there?), they also had a great defensive game. They got 4 sacks, forced 4 fumbles, only gave up 3 yards per rush, and less than 4 yards per dropback. The Saints, on the other hand, put up quite a show on both sides of the ball and improved their ranking. And to finish out the somewhat arbitrary list from the intro, the Chiefs still looked pretty crummy on offense (only 5.4 yards per dropback, 3.6 yards per rush, two interceptions, etc.) but did improve on defense. The Raiders rushed well even with McFadden getting hurt, but the passing game was mediocre at best. That represents an upgrade for the Chiefs. And I sadly have to mention that the Lions have dropped yet again; they’re now 14th in the league.
How do things look going forward? After all, the Saints don’t get to play the Colts every week.
Above are the season predictions using what we know about the teams now. The Packers, for example, would be expected to win about 12 games if they played the whole season again (granting them the win we know they got in week 1). About 6 of those wins are supposed to come in games that haven’t been played yet, so with the Packers already being 7-0 we expect them to go 13-3 or maybe even 14-2. At the other end of the spectrum, the Rams are expected to win 3 games all year. Two of those wins have yet to happen, so the fact that they’re 0-6 isn’t too surprising. But they’ve been slightly unlucky to have not won a game, while the Packers have been a little lucky to be perfect so far.
How about a perhaps unreasonably early look at the playoffs? The AFC East projects to Pats 12-4, Bills 11-5, Jets 8-8, and Dolphins 3-13. The AFC North projects to Baltimore 10-6, Steelers 10-6, Cincy 10-6, and Cleveland 6-10. The AFC South is Texans 10-6, Titans 7-9, Jaguars 5-11, and Colts 3-13. Finally, the AFC West looks like Chargers 10-6, Raiders 8-8, Chiefs 7-9, and Broncos 6-10. That means the Pats, Texans, and Chargers are somewhat good bets to get the division titles and the Bills have a bit of an inside edge to a wild card. But the AFC North is going to be crazy; depending on how things shake out, they could send three teams to the playoffs.
Moving to the NFC, the North looks like Packers 13-3, Lions 9-7, Bears 8-8, and Vikings 5-11. The East is a mediocre version of the AFC North with the Cowboys 9-7, Eagles 8-8, Redskins 8-8, and Giants 8-8. The NFC South looks like Saints 12-4, Falcons 8-8, Bucs 7-9, and Panthers 7-9. Finally the NFC West has the 49ers at 11-5, Seahawks 6-10, Cardinals 6-10, and Rams 2-14. So the Packers, Saints, and 49ers are more or less locks with projections of at least four games over the rest of their divisions. The other three spots are a mess, looking to be some combination of the NFC East, Lions, Bears, and the rest of the NFC South.