We’ve hit the midpoint of the season, which seems like it should be after week 8 but isn’t quite thanks to the byes. The league has played 133 out of 256 games, so technically we’ve had a few extra, but close enough. That seems like a good excuse to cover the rankings and predictions first, then I’ll get to how the predictions fared this weekend.
Let’s start with the rankings:
You can compare to my inaugural rankings for the season back in week 3. The top five back then were Denver, Seattle, Green Bay, Dallas, and New Orleans. Now it’s Denver, Green Bay, San Fran, Carolina, and New Orleans. Seattle has slid to sixth and Dallas has fallen out to 11th. If you remember back to week 3, the 49ers were 1-2 and had just lost convincingly to both Seattle and Indianapolis. Carolina was 8th, so they’ve moved up a bit but the grouping there isn’t too differentiated anyway. So we might say that the biggest mover in the league in the first half was the 49ers, even though they’ve probably just ended up where we thought they would be before week 1.
On the other end of the list we had Jacksonville, the Giants, Tampa, San Fran (already covered), and Pittsburgh back in week 3. This week we have Jacksonville, Tampa, the Giants, Minnesota, and Buffalo. Buffalo was the sixth-worst team, just above Pittsburgh, back in week 3 so there hasn’t been too much movement here either. The extreme crappiness of these teams has diminished some though; all five week 3 teams scored lower than the Giants’ current score. Some of that is regression to the (slightly less crappy) mean, but I think some is also better play on the parts of those teams. The exception would be Minnesota, who lost their first three games but were at least competitive in them. Since then they’ve won once but lost four more times, three times by 13 points or more. In contrast the Steelers have crawled their way to just bad in the past five weeks. They started 0-3 with each loss being by double-digits and have since gone 2-3 with the only big loss being this past week at New England.
How about some season predictions?
Let’s do a quick look at the division title races. The NFC East is nicely divided as teams have 5, 4, 3, and 2 wins. However, Washington and the Giants have already had their byes, so they could theoretically catch up a win. The Giants rate so poorly though that the model doesn’t give them a chance, and Washington will be lucky to get to .500. The model thinks both Dallas and Philly have 3.5 expected wins left, so you give the edge to the Cowboys to take the division since they have a win in the bag. But one win is a small margin, and the NFC East is typically crazy, so who knows.
I’ve talked about the NFC North a lot, and the three teams with any chance are now all 5-3. All three are expected to win between 4 and 5 more games. The Packers still have the highest expectation, by a nose, but the model doesn’t know that Rodgers is out for a few weeks. That could be a critical blow, but if they can get past the Eagles there are easier games against the Giants and Vikings to follow. So who knows what will happen here.
The NFC South is a two-team race between the Saints and Panthers, with the Saints having a game in hand. Both teams rate to do well in the last half of the season, so the home-and-home series between the two have will probably decide who takes the title.
Wrapping up the NFC in the West, the Seahawks have the lead but have looked vulnerable recently and the 49ers aren’t too far behind and have a game to make up thanks to the bye. The model has this as a close call, so the edge has to go to Seattle since they already have a two-win lead. As a side note for a ‘bad’ team, the Rams look to have a rough second half with only 2.5 expected wins. Four of their seven games are on the road and they have teams like the Colts, Bears, 49ers, Saints, and Seahawks left.
Moving to the AFC East the Patriots have a two-win lead on the Jets with the semi-frisky Dolphins half a game back. All four teams look to win another 3-4 games, so expect things to stay about the same.
The AFC North is in a similar spot with the Bengals taking the lead, except each team is about a game worse. The Bengals honestly are the best team in the division, so they should hold on fairly easily.
The AFC South has a nice striation in that you have a quality team in the Colts, an average team in the Titans, a crummy team in the Texans, and a really bad team in the Jaguars. Houston isn’t actually as bad as they look, but there’s only so much you can do when you start 2-6. The Titans also rate to do well enough, but 8-8 won’t win the division, and the Colts should comfortably close it out.
Finally we have an interesting race in the AFC West with KC and Denver making it roughly irrelevant what happens to San Diego and Oakland. Despite the Chiefs having the better record, the Broncos are the better team, so it’s a question of if they can catch up. Luigi says the Broncos should win about a game more than the Chiefs in the back half of the season, but that could really just be their bye week game, leaving the Broncos a game behind anyway. If the Broncos sweep the home-and-home I give them the division on tie-breaker; if the Chiefs can take one, I think they’ll hold on.
Looking ever so hopefully towards the playoffs, I think that gives us Seattle and probably the Saints with first-round byes for the NFC followed by Dallas and someone from the NFC North; I would like to lean towards the Lions thanks to Rodgers’ injury, but I think fate has something more cruel in mind. Then there will be a crazy death match for the two wild cards between the other two NFC North teams, Carolina, and the 49ers. In the AFC we should have the the Broncos/Chiefs and either the Pats or Colts with byes, followed by the other of the Pats/Colts and the Bengals. The wild card will go to either the Chiefs or Broncos (which is kind of amazing since that team will probably have 12 wins) and then I don’t even know. The Jets? Cleveland??? The Titans? The Chargers might make it, demonstrating some real AFC West dominance? The AFC might have the better top teams, but the NFC seems to have the better good teams.
Ok, now to run through the model results real quick. I’ll start with the Hilton SuperContest picks. This past week Luigi was 3-2. That puts my SuperContest ‘entry’ at 25-19-1 for 25.5 points, and I’m pretty much in the same place in the standings as last week. As it turns out, Luigi is as far above average (5 points) as it is behind first place. There was a close call in that Luigi took San Diego, who lost in overtime when they couldn’t convert from the goal line to end the game; that one game would have moved Luigi about 30 positions. Yoshi 1 went 3-2 for a total of 22-22-1, and Yoshi 2 also went 3-2 (although all three models had at least one game different from each other) for a total of 24-20-1.
In all games, Luigi was 7-6, but would have passed on five games and gone 5-3 on the rest. That gives Luigi a total of 58-58-1/48-44-1. Yoshi 1 was 6-7/5-3 for a total of 55-61-1/46-49-1, and Yoshi 2 was 9-4/6-4 for a total of 55-61-1/43-51-1. The consensus picks, where all three models agree, were 3-2 for a 34-30-1 total.
Using his lines, Bill Simmons went 6-6-1. Luigi went 8-4-1, Yoshi 1 went 8-4-1, and Yoshi 2 went 7-5-1 (the Colts got the push). That makes the counts Bill 50-62-5, Luigi 58-54-5, Yoshi 1 60-52-5, and Yoshi 2 54-58-5. Bill is mired in a pretty bad slump, not that I give him any pity.
Luigi was 4-5 on moneyline bets and came in with a positive week, mostly thanks to the Bears victory. The Yoshis played more games but also came out ahead thanks to the Jets. It was a decent enough week for the models overall; hopefully it carries through to next time.