NFL Playoff Predictions After 2 Weeks

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The New York Jets rebounded in an enormous way to the tune of +38%.  Whenever you beat the predicted division leader you are going to see a sizable +15% to 25% boost.  When Mark Sanchez actually shows an NFL caliber arm and LaDainian Tomlinson looks like he rewound the clock four years you get the added boost that the Jets received.   The big story though in the AFC East is actually Miami. The Dolphins were already forecasted for a solid 8-8 season, but by beating Minnesota on the road they got a high quality win which did not drastically impact their over playoff chances but left them the projected leader to win the AFC East over the Jets and Patriots.  New England lost -17.5 points because they had a division loss and their defense has major issues.   Buffalo is a non-factor.

Like the Jets, the Cincinnati Bengals also showed a solid improvement (+12.2 points) thanks to a stellar defensive effort fueling a key division win.  Their improvement was not as big as the Jets because the offense struggled and did not show the spark many anticipated this season.  The Steelers have taken the overall lead in the division with a 60.6% chance at the AFC North title.  Their defense has been spectacular, and if Pittsburgh ends up winning at least three of the games with Ben Roethlisberger suspended it is in a great position to make the playoffs.  The Ravens dropped over 23 percentage points.  Unlike the Jets, Baltimore lost a division game AND its quarterback, Joe Flacco, has already thrown five interceptions in two games, and obviously negatively impacts all remaining game simulations through Week 17.

The big loser this week was the Tennessee Titans.  A loss at home against the undermanned Steelers hurts, but the real reason why the Titans plummeted this week was the resounding victories that the Colts and Texans had this week.  Tennessee cannot improve without better QB play from Vince Young, and he has yet to show major improvement this year.  The Titans also are getting hammered because so many wild card competitors did well this past week.  Houston got a nice bump up this week and is now at 59% chance of making the playoffs, but the Colts are still leading the division.  Jacksonville was hammered by San Diego and its secondary does not seem equipped to compete with the prolific offenses in the division.

The Kansas City Chiefs only had a 15.3% chance of starting the season 2-0, but despite the win over Cleveland they still lost -4.3 percentage points this week.  They have two wins, but their offense has not put up many points and they are not expected to finish better than 8-8 this year.  The Chargers lost to the Chiefs but are still the heavy 82% favorite in the AFC West.  Denver more than doubled its playoff chances after an impressive win over Seattle.  The Broncos are still relative long-shots to make the playoffs, but they are expected to be competitive all season long.

NEW YORK JETS 12.1% 50.3% 38.2% 31.0%
CINCINNATI BENGALS 15.8% 28.0% 12.2% 12.4%
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 67.7% 79.5% 11.8% 60.5%
DENVER BRONCOS 7.2% 14.8% 7.6% 7.7%
HOUSTON TEXANS 52.2% 58.9% 6.7% 35.4%
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 82.3% 88.0% 5.7% 81.7%
MIAMI DOLPHINS 49.5% 53.6% 4.1% 34.8%
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 68.5% 71.8% 3.3% 51.8%
CLEVELAND BROWNS 0.3% 0.2% -0.1% 0.1%
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 11.3% 10.8% -0.5% 4.9%
OAKLAND RAIDERS 7.7% 4.5% -3.2% 2.2%
BUFFALO BILLS 3.9% 0.5% -3.4% 0.2%
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 22.0% 17.6% -4.3% 8.3%
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 71.9% 54.4% -17.5% 34.0%
BALTIMORE RAVENS 75.1% 51.7% -23.4% 27.1%
TENNESSEE TITANS 52.8% 15.5% -37.2% 7.9%



The Chicago Bears only had a 20% chance of starting the season 2-0, and they only had a 30% chance of beating Dallas in Dallas.  With the victory they essentially won 0.7 more wins than expected which is a huge improvement in a 16 game season.  They are up +26.6% this week.  The Bears gain was the Vikings’ loss.  AccuScore recommends the Vikings pay the price for Vincent Jackson because he improved their playoff chances by nearly 10 percentage points if he were ready to play in Week 5.  Without him the Vikings are now behind 2-0 Green Bay which saw a nice +10.8 percentage point bump largely because of the struggles of the Vikings.  Detroit has some dynamic talent on the team, but its playoff chances have already dropped to under 1%.

How did the San Francisco 49ers lose, start 0-2 and still improve their playoff chances by nearly 17 points?  They had a “good” loss in Week 2 while Seattle, Arizona, and St. Louis all had bad losses.  The fact is all of the NFC West teams are averaging fewer than eight wins per simulation.  The 49ers are only down one game in their division and QB Alex Smith was impressive in a loss. The defense also looked great against the Saints.  AccuScore says future on-field performance will help San Francisco ultimately take the division despite the 0-2 start.  Seattle’s defense was destroyed by Denver, and the offense is still struggling with turnovers.   Arizona is not expected to get the job done with Kurt Warner (arguably a Top 5 QB in the world) dancing and not playing football.

The Philadelphia Eagles improved +14 percentage points thanks to the losses by the rest of the NFC East teams.  With the statistical performance we have in simulations, AccuScore shows that Philly is better with Michael Vick starting, but the team is sticking with Kevin Kolb at least for now.  The Giants defense is looking as bad as it did the second half of last season, but New York is still clinging to a slight overall lead in the division (32.1% chance of winning NFC East) over the Eagles (28.9%) and Dallas (29.9%).  The slow starts by the NFC East teams combined with wild card competition from the NFC North and NFC South has hurt all NFC East teams.

The Saints offense is not clicking at 100%, but New Orleans is still 2-0.  Even with the injury to Reggie Bush the Saints are heavy 86% favorites to repeat as NFC South Champs.  The Falcons were very impressive against the Cardinals, but Matt Ryan needs to show he can put up big numbers against the top teams in the league something he has not done so far in his career.  If Atlanta can upset the Saints in Week 3 then it could easily flip-flop with the Saints.  Tampa Bay only had an 18% chance of starting 2-0, but the competition gets much better against Pittsburgh in Week 3.  Tampa Bay is clearly improved but it still has only a 17% chance of making the playoffs. 

CHICAGO BEARS 15.7% 41.3% 25.6% 15.2%
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 37.1% 54.0% 16.9% 51.0%
ATLANTA FALCONS 33.4% 49.9% 16.5% 11.8%
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 26.4% 40.6% 14.2% 28.9%
GREEN BAY PACKERS 72.9% 83.7% 10.8% 63.4%
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 10.9% 17.3% 6.4% 1.9%
ST. LOUIS RAMS 1.7% 1.7% 0.0% 1.5%
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 98.1% 97.0% -1.1% 85.6%
WASHINGTON REDSKINS 18.9% 17.4% -1.5% 9.1%
DETROIT LIONS 7.8% 0.9% -6.9% 0.2%
DALLAS COWBOYS 50.1% 41.3% -8.7% 29.9%
NEW YORK GIANTS 54.8% 45.2% -9.7% 32.1%
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 35.7% 24.8% -10.9% 21.9%
ARIZONA CARDINALS 41.0% 27.8% -13.2% 25.6%
CAROLINA PANTHERS 19.7% 6.0% -13.7% 0.7%
MINNESOTA VIKINGS 75.9% 51.1% -24.8% 21.2%