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Let's take a look at what the projected final standings look like using my preseason power ratings. What I do, is play out the entire season based on team's power ratings, adjusting 2 ½ pts for home field advantage at this point in time - which gives me projected final standings as of now.
During the season I also perform this exercise, but it is different and more accurate because we use actual results up to that point in time, along with updated power ratings to play the rest of the season out.
Last year before the season started this exercise correctly predicted 5 of the 8 division winners, only missing St. Louis, Philadelphia and San Diego:
-- We projected San Francisco to win the NFC West after Week 3, and it remained that way for the rest of the season. What's more, SF slid into the #2 seed after Wk8 games, and stayed there for the remainder of the season each week besides after Wk14, when New Orleans had a small 0.26 edge on that seed. PHI remained our projected NFC East winner until after Wk4 action - at that point in time, when all 4 team's records were rounded, they all were projected to finish 9-7. -- Washington was the projected division winner at that point, and it wasn't until after games in Wk9 that we had New York winning the NFC East. That only lasted 1 week as Dallas held down the spot for the rest of the season - but again, all season long, this division was extremely close with less than 1.0 wins often separating 1st to 4th place.
-- San Diego was our projected AFC West winner until after Wk10 action when Denver slid into the top spot, projected to finish 8.3-7.7 / merely .500 (rounded to 8-8), which is where they finished, winning the division with that exact record. Leading up to that we had Denver at 7-9 each week except twice where they were projected 6-10. DEN remained our projected AFC West winner for the remainder of the season. Here are additional details showing how accurate this system is projecting final standings:
-- The AFC North was a flip flop seemingly week to week with Baltimore and Pittsburgh battling it out. After games in Wk13, BAL took over the top spot for good - and in reality they wound up being the division winner. In addition, in our preseason version we had BAL & PIT both making the playoffs, and each week during the regular season we continued to have both reaching the playoffs - which is what actually occurred.
-- In each version starting with preseason all the way through the final Wk16 version we had New England, Houston, Green Bay and New Orleans winning their division - which wound up being the actual result. Four of the 8 division winners we projected wire to wire, starting in the summer of 2011!
-- GB was our projected #1 seed in the NFC starting after Wk2 games. Combined with the SF point above, we correctly projected the #1 & #2 seeds in the NFC playoffs after Wk8 games.
-- We correctly projected Detroit as a playoff team after Wk2 games all the way thru the entire regular season.
-- We had Atlanta as a playoff team in 9 of the 17 editions, with rounding being the only reason they were ever projected to miss a berth.
-- Starting after Wk8 games we had Cincinnati as under 0.5 games within a playoff spot.
-- We projected Indianapolis to finish with the No. 1 selection in the 2012 NFL Draft after Wk5 games, and they remained there for the remainder of the season.
Pretty solid results, as after Wk2 games last year we correctly projected 8 of the 12 playoff teams.
Now that we have some background, and a little discussion on how valuable this exercise was estimating last year's final standings, let's take a look at what the final 2012 standings may look like when Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012 rolls around, based on current power ratings:
#1 HOU - BYE
#2 NE - BYE
#5 BAL @ #4 SD
#6 NYJ @ #3 PIT
#1 SF - BYE
#2 GB - BYE
#6 DAL @ #3 PHI
#5 DET @ #4 NO
One key, critical, important (yes, I cannot stress it enough) aspect of this analysis that must be mentioned is although this analysis can be used to project the final spot a team may finish in the standings, it is not calibrated to project actual wins and losses - as you may be able to tell by looking - since this currently only projects one team, HOU, to win double digit games (when not rounding). We all know more teams will win 10 plus - so remember, we can use this for slotting where a team will fit into the standings, but not for team over/under wagering. This could be used however if you wanted to play futures on division winner odds.
The green highlighted teams are projected division winners, while the orange are projected Wild Card entrants. On the bottom of the projected standings are projected playoff matchups if those standings did in fact occur. Looking at the AFC projections nothing really seems to out of place from what most would project the standings to look like at the end of the year.
NFC wise there are a few interesting tidbits, such as the NYG projected 3rd place NFC East finish, and the 9th overall spot in the NFC; CAR & CHI finishing outside the playoffs, including CHI's projected 10th place NFC finish.
Overall, this projects only four new playoff teams - we know in most seasons we see around 4-6, and we also can see in this analysis that decimal places are the difference in multiple playoff berths - keep that in mind.