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NFL Rewind - Week 8

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Eight weeks in the books, and the logjam around .500 continues across the NFL, but in particular the AFC. Of the 16 teams in the AFC, 10 have either 3 or 4 wins, and only one team (Houston) has more than five. In the NFC half the conference has either 3 or 4 wins, but all four division leaders have at least six.

In the race for the top selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, three teams have one win (Carolina, Jacksonville, Kansas City), while another two have just two wins (New Orleans, Cleveland). Looking at those five teams at a high level strictly using the eye test (the "performance" case for each team getting that #1 pick is made below), New Orleans seems the most unlikely to settle into that spot; Kansas City is probably the second least likely as they clearly have some talent on that team; Carolina also would seem to be unlikely since they have lost a few very tight games and do have last year's Rookie of the Year, Cam Newton, at QB even though he hasn't performed as well thus far in 2012; that leaves us with Jacksonville and Cleveland, and from my perspective, the Jaguars look like the worst team in the NFL especially if MJD remains sidelined for any significant period of time. Without any further ado, let's present the numbers as they stand.

Performance Ratings (max grade is 160, 80 on offense and 80 on defense, calculated using 16 different stats with 5 points per stat being the best score = 16x5 = 80).

Performance Ratings
Category Offense Defense Total Team Blended
Wins Team Rating Rank Rating Rank Rating Rank SOS
6 HOU 50.2 4 50.3 2 100.5 1 23
6 SF 48.0 7 50.6 1 98.6 2 21
4 DEN 53.5 2 45.1 6 98.6 2 1
5 NE 57.1 1 34.6 24 91.6 4 30
4 PIT 49.6 5 41.9 12 91.5 5 19
6 CHI 39.3 20 50.0 3 89.3 6 26
5 GB 43.8 9 43.3 8 87.1 7 22
3 DAL 41.6 15 43.2 9 84.9 8 4
6 NYG 47.1 8 37.1 19 84.1 9 16
7 ATL 48.6 6 35.2 22 83.9 10 15
3 PHI 41.8 14 42.0 11 83.8 11 12
4 SEA 38.2 25 44.9 7 83.1 12 11
3 SD 39.7 18 43.0 10 82.7 13 30
3 WAS 51.6 3 30.6 29 82.2 14 17
3 TB 42.8 12 39.4 14 82.1 15 21
3 DET 43.0 10 38.5 16 81.5 16 5
4 MIA 34.9 29 46.4 5 81.3 17 24
5 MIN 40.8 16 39.8 13 80.6 18 32
1 KC 39.9 17 38.4 17 78.3 19 25
4 ARI 29.9 31 46.6 4 76.5 20 14
3 STL 37.6 26 37.3 18 74.9 21 3
3 CIN 39.2 21 35.1 23 74.4 22 31
5 BAL 42.2 13 31.6 27 73.9 23 8
1 CAR 38.5 24 35.3 21 73.8 24 2
3 NYJ 34.9 28 38.8 15 73.7 25 6
3 OAK 36.9 27 36.7 20 73.6 26 10
4 IND 38.9 22 32.6 26 71.5 27 27
3 BUF 42.9 11 28.2 30 71.1 28 18
2 CLE 31.8 30 33.8 25 65.6 29 28
3 TEN 38.7 23 22.7 31 61.4 30 13
2 NO 39.5 19 20.6 32 60.1 31 9
1 JAC 27.4 32 31.4 28 58.8 32 7

*Blended SOS is a weighted average of opponent's performance ratings and opponent's record

This week I will not get into a full-fledged analysis as Hurricane Sandy has me a little behind my usual pace for the week, but let's examine a few aspects of the performance ratings. The top 6 teams remained the same, with some minor shuffling between #3-#6.

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Amongst those top 6, if you adjust for SOS, here is the projected order: #1 Denver, #2 Houston, #3 San Francisco, #4 Pittsburgh, #5 New England, and #6 Chicago. The Broncos have risen to the #1 SOS in both opponent's record and opponent's performance rating - which really says a lot about how well the Broncos, especially Peyton Manning, are playing. Speaking of Peyton Manning, he is having an MVP type season when looking at his #'s - he leads the #2 passing offense in the NFL, and the #2 overall offense in the league. Manning rates #1 in yards per pass attempt, completions, and QBR; in addition, he rates in the top 5 of the NFL in passing yards, sacks, INT, and passing TD's. It's hard to argue any other player in the league has had more of an impact on their team than Manning has in Denver.

To really show how accurate these ratings are in predicting team success, look no further than the correlation between performance rating, wins, and SOS. Of the top 10 in the performance ratings only three teams have won 3 or 4 games at this point, with two of them being Denver and Dallas. But what also stands out with these two teams? Take a look at their SOS column, where DEN is #1 DAL is #4 - that clearly shows the impact a tough schedule can have on the win/loss column, especially if you continue looking and see of the top ten teams not one outside the two just mentioned has played a top 14 schedule.

Speaking of the top ten, a pair of teams dropped out in Washington and Philadelphia, both happen to be NFC East teams - see the impact their drop had on the division by division strength analysis below. The Eagles continue their drop - they have fallen at a steady rate since checking in at #1 following Wk1 - here is their performance ratings rank each week starting with games after Wk1: 1, 2, 2, 3, 6, 7, 7, and 11 (also displayed below). Not only are turnovers having a direct negative impact on their results (-9 on the season which ranks #29 in NFL), but their actual statistical performance has dropped significantly as the season has progressed - more details to support that are their game by game grade, starting in Wk1: 119, 99, 68, 100, 75, 68, bye, 60. Remember, those numbers are on a scale of 1 to 160, with 80 being considered you played your opponent even - over their last four weeks they have seen a significant drop in their performance, and haven't outplayed one opponent during that time period - and have only outplayed 3 of their 7 opponents on the season.

Washington's one week drop from #9 to #14 was driven by their loss to Pittsburgh, where they posted a 51 grade. The bottom 14 contained the same teams as last week with one exception where Arizona slid into the group, dropping from #18 to #20, while Tampa Bay fell out as they improved from #19 to #15 behind their strong performance @ Minnesota on TNF. Tampa Bay has been playing solid football since their bye week, posting grades of 112, 80, 101 - which led to a 2-1 record both SU & ATS. Jacksonville has remained at #32 in each of the last three weeks, and has not risen above #27 since Wk1.

Next up, here are my projected standings after Week 8. As a reminder, this process involves playing out the entire season based on my power ratings for each team.

AFC East Wins Loss
NE 9.49 6.51
MIA 8.46 7.54
BUF 6.93 9.08
NYJ 6.89 9.11
NFC East Wins Loss
NYG 10.38 5.62
DAL 8.18 7.82
PHI 7.66 8.34
WAS 6.75 9.25
AFC North Wins Loss
PIT 9.42 6.58
BAL 9.07 6.93
CIN 6.57 9.44
CLE 5.05 10.95
NFC North Wins Loss
CHI 10.78 5.22
GB 10.38 5.62
MIN 7.85 8.15
DET 7.63 8.37
AFC South Wins Loss
HOU 12.87 3.13
IND 7.40 8.60
TEN 6.32 9.68
JAC 4.29 11.72
NFC South Wins Loss
ATL 11.90 4.10
TB 7.04 8.96
NO 5.23 10.77
CAR 5.12 10.88
AFC West Wins Loss
DEN 11.02 4.98
OAK 7.51 8.49
SD 7.18 8.82
KC 5.01 10.99
NFC West Wins Loss
SF 12.02 3.98
SEA 8.18 7.82
ARI 7.11 8.89
STL 6.31 9.69


AFC Playoff Projections:
#1 Houston
#2 Denver
#3 New England vs. #6 Miami
#4 Pittsburgh vs. #5 Baltimore

NFC Playoff Projections:
#1 San Francisco
#2 Atlanta
#3 Chicago vs. #6 Seattle
#4 N.Y. Giants vs. #5 Green Bay

I have updated the power rating of 8 teams, 4 up / 4 down, but maintained the balance in the ratings. Following those adjustments, and updating for actual wins and losses in Wk8, here are the teams that have a +/- 1 win move in the latest projections:

UP:
ATL +1.2
OAK +1.2

DOWN:
PHI (1.0)

In the NFC, the Seahawks just barely edged the Cowboys for the 6th and final playoff spot, with the margin being .001! Keep that in mind, the difference between those two teams projected final win totals are almost identical. With that being said, Seattle was the only change to the NFC playoff teams, as they grabbed the 6th and final spot from Philadelphia.

As far as NFC seeding, the only difference from last week was Atlanta and Chicago flipping between #2 & #3 respectively. In the AFC the same 6 teams are projected to be playing football in January for the third straight week! The last time a different team was projected to reach the playoffs was San Diego following Wk5 action - as I have continually mentioned here this exercise proves to be very accurate as we approach the halfway point of the season.

Seeding wise in the AFC, Houston and Denver have remained #1 & #2 for the second straight week, and as discussed last week, with Denver facing the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL according to both opponent's record and opponent's performance rating, it seems these two will remain in those spots come January. What also seems to be a decent bet is New England will check in at #3, the North winner will get #4 (likely to be Pittsburgh), whoever loses the North between Pittsburgh and Baltimore will likely get #5, and the last spot is between teams such as Miami, San Diego or perhaps even a sleeper that will emerge as a contender in the next two to three weeks.

Last analysis for this week (I will post each week just like the standings above) is my power rankings. My rankings are comprised of a pair of numbers: one measures team performance in my performance ratings (discussed in the opener of this entry); two measures team performance vs. the spread. These two ratings are weighted and combined for my official power rankings. I will only provide the order of the teams, not the actual power ranking as that is for my eyes only because it is used in my weekly handicapping process as potential model plays.

Power Rankings - Week 9
Rank Team
1 Houston
2 San Francisco
3 Denver
4 Green Bay
5 Chicago
6 New England
7 Pittsburgh
8 New York Giants
9 Atlanta
10 Dallas
11 Seattle
12 Detroit
13 San Diego
13 Philadelphia
15 Miami
16 New York Jets
16 Carolina
16 Baltimore
19 Washington
20 Minnesota
21 Arizona
22 St. Louis
22 Oakland
24 Tampa Bay
25 New Orleans
26 Cincinnati
26 Buffalo
28 Kansas City
29 Indianapolis
30 Cleveland
31 Tennessee
32 Jacksonville

  
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