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SOS Analysis
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Now that we have nine weeks of action in the books we can start talking about playoff projections with some certainty, along with using any statistics available to analyze team performance because as the old saying goes “they are who we thought they were” – certainly applies at this point. For this analysis I am going to use my SOS data, including looking both back and ahead, as a barometer for measuring potential success or failure over the last two months of the season. For this analysis, any metrics or rankings I mention will be as measured by my performance statistics – I will not include any opponent’s record SOS comments in here because you can find that information elsewhere – here, we are going to analyze the pure performance of each team based on the statistics I track, and how that impacts SOS.

Let’s first examine SOS looking back, analyzing the year to date, and see whose record may be inflated based on playing poor teams, or vice versa. I will include a # in parentheses next to each team – that # will represent the same SOS we are measuring in that section but will be forward looking SOS, while the ranking is the to date ranking.

Here are the toughest schedules to date:
1. STL (8)
2. NYJ (32)
3. TEN (28)
4. DAL (14)
5. NO (7)

It is not a coincidence that none of these teams are above .500 SU, but it is a coincidence that all five teams have exactly 3 wins on the season. Do any of these teams have a chance at turning their 2012 campaign around and making a playoff run? Right off the bat it seems only the Jets, Cowboys and Saints have an outside chance at playing football in January. As far as the Jets go, they face the easiest schedule down the stretch – and with the 6th and final AFC playoff spot seemingly up for grabs, we could see them make a move.

The two NFC teams will have much more of an uphill battle based on their remaining SOS, and overall strength in the conference. The NFC is extremely deep this season, and it seems unlikely a team worse than 10-6 will reach the playoffs. Even if a 9-7 squad was to make it, both Dallas and New Orleans would have to finish the season 6-2 just to reach 9-7. I am not saying it couldn’t happen, but their SOS and play to date would suggest that is an extremely uphill battle.

Here are the weakest schedules to date:
32. MIA (19)
31. SD (15)
30. IND (14)
29. CHI (2)
28. TB (14)

We can certainly see a correlation here between these five teams who have played the weakest schedule to date and their playoff positioning. Miami and Indianapolis have perhaps been the biggest surprise teams in the AFC, while San Diego joins them to form a trio that figures to be deep in the hunt for that 6th and final playoff spot. The two NFC clubs listed are playing well as Chicago leads the NFC North at 7-1, while Tampa Bay sits at 4-4 including going 3-1 since their bye week.

The real question for these teams especially the AFC trio is will this weak schedule phenomenon continue during the final two months of the season? Most of these team’s remaining SOS are mid-pack – which won’t necessarily hurt or help – but the one that stands out is Chicago. The Bears, after facing the 3rd easiest schedule through the first half of their season will face the 2nd toughest over their final eight games. Chicago will need to boost their performance significantly if they are going to hold off the Packers in the NFC North – more on that topic below.

Continuing our discussion on the season to date, let’s examine which teams have played the toughest and easiest slates against opponent’s offenses.

Here are the toughest opponent’s offense schedules to date:
1. TEN (31)
2. CAR (14)
3. NO (11)
4. DAL (9)
5. DEN (26)

That is just a side tidbit to think about when you see these offense and defense specific SOS rankings.

Here are the weakest opponent’s offense schedules to date:
32. MIA (4)
31. IND (7)
30. HOU (17)
29. NE (29)
28. CHI (5)

Last piece of the season to date SOS analysis, let’s examine opponents defenses, and see who the top and bottom five are.

Here are the toughest opponent’s defense schedules to date:
1. STL (4)
2. SF (9)
3. SEA (6)
4. ARI (5)
5. JAC (32)

Here are the weakest opponent’s defense schedules to date:
32. SD (18)
31. KC (14)
30. CLE (7)
29. TB (23)
28. CHI (1)

Now that we have discussed a few breakdowns of the schedule to date, here is where the information gets even more useful – let’s use those same buckets and look forward to what each team has remaining on their schedule, which can assist us in projecting potential playoff teams. I will again include a # in parentheses next to each team – that # will represent the same SOS we are measuring in that section but is the backward looking SOS (to date), while the ranking is the future remaining SOS.

Here are the toughest remaining schedules:
1. MIN (15)
2. CHI (29)
3. ARI (9)
4. CLE (25)
5. DET (19)

Here are the easiest remaining schedules:
32. PIT (24)
31. NYJ (2)
30. JAC (12)
29. OAK (7)
28. TEN (3)

Next up let’s examine the teams who will face the toughest offenses to close their season:
1. CLE (23)
2. BAL (21)
3. PHI (18)
4. MIA (32)
5. CHI (28)

On the flip side here are the teams that will face the easiest offenses to close the season:
32. SEA (12)
31. TEN (1)
30. BUF (22)
29. NE (29)
28. PIT (15)

Lastly, let’s look at remaining schedules as measured by opponent’s defense.

Here are the toughest opponent’s defense schedules remaining:
1. CHI (28)
2. MIN (20)
3. DET (9)
4. STL (1)
5. ARI (4)

And here are the teams that will face the easiest defenses to close their season:
32. JAC (5)
31. MIA (18)
30. HOU (27)
29. NYG (8)
28. ATL (19)

Hope this information can assist you in your handicapping and projecting efforts as we head into the second half of another exciting NFL season.

S Mathieu welcomes start with Texans
C Pouncey signs deal with Chargers
Broncos trade QB Siemian to Vikings
Jets, QB Bridgewater ink deal
Giants sign WR Latimer, CB Webb
Raiders sign backup QB Johnson
Redskins sign CB Scandrick to deal
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