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Handicapping the NFC

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Handicapping the AFC

Power Rankings - Week 16

We can really see a high correlation between wins & performance rating. Even taking that a step further, the teams that seem “out of order” like Detroit & San Diego have been so impacted negatively by TOM it has affected how many games they have won. Right at the top we see Seattle & Denver – considering the Seahawks have enjoyed a +19 better TOM, and the teams have played a similar schedule, it would seem the Broncos have played better football this season, and if the turnovers do not continue flowing in a positive nature for Seattle they could be in trouble.

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 Turnover
Wins Team Rating Rank Rating Rank Rating Rank SOS Margin
12 SEA 45.4 7 49.1 1 94.5 1 27 18
12 DEN 54.3 1 40.0 14 94.3 2 26 (1)
11 CAR 45.1 9 46.1 3 91.2 3 23 12
10 NO 46.5 6 44.1 8 90.7 4 12 (1)
10 CIN 43.7 10 46.7 2 90.5 5 24 2
7 DET 45.4 8 43.7 9 89.1 6 32 (14)
11 SF 42.1 16 45.4 4 87.5 7 18 10
11 KC 43.4 11 42.2 11 85.6 8 31 17
8 SD 51.2 2 34.3 26 85.4 9 25 (3)
10 ARI 39.9 19 45.1 5 85.0 10 8 2
9 PHI 48.6 4 36.3 24 84.9 11 29 10
11 NE 43.2 13 38.2 18 81.4 12 20 8
6 BUF 36.4 23 44.7 7 81.1 13 28 2
7 PIT 40.7 17 40.2 13 80.9 14 21 (4)
8 CHI 49.5 3 31.0 28 80.5 15 22 5
7 GB 46.6 5 33.7 27 80.4 16 30 (3)
3 WAS 43.3 12 36.9 22 80.2 17 16 (8)
10 IND 42.3 15 36.5 23 78.8 18 8 11
6 TEN 40.6 18 38.2 19 78.7 19 11 (3)
2 HOU 36.0 24 41.5 12 77.5 20 9 (17)
7 STL 39.6 22 37.4 20 77.0 21 5 9
7 NYJ 32.8 28 43.2 10 76.0 22 19 (17)
8 BAL 30.9 31 45.0 6 75.9 23 17 (6)
8 MIA 34.8 26 39.7 15 74.5 24 10 1
4 CLE 34.8 26 38.9 17 73.8 25 15 (8)
8 DAL 42.8 14 30.4 30 73.2 26 15 10
4 OAK 35.8 25 35.8 25 71.6 27 15 (7)
6 NYG 31.0 30 39.3 16 70.3 28 2 (16)
4 MIN 39.9 19 29.9 31 69.8 29 5 (10)
4 ATL 39.7 21 29.5 32 69.2 30 3 (6)
4 TB 31.8 29 37.0 21 68.8 31 1 11
4 JAC 28.3 32 31.0 28 59.2 32 6 (4)


This week let’s examine some interesting stats/metrics about each currently projected NFC playoff team:

#1 Seattle: The Seahawks have held down the top spot in the performance ratings the last few weeks, but there are clearly a few warning signs about this team the general media fails to discuss or overlooks for some unknown reason. As discussed above their TOM of +18 is tops in the NFL, and although clearly not a bad thing, at some point you must be concerned especially as the playoffs evolve and the competition increases that margin will suppress itself back towards zero some; if that occurs how much of their favorable performance and outcomes during the regular season were favorably impacted by TOM? The next major area for concern for Seattle is their defense – not the ranking this season as that is #1 in the NFL, but they have played the 29th toughest schedule of opponent offenses on the season! Surely playing a schedule that weak has helped out their W/L column & their favorable TOM. The offenses likely to be in the NFC playoffs are ranked #3, 4, 6, 9 and 16 (SF) – which will be a clear step up in competition especially in consecutive weeks – and if they won the NFC Championship game they could face the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl who own the #1 offense in the entire NFL.

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#2 Carolina:
That was a huge win by Cam Newton & company last week in Charlotte, and now the Panthers control their own destiny to secure a bye and the #2 seed in the NFC with a win in Atlanta Sunday. The Panthers have consistently ranked in my Top 5 teams for well over half the season, and they also were my “Biggest Bullish Team” heading into this season – and they have not let me down. Carolina does it the old school way, playing strong defense and running the ball. Statistically this team breaks down very similar to the Seahawks, and a rematch of their opening week game in Charlotte (12-7 Seattle win) could be in the NFC Championship game cards.

#3 Philadelphia:For this projection we slide the Eagles into the NFC East title based on the fact QB Tony Romo is unlikely to play on Sunday. Philadelphia’s offense has been strong the second half of the season as they have averaged a grade of 54.4 over their last 7 outings. Their defense however continues to be an Achilles heel as over that same time period they have averaged a defensive grade of just 36.9 – which will not get the job done in the defense heavy NFC. Clearly for the Eagles to have a legitimate shot at winning their Wild Card matchup in the Linc they would prefer seeing the Saints rolling into town versus the Niners; let’s watch closely to see how things play out but either way it would seem to be an uphill battle as far as winning & advancing in January.

#4 Chicago: Like the Eagles above we are giving the NFC North title to the Bears over the Packers but we're not that confident knowing that QB Aaron Rodgers will be under center for Green Bay. Chicago really laid an egg last week in Philadelphia as we all know by now, which could wind up being a good thing for the Bears as their focus is sure to be ratcheted up a few levels heading into this big game Sunday. Chicago’s defense, like Philadelphia, is clearly the worst amongst the NFC playoff teams; and also like the Eagles their offense is strong, but they are more of a passing offense compared to the #1 ranked Eagles rushing offense. QB play will be absolutely critical to the success of the Bears in the playoffs.

#5 San Francisco: It’s hard to imagine a 12-4 San Francisco team heading on the road in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, potentially at an 8 or 9 win division champ, but that is exactly what will occur come next weekend….at least the road game part. Perhaps no team has been as dominant since a Wk3 loss vs. Indianapolis than SF – they have gone 10-2 with their pair of losses coming by a combined 4 points. Average score of those 12 games you ask? 28-14 SF. Impressive. The Niners were negative in TOM only twice all season, Wks 2&3, both losses...so we know like Seattle, and many other teams, SF has to hang onto the ball and take the ball away defensively to have a shot at making it through the NFC gauntlet – all the more important for them considering they will be starting on the road.

#6 New Orleans: The 2013 Saints could be the most dangerous #6 seed in the history of the playoffs. New Orleans ranks #4 in the Performance Ratings which is excellent, and only further enhanced by the fact they also have faced the toughest schedule (by far) of any of the top 9 teams in the ratings, along with posting a (1) TOM on the season – which, like Denver, makes their performance rating all the more impressive. So where has it gone wrong for the Saints, pushing them down to a 6 seed? The clearest answer is their road performance, a seemingly annual issue for this team. The Saints rank just 15th in the NFL according to my home/road Performance Rating splits, posting just 17.8 points per game and on average being outscored by 4.6 ppg. All that being said any team with Drew Brees at QB, and a defense that is vastly improved over last season has a shot – but considering they would be headed to Seattle in the Divisional round if they did win their opening Wild Card round game – it will be an uphill battle big time.

Playoff Projections

AFC Playoffs
1) Denver
2) New England
3) Indianapolis
4) Cincinnati
5) Kansas City
6) Miami

NFC Playoffs
1) Seattle
2) Carolina
3) Philadelphia
4) Chicago
5) San Francisco
6) New Orleans

In this week’s projected playoff field the only change from last week was a flip-flop of Indianapolis & Cincinnati between the #3 & #4 seeds in the AFC playoffs. The open spots heading into Week 17 are the #6 seed in the AFC, the NFC East divisional winner & the NFC North divisional winner. The #6 seed in the AFC will be decided between Baltimore, Miami, San Diego & Pittsburgh – in that order. If Baltimore wins at Cincinnati they would earn that spot; if they lose Miami is next up and so on down the line. We currently project Miami to hang onto that spot as we have for the last four weeks.

The NFC divisional winners will both be decided on head to head matchups Sunday, and with the injuries at QB for the Cowboys & Packers it seems the Eagles & Bears would be the best projections to win those divisions. We have projected the Eagles to win the NFC East in each of the last 7 weeks, while Chicago has slipped in as the NFC North champ in our projections the last two weeks.

Last analysis for this week are 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. For my blog 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:

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


  
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Mejia: Week 2 Preseason Notes - NFC
Lawrence: 2014 AFC Season Preview
Mejia: Week 2 Preseason Notes - AFC
ASA: NFC North Notebook
ASA: NFC South Notebook
Marshall: Philadelphia Hype
Rogers: AFC North Preview
Browns tab Hoyer as starting QB
Cowboys worth more than $3 billion
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