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Win Projections

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One of the more interesting articles this time of season is the plus/minus four wins analysis; what does that mean?

Each NFL season we see approximately a dozen teams either enjoy 4+ more wins or suffer through 4+ more losses compared to the prior year – that is a significant swing considering that equals about 37.5% of all NFL teams have a 25% or greater change in their win total.

Of course this analysis is more for the straight-up analyst – really for fans of each team – but it can certainly also add value to the bettor with future plays or as a small cog in your week to week handicapping efforts if applied properly.

Initially, be sure to check out the Win Rankings for each team for each of the last five seasons along with total wins for the last five & three seasons with a ranking of each for those metrics as well.

2014 Projected Wins
- All Scenarios My Realistic Scenarios
- 2014 Projected Wins 2014 Projected Wins
Team +4 Wins -4 Wins +4 Wins -4 Wins
ARI - 6 - 6
ATL 8 - 8 -
BAL 12 4 12 -
BUF 10 2 - -
CAR - 8 - 8
CHI 12 4 12 -
CIN - 7 - 7
CLE 8 - 8 -
DAL 12 4 12 4
DEN - 9 - -
DET 11 3 11 -
GB 12 4 12 -
HOU 6 - 6 -
IND - 7 - 7
JAC 8 - - -
KC - 7 - 7
MIA 12 4 12 -
MIN 9 - 9 -
NE - 8 - 8
NO - 7 - 7
NYG 11 - 11 -
NYJ 12 4 12 4
OAK 8 - 8 -
PHI - 6 - 6
PIT 12 4 12 4
SD 13 5 13 5
SEA - 9 - 9
SF - 8 - 8
STL 11 3 - 3
TB 8 - 8 -
TEN 11 3 - 3
WAS 7 - 7 -
Possibilities 44 33


There are 44 possible outcomes under “all scenarios”, which uses strictly the math of the analysis, where teams could either improve or worsen their wins by 4+ games; the two columns to the right is where I have eliminated 11 of those 44 possible outcomes leaving us with 33 “final” choices, of which approximately a dozen will actually occur (it also just so happened those 33 are split into 17 who could improve by 4+ games & 16 who could worsen by same amount).

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Of those 12 possibilities it is also a fair assumption to split those 6/6 – half of the changes will occur by teams improving (2nd to last column on right) while half will occur with teams worsening (last column on right). I am sure when you first look at those 33 potential outcomes it seems hard to believe that 12 of them will occur – but that is what makes this analysis so interesting: just like we see almost half the NFL playoff teams change YOY we will see these drastic record changes despite it looking so far-fetched as we sit here today.

What are the best ways to attempt at selecting which outcomes are most likely? One place to start is examining the first matrix I posted which shows how each team has done in each of the last five seasons – was last year an outlier? Of course there are many variables that need to be taken into account such as injuries last year, free agent additions this year, draft picks, schedule, etc...(most of those topics I will be touching on prior to the start of the season in my usual NFL season preview entries).

One additional angle I will present here is Phil Steele’s “Stock Market Indicator” (SMI) – this metric simply takes a 2-year average of each teams wins, compares it to their performance last year & can be used as a forward looking indicator.

Stock Market Indicator
Team 2011-12 Average 2013 Variance
ARI 7.5 10 (2.5)
ATL 8.5 4 4.5
BAL 9 8 1.0
BUF 6 6 0.0
CAR 9.5 12 (2.5)
CHI 9 8 1.0
CIN 10.5 11 (0.5)
CLE 4.5 4 0.5
DAL 8.5 8 0.5
DEN 13 13 0.0
DET 5.5 7 (1.5)
GB 9.5 8 1.5
HOU 7 2 5.0
IND 11 11 0.0
JAC 3 4 (1.0)
KC 6.5 11 (4.5)
MIA 7.5 8 (0.5)
MIN 7.5 5 2.5
NE 12 12 0.0
NO 9 11 (2.0)
NYG 7.5 7 0.5
NYJ 7 8 (1.0)
OAK 4 4 0.0
PHI 7 10 (3.0)
PIT 8 8 0.0
SD 8 9 (1.0)
SEA 12 13 (1.0)
SF 11.5 12 (0.5)
STL 7 7 0.0
TB 5.5 4 1.5
TEN 6.5 7 (0.5)
WAS 6.5 3 3.5


*Positive numbers in the variance column represent teams that SMI would be bullish on this year while negative numbers represent bearish teams

TEAMS THAT COULD IMPROVE BY 4+ WINS THIS YEAR (Bullish squads)

Atlanta Falcons to 8 wins: Really dropped off a cliff last year down to 4 wins after some very tough early season losses that seemed to snowball quickly. Before last year the Falcons had averaged 11.2 wins per year since QB Matt Ryan took over in 2008 including a floor of 9 wins. At the moment my calibrated wins model has the Falcons going 8-8 although they do face a tough schedule that is ranked 7th overall using my power ratings (8th toughest road & 11th toughest home) including facing the AFC & NFC North. My models also expect an improvement to their TOM, the SMI is +4.5 and they should enjoy better luck with injuries.

Houston Texans to 6 wins: Before last year’s 2-14 mark they had not won fewer than 6 games since 2005. There is still a ton of talent on this roster & although a coaching change was made to Bill O’Brien he has been successful at all prior stops including his only head coaching experience at Penn State the last couple years. Currently my calibrated wins model projects a 7-9 mark versus the weakest schedule in the NFL as measured by my power ratings (Important to note I say currently when specifically talking to calibrated wins model & SOS because they are completely driven by the power rating I apply to each team, which is fluid & not only could change before the season starts due to injury or other reasons but they shift weekly during the season). Houston suffered through the worst YOY change in TOM last season at a whopping (32) – that will no doubt improve. Considering the Texans were 21st in my performance ratings last year vs. the 10th toughest schedule, a weak division, the top SMI in the NFL at +5.0 & a new voice in the room with O’Brien I feel they should easily top this 6 win mark.

Washington Redskins to 7 wins: Despite winning 10 games & the NFC East in RG3’s rookie season of 2012 the Skins struggled mightily in 2013 going just 3-13 leading to the firing of Head Coach Mike Shanahan. That by itself should give a boost to Washington as there was a clear dysfunctional relationship between he & his prized QB – in comes Jay Gruden who has no NFL head coaching experience but has been an OC with modest success. The Skins had the 3rd worst YOY change in TOM last year which should improve this season & currently my calibrated wins model projects an 8-8 mark in 2014. Their SOS based on my current power ratings checks in at 26th in the NFL (18th on road & 28th at home) – easiest in their division, while the SMI is bullish as well at a +3.5.

TEAMS THAT COULD WORSEN BY 4+ WINS THIS YEAR (Bearish squads)

Arizona Cardinals to 6 wins: This coming year the Cardinals will face the 2nd toughest schedule in the NFL largely because they reside in the toughest division in football, but also driven by the fact they are playing the strong AFC West & the “no team is awful” NFC East. In addition to their SOS their QB is still Carson Palmer whom many believe played well last year but according to my performance ratings their offense was just 19th in the NFL including 25th in rushing offense & 30th in INT’s thrown as a % of pass attempts. With St. Louis improving & their other two divisional rivals remaining Super Bowl threats ARI is due for a dip this season – how far is yet to be determined but I feel they are amongst the handful of most likely to worsen by 4+ games.

Cincinnati Bengals to 7 wins: We have all likely seen the stat that each year we can expect to see approximately 5 new playoff teams – well that is a big reason the Bengals made the cut here unfortunately. Cincy has improved each of the last 3 seasons going from just 4 wins in 2010 to 9, 10 & 11 the last three – but this could be the year we see a step back. How fragile is Andy Dalton mentally is one big question after playing so badly in the playoffs once again. Their schedule does not appear to be a killer checking in at #23 overall but they will face the toughest amongst their divisional rivals; with Baltimore & Pittsburgh both coming off a season where they missed the playoffs, and Cleveland improving a ton not only with their on field play last year but their paper game this past offseason (sans the behavior of stud WR Josh Gordon) this could be the season the Bengals struggle & Marvin Lewis’ job is in danger. Their defense ranked #2 in my models last year but that was versus the 26th toughest schedule of opponent offenses – this year their opponent offenses will definitely be up a modest amount with the likes of New England & Denver (both of whom they did play last year), hungry Baltimore & Pittsburgh along with the NFC South juggernauts like Atlanta, New Orleans & Carolina.

Indianapolis Colts to 7 wins: Hard to argue with Indy’s success since the decision to let QB Peyton Manning walk away & draft QB Andrew Luck – the Colts have gone 11-5 & reached the playoffs in each of the last two seasons; the question is how much of that success was smoke & mirrors vs. statistically playing to a combined 22-10 mark? According to my models no team has overachieved as much in these last two years as Indy – and frankly it’s not very close. Last year they checked in at #16 in my performance rankings vs. the 17th toughest schedule – an exactly average team by both measurements, suggesting precisely an 8-8 team. Their 2014 schedule will be tough as outside their own division they will not have 1 truly “gimme” win facing Denver, New England, AFC North & NFC East. After not doing much of anything to improve their roster this past offseason, enjoying many lucky bounces over the last two years including last year’s playoff win against Kansas City and management in a bit of disarray with the personal problems their owner faced this offseason the Colts are ripe to dip in 2014.

  
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