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2013 Season 1st Quarter Analysis

The 1st quarter of the 2013 NFL Season has had 2 main themes. First is the decline of the read option. There appear to be several reasons for this, including Robert Griffin's injury, defenses playing differently to complicate the read, and overconfident teams believing that their quarterbacks are such good passers they don't need the read option anymore. Interestingly, while the read option has all but disappeared from the offenses of the teams that used it most in 2012, the Eagles are now using it with great success and have jumped to the top of our rushing ratings.

The second big storyline has been teams that had success in 2012 struggling in 2013. While some perennial powerhouses like the Packers and Falcons have compiled their usual stats but just been unable to convert them to wins, even more surprisingly several others like the Giants, Redskins, 49ers, Steelers, and Ravens haven't even produced stats that show evidence of future success. We still suspect that several of these teams will have significant rebounds since having a good quarterback usually leads to wins in the long run in the NFL.

Below we analyze each team's performance through 4 weeks with our expected points added stats and ratings, and project their season outlook and playoff chances going forward. All automated odds found below as well as a variety of others can be found on our Standings page.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills (2-2)
Rating: -2.2 (29th) / Projected Wins: 7.0 / Win Division: 4.4% / Make Playoffs: 10.5%
Despite their even record through 4 weeks, the Bills passing offense has left a lot to be desired under rookie E.J. Manuel. For this reason the Bills still have little hope of making the playoffs unless Manuel progresses significantly over the course of the season.

Miami Dolphins (3-1)
Rating: 1.7 (8th) / Projected Wins: 10.1 / Win Division: 49.8% / Make Playoffs: 66.0%
The Dolphins are one of the more difficult teams to analyze thus far. They have been far worse this season at interceptions and sacks on offense, but their improved normal pass plays have more than made up the difference. If combined with their 2012 stats, in only 4 games the Dolphins would have already produced their 3rd worst mark in interceptions, 2 of their 3 worst in sacks, and 4 of their 6 best in normal pass plays. Normal pass plays are usually more predictive than interceptions and sacks, so Miami has a solid rating. Because their passing ratings have unusually improved so much in just a year, there is some reason to think that they may regress. But Tannehill's youth provides some reason to think that it is true development. Regardless, our automated playoff odds for the Dolphins are most likely too high because the Patriots rating is almost certain to increase.

New England Patriots (4-0)
Rating: 0.1 (17th) / Projected Wins: 9.6 / Win Division: 36.2% / Make Playoffs: 55.2%
Our rating for the Patriots is perhaps the most likely to change significantly by season's end. Their passing ratings have been diminished greatly by the injuries to Gronkowski and Amendola. Once they return to the field, New England will likely be of a caliber more like their 2012 team rather than their current rating. The Patriots have been lucky to start 4-0, but once healthy they should have no problem slotting somewhere into the large gap between the Broncos and the other 14 AFC teams.

New York Jets (2-2)
Rating: -0.5 (23rd) / Projected Wins: 7.6 / Win Division: 9.6% / Make Playoffs: 18.9%
The Jets under rookie Geno Smith have put together a rare offensive combination of good normal pass plays and terrible marks in interceptions and sacks. Because of their more extreme stats, the Jets probably have a wider range of possibilities for the season than a team like the Bills.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens (2-2)
Rating: -0.5 (22nd) / Projected Wins: 7.6 / Win Division: 27.7% / Make Playoffs: 30.4%
Most of the Ravens highly publicized offseason roster turnover occurred on the defense, but that is the area where they have been just as good. The loss of Anquan Boldin, injury to Dennis Pitta, and retirement of Matt Birk appear to have had the bigger impact. Baltimore is passing and rushing so far worse than they have in any of our 4 previous years of data. It's reasonable to expect those categories to come back around a bit, so their rating will likely increase some, and in reality they have as good a chance as any team of winning the AFC North. That would probably be the only way they would get into the playoffs, as the wild card race is looking crowded.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)
Rating: -0.2 (20th) / Projected Wins: 7.8 / Win Division: 34.0% / Make Playoffs: 37.6%
Unlike the Ravens, the Bengals mediocre rating is similar to their 2012 rating as our ratings have shown they have overachieved the last 2 seasons. Like the Ravens, winning the division in a weak year for the AFC North is probably the only way Cincinnati could get into the playoffs.

Cleveland Browns (2-2)
Rating: -1.2 (25th) / Projected Wins: 7.6 / Win Division: 27.8% / Make Playoffs: 30.7%
The Browns pass game has picked up a bit with Brian Hoyer and the return from suspension of Josh Gordon, but it is hard to expect it to have too much success going forward. Their automated playoff odds are likely a slight overestimation due to all 3 other AFC North teams having a solid chance of improving their rating.

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4)
Rating: -0.2 (19th) / Projected Wins: 5.9 / Win Division: 10.5% / Make Playoffs: 12.5%
At 0-4, the Steelers actually have the highest rating in the AFC North by a slim margin. Their losses have been rather flukey, but even so their rating is a bit below 2012 which itself was a large dropoff from previous seasons. Pittsburgh has a lot of ground to make up on the rest of the division, but you can never count out a team with a good quarterback so early in the season. If the Steelers can cut down on turnovers and the Ravens and Bengals continue to be unimpressive, they could still get back in the mix.

AFC South

Houston Texans (2-2)
Rating: -0.1 (18th) / Projected Wins: 8.1 / Win Division: 19.4% / Make Playoffs: 33.2%
The Texans have fallen short of expectations a bit due to more negative pass plays than last season. Houston's rating should improve to closer to their 2012 rating, but even at that rating they were lucky to have so much success last season. Our offseason projections suggested the AFC South race was nearly a tossup between the Texans and the Colts, and at this point it appears Indianapolis has passed Houston as favorites in the AFC South. The possibility of missing the playoffs for the Texans is very real.

Indianapolis Colts (3-1)
Rating: 2.6 (6th) / Projected Wins: 9.9 / Win Division: 54.1% / Make Playoffs: 64.1%
The Colts have shown improvement this year in passing and defense. With Andrew Luck in just his 2nd season, it is reasonable to assume that the passing effectiveness is quarterback development rather than random variation. We highlighted some under the radar defensive roster moves the Colts made in our season preview, and so far they appear to be paying off. With the defense finally playing well, the playoffs appear likely for Indianapolis and they will go as far as Andrew Luck can take them.

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4)
Rating: -5.5 (32nd) / Projected Wins: 3.6 / Win Division: 0.5% / Make Playoffs: 0.5%
After just 4 weeks the Jaguars appear to have already wrapped up worst team in the NFL, with a rating 2.5 points worse than any other team in the league. It's hard to expect Jacksonville to be quite as bad going forward as they have been so far, but even if they improve a bit they would still be frontrunners for the #1 pick in the 2014 draft.

Tennessee Titans (3-1)
Rating: 0.1 (16th) / Projected Wins: 9.1 / Win Division: 26.0% / Make Playoffs: 45.2%
The Titans have shown some improvement in passing offense, but even so they have been lucky to have 3 wins. Tennessee probably won't live up to their strong start, but not just because of the injury to Jake Locker as Ryan Fitzpatrick shouldn't be a noticeable downgrade.

AFC West

Denver Broncos (4-0)
Rating: 7.2 (1st) / Projected Wins: 12.6 / Win Division: 78.1% / Make Playoffs: 94.5%
The Broncos remarkable start has them already off to a rating over 2 points better than any other team. Denver should cruise through the regular season but the playoffs are always a tough road for any team in the NFL. We currently have the Broncos making the Super Bowl in 47% of our simulations and winning it in 31% of them. Those numbers are unusually high for an NFL team, but they could decrease some if the Patriots come into form.

Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)
Rating: 0.5 (14th) / Projected Wins: 9.6 / Win Division: 12.0% / Make Playoffs: 54.1%
The Chiefs defense has gone from ranked 28th in 2012 to 1st this season despite minimal offseason roster turnover. DE Mike DeVito, who the Chiefs signed away from the Jets for relatively cheap this offseason, is one of the least recognized very good players in the league. The bad news though is quick changes to defensive quality like this prove that defense is not a very consistent predictor, so the impact of even being 1st this early on is somewhat small. The Kansas City offense has been only mediocre so far. All in all the Chiefs are a solid team that is clearly in the playoff hunt, but perhaps only due to their lucky start. Their honeymoon success could continue on a bit longer as they face an easy schedule up until their Week 10 bye, but after that the schdule gets much tougher and they may have a let down.

Oakland Raiders (1-3)
Rating: -0.3 (21st) / Projected Wins: 6.4 / Win Division: 0.2% / Make Playoffs: 6.3%
The Raiders have actually been a decent team if you don't count their Week 4 offensive performance with Matt Flynn at QB. The play of Terrelle Pryor has been a pleasant surprise, but the sample size is still small. They don't pose much of a playoff threat but could surprise some people and finish with a mediocre record.

San Diego Chargers (2-2)
Rating: 2.9 (5th) / Projected Wins: 8.9 / Win Division: 9.7% / Make Playoffs: 40.3%
The Chargers are all the way up as the 2nd best AFC team in our current ratings thanks to their renewed passing prowess. Because they were such a strong passing team prior to last season and still have the same QB, we stated in our season preview that this was a possibility. For the same reason, the efficiency is probably more of a trend than luck. Like the Chiefs, being stuck in the AFC West with the Broncos decreases their playoff odds, but San Diego has a decent chance of claiming a wild card spot.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
Rating: 0.7 (12th) / Projected Wins: 7.8 / Win Division: 43.3% / Make Playoffs: 48.2%
The Cowboys come in just above average but are only expected to win about 8 games because of their tough schedule. Their pass offense hasn't been quite up to their previous level, so their rating could quite possibly increase. Dallas is the slight favorite in the NFC East practically by default, but all 3 other teams are probably better than their records would indicate, so at least one of them is likely to make a strong push.

New York Giants (0-4)
Rating: -1.9 (28th) / Projected Wins: 4.9 / Win Division: 6.6% / Make Playoffs: 7.5%
The Giants are perhaps the most confusing team through 4 weeks. They have managed to be near the bottom of the league in just about every offensive category except normal pass plays, whether on plays from scrimmage or special teams. And that is despite having a very similar roster to last season. Though their troubles have been in the more flukey categories like the Steelers have, theirs have been so extensive that they have shown up significantly in their rating. It stands to reason based on their success in past seasons that they will rebound to being a decent team still. Because the rest of the division has been so poor as well, we still aren't completely ruling out the Giants going on a run and winning the division, but they have dug such a deep hole that the turnaround would have to start very soon.

Philadelphia Eagles (1-3)
Rating: 0.6 (13th) / Projected Wins: 7.3 / Win Division: 36.3% / Make Playoffs: 39.9%
The Eagles offense is back to their 2011 levels of effectiveness, and has the best rushing attack in the league by far. Unfortunately their defense is even worse than last year, and is currently the 2nd worst in the league. Nevertheless, Philadelphia is an above average team overall and has been unlucky to only have a single win thus far. The Eagles certainly have the ability to have a chance to win the NFC East, which is likely the only way they could make the playoffs, but really none of the other 3 teams can be counted out yet either.

Washington Redskins (1-3)
Rating: -1.3 (27th) / Projected Wins: 6.1 / Win Division: 13.8% / Make Playoffs: 15.2%
The Redskins offense has fallen off a bit in both passing and rushing, presumably due to the health of Robert Griffin and the subsequent lack of the read option. Despite the return from injury of Brian Orakpo, the defense hasn't done the offense any favors, and already has as poor a rating as 2012. Like the rest of the division, the Redskins definitely have the potential to improve over the course of the season and still has a chance to compete for the NFC East crown.

NFC North

Chicago Bears (3-1)
Rating: 0.8 (11th) / Projected Wins: 9.1 / Win Division: 24.0% / Make Playoffs: 52.0%
The Bears have shown a little bit more promise offensively in passing and rushing compared to last season, but the defense hasn't been quite as dominant. The current standings show Chicago in a promising position to make the playoffs at least as a wild card, but later in the season the NFC's several sleeping giants in the Packers, Falcons, and 49ers will likely make things more difficult for them.

Detroit Lions (3-1)
Rating: 1.7 (7th) / Projected Wins: 9.6 / Win Division: 40.3% / Make Playoffs: 66.3%
Based on their strong 2011 season, we projected the Lions as a potential big rebound team in 2013 and it appears to be taking place. The defense has been strong after a rough 2012 season. Their pass game has also rebounded, and their passing ratings have the potential to increase if they can keep it up. Our automated projections currently have the Lions as slight favorites in the NFC North, but realistically the Packers probably still have as good a chance or better of claiming the top spot season's end. Detroit's playoff chances are solid but not a certainty at this point.

Green Bay Packers (1-2)
Rating: 3.7 (3rd) / Projected Wins: 9.1 / Win Division: 33.0% / Make Playoffs: 54.7%
Despite their 1-2 start, the Packers strong passing offense has propelled them to 3rd overall in our ratings. Based on data from previous seasons, there is still room for their rating to increase as well. Green Bay has some ground to make up after their disappointing start, but they probably still have as good a chance as any to win the NFC North, and should make the playoffs even if they don't. The Packers may struggle to gain a great seed in the playoffs at this point, but they would be very dangerous in the tournament regardless.

Minnesota Vikings (1-3)
Rating: 0.2 (15th) / Projected Wins: 6.7 / Win Division: 2.7% / Make Playoffs: 10.0%
The Vikings are actually rated similarly to last season so far. They just happened to get very lucky in 2012 and have been slightly unlucky this year. Minnesota saw an improvement on offense last week with Cassel at QB, but he shouldn't be expected to provide a signifcant upgrade over Ponder should they stick with him long term.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (1-3)
Rating: 1.6 (9th) / Projected Wins: 7.6 / Win Division: 6.9% / Make Playoffs: 26.4%
Our ratings clearly show that the Falcons are still a good team despite their poor record. They have been unlucky to only have 1 win, and their schedule thus far hasn't done them any favors. Previous seasons indicate that the Falcons strong pass game should continue, meaning their rating should continue to climb. However, the defense has dropped off since last season, so they may not quite reach their 2012 level. Our season outlook projections should increase accordingly with their rating, but their slow start along with the Saints cruising means the Falcons are now likely only about a coin toss in terms of their likelihood of making the playoffs as a wild card.

Carolina Panthers (1-2)
Rating: 1.1 (10th) / Projected Wins: 7.8 / Win Division: 8.9% / Make Playoffs: 30.7%
The Panthers have been a steadily just above average team for the past 2 seasons and that has continued into this year. It would be a surprise if they managed to unluckily maintain a losing record at that caliber for a 3rd straight year. Carolina is a good enough team to make a run for a wild card spot, but in a crowded NFC it is more likely that they miss out.

New Orleans Saints (4-0)
Rating: 4.8 (2nd) / Projected Wins: 11.8 / Win Division: 84.1% / Make Playoffs: 93.6%
Our 2012 ratings indicated that the Saints were perhaps the unluckiest team in the league last season, and their change in fortunes is showing up in a big way already. We expected the defense to regress to the mean some after having the 2nd worst rating in 2012, but it has actually jumped all the way to 4th best so far in 2013. And based on previous seasons their pass offense rating could still increase some, although their rush offense doesn't show signs of getting back to their 2011 success. The Seahawks seem to get all the love from the media, but at the moment the stats show the Saints are the clear favorite in the NFC.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4)
Rating: -3.0 (31st) / Projected Wins: 4.3 / Win Division: 0.1% / Make Playoffs: 1.2%
The Buccaneers pass offense has taken a step back in 2013, both in games with Freeman and Glennon at QB. Glennon's Week 4 play, preseason play, and draft position are all evidence to suggest that the Bucs could have won more games with Freeman under center, but Tampa probably wouldn't have been a good team either way. While 1 game is too early to give up on Glennon, early indications point toward a rough season for the Bucs, and a new coaching regime perhaps drafting "their guy" at quarterback in 2014.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals (2-2)
Rating: -1.3 (27th) / Projected Wins: 7.5 / Win Division: 9.6% / Make Playoffs: 26.0%
The Cardinals have bounced back in 2013 to a mediocre record like we expected, but their rating is lagging behind. So far Carson Palmer is performing worse than he did in Oakland despite now having presumably a better supporting cast. The Cardinals rating should improve somewhat, but it does not look like they will be sneaking into the playoffs.

San Francisco 49ers (2-2)
Rating: -0.6 (24th) / Projected Wins: 8.0 / Win Division: 9.5% / Make Playoffs: 31.6%
The 49ers have salvaged 2 wins, but their level of play on offense in both passing and rushing is way down from a year ago. While surprise slow starters like the Packers and Falcons have at least produced promising stats, San Francisco has fallen into the same even more surprising category as teams like the Giants where not only is their record surprising, but they show up very poorly in our ratings. Based on their very strong 2012, it seems most reasonable to still think that San Francisco will turn things around to some extent. If they don't do that fast enough or heavily enough, they will quickly find themselves in a difficult battle just to make the playoffs in the hotly contested NFC.

Seattle Seahawks (4-0)
Rating: 3.1 (4th) / Projected Wins: 11.4 / Win Division: 79.5% / Make Playoffs: 91.3%
The Seahawks are off to an expected strong start both in their record and their rating, but they haven't quite lived up to the Super Bowl expectations the media has put on them. They are playing at a relatively similar level to their impressive 2012 season except in terms of offensive rushing which has regressed some. The Seahawks should continue to be a very good team and their 4-0 record will help, but they are far from deserving their media label as easily the best team in the NFC with the Saints and Packers also playing at a very high level.

St. Louis Rams (1-3)
Rating: -2.5 (30th) / Projected Wins: 5.8 / Win Division: 1.4% / Make Playoffs: 5.4%
Our stats didn't provide reason to buy into the trendy hype around the Rams in the preseason, but they also didn't suggest that they would play worse than last season as they have. The defense has gone from 7th in 2012 to last this year while the offense has remained a bit below average.

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