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2013 Season 3rd Quarter Analysis

The NFL playoff picture is surprisingly clear through only 3 quarters of the season. While the NFC South race has grown into a closer battle, every other division except the NFC East is virtually wrapped up already. Further, there are also already heavy favorites for 3 of the 4 byes in the playoffs, and for 3 of the 4 wild card spots. Such little playoff position mobility unfortunately means that multiple teams are likely to rest starters in Week 17 and possibly even Week 16. Ironically, the most exciting feature of the closing weeks could be the weak but crowded race for the #6 seed in the AFC.

Both conferences are likely to feature #5 seeds with better records than at least 1 division winner, but the differences in quality may not be enough to actually have home underdogs in the wild card round. While the Broncos and Patriots will be heavy favorites in the AFC over the rest of the relatively weak conference, the NFC is a bit more wide open with all 6 playoff teams probably of somewhat similar quality. It is actually somewhat rare in the NFL to have the 2 best teams as the two #1 seeds, but that appears likely this year with the Broncos and Seahawks. Respectively, they have a 36% and 22% chance of winning the Super Bowl in our current simulations.

Below we analyze each team's performance through 13 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 (4-8)
Rating: -3.3 (30th) / Projected Wins: 5.6 / Win Division: 0.0% / Make Playoffs: 0.8%
Barring a miracle, the Bills are eliminated from playoff contention. Though the defense is much improved from previous seasons, the pass game is costing them about 4 points per game compared to league average. Buffalo will simply have to hope that E.J. Manuel develops going forward.

Miami Dolphins (6-6)
Rating: -0.1 (19th) / Projected Wins: 8.2 / Win Division: 2.7% / Make Playoffs: 44.4%
The Dolphins have been rather mediocre all around, but a bit better on defense than offense. Thanks to a weak AFC, they find themselves most likely to claim a wide open #6 seed slot in the playoffs, although their odds are still just under 50%.

New England Patriots (9-3)
Rating: 2.4 (7th) / Projected Wins: 11.6 / Win Division: 97.3% / Make Playoffs: 99.7%
The Patriots pass offense remained ordinary through Gronkowski's first 2 games back, but since has been dominant for 4 straight games. As a result, our rating and odds for New England probably remain an underestimation. The Patriots appear to clearly be the 2nd best team in the AFC, and are most likely to end up in the 2 seed as well. However, due to a head to head win over Denver and loss to Cincinnati, the Patriots would move up or down if they managed to win a game more than the Broncos or lose a game more than the Bengals.

New York Jets (5-7)
Rating: -4.6 (31st) / Projected Wins: 6.5 / Win Division: 0.0% / Make Playoffs: 2.3%
After a somewhat promising start to the season for Geno Smith and the Jets pass offense, the Jets have fallen down to 2nd worst in the league in our ratings. They find themselves like the Bills in the worst possible situation for an NFL franchise: waiting on a bad young quarterback, hoping things will improve.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens (6-6)
Rating: -0.7 (23rd) / Projected Wins: 7.6 / Win Division: 7.2% / Make Playoffs: 25.7%
The Ravens possess our 6th rated defense, but the offense has stalled, with a run game over 2 points worse per game compared to last year. Having defeated the Bengals at home earlier in the season, the Ravens could still win the division should they win Week 17 at Cincinnati and catch up another game in the 3 leading up to that one. However, the schedule is very rough, with 2 other tough games at Detroit and vs New England. The very tough schedule is the reason Baltimore is only 2nd most likely in our simulations to claim the #6 seed, behind the Dolphins who they own a head to head tiebreaker over.

Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)
Rating: 2.2 (9th) / Projected Wins: 10.5 / Win Division: 90.4% / Make Playoffs: 95.1%
The Bengals pass offense has regressed since their surprising hot start to the season, but the defense remains 2nd best despite losing Geno Atkins. The Bengals aren't quite up to the caliber of a typical #3 seed, but that is where they are most likely to finish in the weak AFC. Cincinnati could even jump to the #2 seed if they managed to win 1 more game than New England, as they own the head to head tiebreaker. On the other end, they face the Colts at home this week in a game that will give a 2 game advantage to the winner, going a long way to determine the #3 and #4 seeds in the AFC.

Cleveland Browns (4-8)
Rating: -2.5 (27th) / Projected Wins: 5.5 / Win Division: 0.0% / Make Playoffs: 0.6%
Like many other teams, poor offensive passing has doomed the Browns. With Brian Hoyer signed through next season, the Browns future will likely include a QB battle between Hoyer and either a draft pick or free agent signing in 2014.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7)
Rating: 0.3 (17th) / Projected Wins: 7.2 / Win Division: 2.4% / Make Playoffs: 17.7%
The Steelers have been a bit unfortunate to only have 5 wins at this point, and would most likely need to win at least 3 of their last 4 games to claim the #6 seed. They will have to win at home against the Dolphins this week to continue to have a realistic shot.

AFC South

Houston Texans (2-10)
Rating: -2.6 (28th) / Projected Wins: 3.4 / Win Division: 0.0% / Make Playoffs: 0.0%
The Texans have gotten worse in just about all categories since last season, but even so have been unfortunate to have only 2 wins. Houston is incredibly now the most likely team to claim the #1 draft pick, with a game at Jacksonville this week that will heavily impact that possibility.

Indianapolis Colts (8-4)
Rating: 0.2 (18th) / Projected Wins: 10.2 / Win Division: 99.9% / Make Playoffs: 99.9%
The Colts have essentially won the AFC South by default. They would have to lose their final 4 games and have the Titans win their final 4 to not win the division. The Colts poor play of late not only has likely limited them to the #4 seed, but their decreased rating as a result makes them highly unlikely to win more than 1 game in the playoffs.

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9)
Rating: -6.2 (32nd) / Projected Wins: 4.5 / Win Division: 0.0% / Make Playoffs: 0.1%
The AFC wild card race is so weak, the Jaguars actually made the playoffs in 1 of our latest 1000 simulations. However, winning 3 of their last 4 games was mostly a result of playing a very easy schedule rather than actually playing much better. Incredibly, the Jaguars final 4 games are also all winnable, with 3 weak opponents at home and then a Week 17 game at Indianapolis where the Colts could be resting starters. But at the same time, Jacksonville is unlikely to be favored in any of those games, and is still a threat for the #1 draft pick. The Jaguars not only need a quarterback, but need to improve in rushing and defense as well.

Tennessee Titans (5-7)
Rating: -0.6 (21st) / Projected Wins: 7.0 / Win Division: 0.1% / Make Playoffs: 4.6%
The Titans are a very mediocre team. They have been a bit unfortunate to be under .500, and now face very slim odds of making the playoffs. Although they have head to head tiebreakers against the 5-win Steelers and Chargers, they have a poor conference record which could be costly when competing with the 6-win Dolphins and Ravens.

AFC West

Denver Broncos (10-2)
Rating: 8.2 (1st) / Projected Wins: 13.2 / Win Division: 97.6% / Make Playoffs: 100.0%
The Broncos have virtually locked up the AFC West, as they would have to lose 2 more games than the Chiefs to not win the division. Denver will also claim the #1 seed if they avoid losing 1 more game than the Patriots, which we place at an 80% chance given their easy schedule going forward.

Kansas City Chiefs (9-3)
Rating: 1.2 (13th) / Projected Wins: 11.1 / Win Division: 2.4% / Make Playoffs: 98.8%
It is rare for a team to be locked into a single wild card seed with 4 games remaining, but being a game and a tiebreaker behind the Broncos and 3 games ahead of the pack has given the Chiefs a 93% chance of being the #5 seed in the AFC playoffs. As a result, Kansas City is very likely to have a meaningless Week 17 game, and possibly even Week 16. Interestingly, the Week 16 matchup comes vs the Colts, who are their most likely first round playoff opponent, and may themselves have little to play for at that point.

Oakland Raiders (4-8)
Rating: -2.7 (29th) / Projected Wins: 6.2 / Win Division: 0.0% / Make Playoffs: 0.2%
At this point, it seems the Raiders may have wasted the season trying out 3 quarterbacks, while none of Pryor, Flynn, or McGloin have had much success. They have been pretty average in most areas other than passing offense. Though Pryor and McGloin haven't been terrible and still hold some potential given their youth, it would be surprising if the Raiders didn't look elsewhere for a starting QB for 2014.

San Diego Chargers (5-7)
Rating: 2.9 (6th) / Projected Wins: 7.4 / Win Division: 0.0% / Make Playoffs: 10.1%
The Chargers have the quality of a 7-5 team rather than 5-7 because of their strong pass offense, but they have managed to lose most of their close games. Now a game behind the Dolphins and Ravens, and likely losing most tiebreakers, San Diego has a rather clear but difficult path to claiming the #6 seed. Apart from a game in Denver, the Chargers have a relatively easy other final 3 games, all at home. They could also benefit from facing the Chiefs in Week 17 when they could play backups. The Chargers will need to either win out, or hope for the unlikely scenario where no other AFC contender manages 8 wins, which is not impossible given their tougher schedules.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys (7-5)
Rating: 1.0 (14th) / Projected Wins: 9.0 / Win Division: 61.1% / Make Playoffs: 63.7%
Though we have the Eagles rated slightly higher than the Cowboys, Dallas remains more likely to win the NFC East due to the fact that they have home field advantage in their Week 17 matchup, and if they won they would also have the tiebreaker. That said, it is still a very close race and the winner in Week 17 will likely win the division. Because most of the scenarios involving the Cowboys playing well to finish the season end with them winning the division, there are slim odds that they would make the playoffs as a wild card.

New York Giants (5-7)
Rating: -2.3 (25th) / Projected Wins: 6.3 / Win Division: 0.1% / Make Playoffs: 0.2%
The Giants defense is improved from a year ago, but their offensive ratings for passing and rushing are about 3 and 2 points per game worse respectively. Because their biggest issues have been injuries to the offensive line and running backs, the Giants are a team that could quickly rebound next season.

Philadelphia Eagles (7-5)
Rating: 2.0 (10th) / Projected Wins: 9.1 / Win Division: 38.8% / Make Playoffs: 47.9%
With the 6th best offense and 7th worst defense in the NFL, the Eagles are a classic example of how offense is generally more important. The Eagles will have to win at Dallas in Week 17 to have a real shot to win the NFC East, but would probably win the division if they do. Philadelphia also maintains a chance of a wild card spot, because unlike the Cowboys, there are several scenarios where they could win 3 of their final 4 games and still not win the division. However, the chance remains slim because even in those cases, the Eagles would need the 49ers to lose 2 games.

Washington Redskins (3-9)
Rating: -2.1 (24th) / Projected Wins: 4.7 / Win Division: 0.0% / Make Playoffs: 0.0%
The Redskins defense is even slightly worse than last season, but their bigger issue is on offense. Similar to the Giants, the Redskins offensive ratings for passing and rushing have dropped 3 and 1 points per game respectively. The reasons may be complicated, but all seem to center around Robert Griffin. His reduced athleticism has likely negatively impacted both figures due to a decreased threat of both scrambling and keeping option read runs. Other factors could include natural regression after a successful rookie year, defenses catching up to their offensive schemes, and an affected throwing motion due to the instability at the knee. Whether the problems are more due to the physical or schematic changes will determine if the Redskins can rebound in 2014. Most likely though, the offense and defense will both improve, and their overall quality will be closer to their 2012 season.

NFC North

Chicago Bears (6-6)
Rating: 1.6 (11th) / Projected Wins: 8.2 / Win Division: 9.1% / Make Playoffs: 11.0%
The Bears have actually been about 3 points per game better in passing and almost a point better in rushing compared to last season, but the defense is almost 3 points per game worse. The defense is not just aging, but has dealt with a number of injuries. The offense has been about equally effective when lead by Cutler or McCown. The Bears have fallen out of the wild card picture, but maintain a slim chance of winning the division. Since they lost both games to the Lions, they would need to win 2 more games than Detroit of the final 4.

Detroit Lions (7-5)
Rating: 4.2 (4th) / Projected Wins: 9.6 / Win Division: 85.7% / Make Playoffs: 86.5%
The Lions defense has rebounded to their 2011 level of play, while the offense has even exceeded its quality from that season. Detroit is pretty much locked into either the #3 or #4 seed, which means their final game or 2 might not matter much. Unlike the AFC, most NFC playoff teams will be of relatively similar quality, meaning a lower seed like the Lions could still be a threat to advance deeper in the playoffs.

Green Bay Packers (5-6-1)
Rating: 1.4 (12th) / Projected Wins: 7.6 / Win Division: 5.2% / Make Playoffs: 5.8%
The Packers rating has dropped 3.6 points in the 5 games without Aaron Rodgers, but almost a point of that has come on the defensive side. That means once Rodgers returns, a best estimate for their rating would be about 4.1, which would still only be about as good as the Lions. The Packers still hold a slim chance of winning the NFC North should they win 2 more games than the Lions in the final 4.

Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1)
Rating: -0.6 (22nd) / Projected Wins: 5.1 / Win Division: 0.0% / Make Playoffs: 0.0%
Like the Raiders, the Vikings may have proved this season that they indeed have 3 quarterbacks on their roster who are not in their future plans, although Ponder has at least played at a respectable level. Overall, the Vikings have been just about as good as they were in 2012, they just happened to be very lucky last season. Overall the offense has been strong thanks to their running game, but the defense is the 3rd worst in the league.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (3-9)
Rating: 0.7 (15th) / Projected Wins: 4.9 / Win Division: 0.0% / Make Playoffs: 0.0%
The Falcons have played well enough to be a .500 team, but have been unlucky. However, even that is a steep decline from where they were a season ago. Since 2012, Atlanta is about 2 points per game in passing and another 2 points worse on defense, where they have incredibly dropped from about average to the worst in the league with only slightly different personnel. The Falcons should have no problem bouncing back to a playoff contender next season, but maybe not quite to their 2012 level.

Carolina Panthers (9-3)
Rating: 3.6 (5th) / Projected Wins: 11.3 / Win Division: 52.9% / Make Playoffs: 95.9%
The media is hyping up the Panthers success as a result of improvement and maturity by Cam Newton, but in reality several other factors have been more important. The Panthers have improved in passing by 0.5 points per game, but bigger improvements have been made in punting (0.8 points) and defense (1.3 points). In reality though, the biggest difference of all has simply been that Carolina hasn't been as unlucky. The Panthers were an above average team in each of the past 2 seasons, but simply were unlucky.

New Orleans Saints (9-3)
Rating: 4.7 (3rd) / Projected Wins: 11.5 / Win Division: 47.1% / Make Playoffs: 98.2%
Speaking of media mis-information, our EPA stats that can completely separate offense from defense and measure the value of interceptions clearly show that the effect of Sean Payton on Drew Brees is overstated. The Saints offense is actually just slightly worse than it was a year ago, but the defense is 1.7 points per game better. So if Payton's absence in 2012 had any impact, it was on the defensive side. The NFC South race is a coin toss between the Saints and Panthers. If either team wins both upcoming matchups, that alone would clinch the division.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-9)
Rating: -2.3 (26th) / Projected Wins: 4.6 / Win Division: 0.0% / Make Playoffs: 0.0%
Mike Glennon hasn't been terrible, but pass offense is the reason the Bucs have been a slightly below average team. Glennon's play has been right on the border of meriting an opportunity to start in 2014, so it will be interesting to see if Tampa will stick with him.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals (7-5)
Rating: 0.7 (16th) / Projected Wins: 8.9 / Win Division: 0.4% / Make Playoffs: 19.8%
In recent weeks, the Cardinals pass offense has finally come together to resemble what we thought it could possibly be in the preseason. But with a 7-5 record that would put them in playoff position in the weak AFC, the Cardinals are still outsiders in the tough NFC. Having lost in San Francisco early in the season, Week 17 vs the 49ers is a must win if Arizona is to pass them in the wild card race. The Cardinals could benefit from a Week 16 game in Seattle if the Seahawks happen to have already wrapped up the #1 seed by then.

San Francisco 49ers (8-4)
Rating: 2.2 (8th) / Projected Wins: 10.1 / Win Division: 1.4% / Make Playoffs: 71.2%
The 49ers defense has actually been marginally better than last season, but the pass and run offense have each been 2 points per game worse. Some of the difference is likely due to decreased use and effectiveness of the read option, but some is due to a less effective receiving corps that could improve as Crabtree and Manningham return to form coming off of injuries. Winning any 3 of their final 4 games would ensure that the 49ers make the playoffs.

Seattle Seahawks (11-1)
Rating: 5.7 (2nd) / Projected Wins: 13.8 / Win Division: 98.2% / Make Playoffs: 99.7%
The Seahawks are our 2nd highest rated team, but they sit well below the Broncos. Seattle has only played well enough for about 8 or 9 wins rather than the incredible 11 they have managed. Overall the Seahawks are just about as good as they were last season. They have improved slightly in passing and defense, but their rushing has declined. Having already defeated the Panthers and Saints, Seattle would have to win 3 games less than one of those two teams in the final 4 games in order to lose the #1 seed in the NFC. That means they will probably have nothing to play for in Week 17, and possibly even Week 16. The Seahawks are our favorite in the NFC, with a 41% chance of making the Super Bowl.

St. Louis Rams (5-7)
Rating: -0.3 (20th) / Projected Wins: 6.7 / Win Division: 0.0% / Make Playoffs: 0.1%
The Rams are about the same quality as last season, with slightly better offense and slightly worse defense. They have actually had almost identical passing efficiency with Kellen Clemens as they had in the first half of the season with Sam Bradford.

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