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Midseason Analysis 2012

After 9 weeks, most teams have played 8 games, making this about halftime in the 2012 NFL season. As such, it is time to take a deeper look at every team, how they have compared to last season, and their playoff prospects going forward. On average, teams have performed rather closely to expected from their 2011 ratings, without any drastic injuries to good quarterbacks throwing off our ratings. But a few like the Falcons and Buccaneers have surprised while some like the Saints and Chargers have thus far disappointed, with most big surprises coming from drasticly different performances in the offensive passing attacks. As we stated in the preseason, the toughest teams to predict were those with rookie quarterbacks, and as a whole those teams have had promising results. The league as a whole appears a bit tigher this year compared to last. Passing efficiency still increases every year, but this year there are more average teams passing well rather than a few elite teams dominating in passing. As a result, our overall Super Bowl odds still do not show any teams with very great odds, but rather a solid core of teams at the top all with similar odds. Visit our Standings page for the complete raw data on our playoff and Super Bowl odds for every team.

Buffalo Bills (3-5)
Projected Wins: 6.8
The Bills came into the season with a bit of hope as an underperforming team in 2011 with a few free agent acquisitions and an easy schedule in 2012. We warned that a couple of defensive players rarely greatly change the fortunes of franchises, but surprisingly the defense has gotten even worse and is currently ranked last in the league. Overall the defense is about a point worse per game in our ratings, with most of the difference coming from intercepting less passes this year. Otherwise, the offense has been similar to 2011, being only about average despite having the 5th rated rushing attack.

Miami Dolphins (4-4)
Projected Wins: 8.3
Under rookie QB Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins have improved about a point per game in passing since 2011, and about another point in various other offensive categories combined. All told the offense is still just below average, but the defense has remained strong from last season, and is currently our 4th rated overall defense. Due to the strength of the Patriots, Miami has little chance of winning the division. They have a bit under a 50% chance of making the playoffs.

New England Patriots (5-3)
Projected Wins: 10.4
The Patriots have our top rated offense in the league, with a top 5 passing and rushing attack. Yet it is still about a full 3 points per game worse than it was last season, almost entirely coming on normal pass plays. The defense remains poor, but has improved by about a point per game. New England are not clear favorites in the AFC like in 2011, but are still a strong contender. They should have no problem winning the AFC East, and are currently our 4th most likely team to win the Super Bowl.

New York Jets (3-5)
Projected Wins: 6.6
The Jets were perhaps the luckiest of any team over the last 3 seasons, and their luck has finally run out. The loss of Darelle Revis has certainly been a factor, but it is difficult for any defense to overcome such a deficient offense. The Jets offense has actually been just slightly better than last season, with marginal improvement passing and rushing, but remains near the bottom of the league. The defense has declined from very good to mediocre. Like the Bills, the Jets still have a slim chance of making the playoffs, but are likely to finish poorly. Mark Sanchez should and likely will be out of a job next season, but Tim Tebow is probably not the answer either.

Baltimore Ravens (6-2)
Projected Wins: 9.8
In spite of much early season hype, Joe Flacco and the Ravens pass offense has performed virtually identically to their mediocre 2011 season. The offense as a whole has been just marginally better, while the defense has seen a full 2 point per game dropoff. The defense has fallen from 2nd overall to just mediocre. Having Terrell Suggs back will probably be more helpful than losing Ray Lewis will be hurtful, but with a tough schedule we have the Ravens projected to only win half of their remaining games. The AFC North race is essentially a coin flip between Baltimore and Pittsburgh, with 2 matchups between the sides in a matter of 3 weeks in Weeks 11 and 13 weighing heavily on the outcome. The Ravens have a solid 75% chance of making the playoffs, but face long odds to advance deep unless their rating improves.

Cincinnati Bengals (3-5)
Projected Wins: 6.8
We expected the Bengals to disappoint this season, and they are a classic example of a team the media has all wrong. Despite much less success this season, Cincinnati is an improved team. Their 2012 schedule is much tougher, and they have been incredibly less lucky. Cincinnati is a full 3 points per game better in our offensive efficiency ratings, with about 2 points coming in the pass game and the third from improved rushing and punting. The defense has been about a point worse per game, dropping from mediocre to poor. Despite the general overall improvement, the Bengals are still a slightly worse than average team, and have little hope of getting back to the playoffs this year.

Cleveland Browns (2-7)
Projected Wins: 4.2
The Browns are essentially eliminated from playoff contention. They are the 2nd worst team in our ratings, and are just barely improved from a year ago. As a whole, the team is about 1 point per game better, with most of the improvment coming on defense. The only real hope for the 2nd half of the season for Cleveland will be that Brandon Weeden will continue to develop.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)
Projected Wins: 10.1
The Steelers offense has been very similar to last season, while the defense has been about a point per game worse. Because they are rated a bit higher than the Ravens, the Steelers have a good chance of erasing their 1 game deficit to Baltimore. Right now Pittsburgh has a slight edge with a 53% chance of winning the division compared to 46% for Baltimore, making the race essentially a coin flip.

Houston Texans (7-1)
Projected Wins: 11.8
The Texans so far have performed almost exactly as they had last season prior to Matt Schaub being injured. Despite being only 3rd in the AFC in our ratings, a little bit of luck so far and an easy schedule the rest of the way result in Houston having a rather large 52% chance of having the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs and a 72% chance of having a bye as a 1 or 2 seed. The Texans are currently essentially tied with the Falcons as Super Bowl favorites with a 17% chance of being champions.

Indianapolis Colts (5-3)
Projected Wins: 8.9
The Colts are among the most improved teams in the league. Their ratings are nearly identical to 2011 in every category except one major exception. With Andrew Luck, the Colts normal pass plays have been about 6 points per game better than last season under several journeyman quarterbacks. As a result, the team as a whole is rated about 6 points higher, which is up to the level of a league average team despite having the 3rd worst defense in the league. The Colts net pass offense is currently ranked 8th in the league, comparing favorably to the 11th ranked 2011 Panthers under Cam Newton on all called pass plays. Indianapolis holds just a 13% chance of winning the AFC South, but a 55% chance of making the playoffs.

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7)
Projected Wins: 3.4
The Jaguars offense is so far the worst in the league, and not much improved from last season. Meanwhile the defense has fallen apart, going from near the top of the league in 2011 to near the bottom in 2012, and is about 2 points per game worse. We project Jacksonville to win less games than any other team this season, meaning they are likely to have a very high draft pick next year and will have to seriously consider taking another quarterback with it.

Tennessee Titans (3-6)
Projected Wins: 6.1
So far the Titans offense has been slightly worse than last season, worse by about a point per game while passing but better by about a point while rushing. The defense has also fallen off by about a point. Tennessee has little to no hope of still making the playoffs this season, but unlike others they do have some hope going forward because of Jake Locker returning to health and perhaps improving. The pass game has been a little better with him playing rather than Matt Hasselbeck.

Denver Broncos (5-3)
Projected Wins: 10.6
The Broncos are currently just barely our top rated team in the league. Like the Colts, compared to last season the Broncos ratings compare almost exactly to 2011 apart from a huge 7 point advantage in normal pass plays thanks to Peyton Manning. The Broncos are just a game above the Chargers in the division, but a big difference in ratings results in an 87% chance of winning the division. Despite being our highest rated team, Denver is 3rd in the league in odds to win the Super Bowl at 14% due to their slower start and tougher schedule compared to Houston.

Kansas City Chiefs (1-7)
Projected Wins: 4.1
Kansas City was a trendy preseason playoff pick, but our warnings against that appear correct. The Chiefs offense remains subpar despite passing the ball about 2 points better per game and running about a point better compared to last season. In both years, their passing numbers are lowered a bit by games that Matt Cassel has not played in. The defense has also declined almost a point mostly due to pass defense. We project the Chiefs for the 2nd least number of wins, and like the Jaguars they could be in the market for a quarterback with their high draft pick.

Oakland Raiders (3-5)
Projected Wins: 6.7
Overall the Raiders have been relatively similar to their performance last season as a whole. Their pass game and defense are slightly improved by around a point each per game. But the run game has been a big disappointment and is rated over a point worse. Oakland maintains a slim hope of making the playoffs as a wild card, but will need a little bit of luck.

San Diego Chargers (4-4)
Projected Wins: 7.9
Compared to last season, the Chargers are incredibly almost 4 points worse per game on pass plays. They are also marginally worse running the ball, but about a point better on defense. They are a difficult team to figure out, because teams with multiple seasons of success passing with the same quarterback rarely face such a sudden dropoff. An explanation could be the loss of Vincent Jackson, but they had previously done well without him during injuries and a holdout. Perhaps on and off injuries to Antonio Gates are also having an effect. Still, if we had to bet against our current season model on any team it may be that the Chargers pass offense rating will increase. At current levels, San Diego has just an 11% chance of winning the division and a 36% chance of making the playoffs, but it is too early to count this team out.

Dallas Cowboys (3-5)
Projected Wins: 7.4
Overall the Cowboys ratings are pretty similar to last season, but have lost about a point per game on interceptions. The Cowboys have been a little unlucky to only have 3 wins at this point, and still have a 21% chance of making the playoffs. Most of the scenarios of Dallas in the playoffs are a result of them coming back to win the division rather than gaining a wild card.

New York Giants (6-3)
Projected Wins: 9.5
The Giants are performing just slightly below their 2011 level. Interestingly though, they have lost about 2 points per game passing, while gaining about a point on runs and have marginally improved on defense thanks to more interceptions. Despite a big lead in the division, the Giants have just a 63% chance of winning the NFC East and a 72% chance of making the playoffs because they face a brutal second half schedule. But if they can get the pass game rolling again they will be just fine.

Philadelphia Eagles (3-5)
Projected Wins: 6.9
Despite all the media focus on Michael Vick, the Eagles are only marginally worse on pass plays than last season, compared to over a full point dropoff on run plays. The defense has also taken some heat, but has actually been better than league average yet again. Like the Cowboys, the Eagles have been a little unlucky to have only 3 wins, and most of their 16% chance of making the playoffs relies on them winning the division should the Giants stumble with their tough schedule.

Washington Redskins (3-6)
Projected Wins: 6.6
The Redskins pass offense is about 2 points per game better with Robert Griffin than last season. The run game is also over a point better. However, the pass defense has declined by about a point. Washington has just a slim 9% chance of making the playoffs, also mostly from scenarios where they could win the division still.

Chicago Bears (7-1)
Projected Wins: 11.4
The Bears offense has been just slightly more efficient than they were last season prior to the injury to Jay Cutler, while the defense has been equally dominant. Still, the Bears are just 8th in our ratings and have just a 55% chance of winning the NFC North due to the Packers trailing closely and owning a better rating. The positive is that the Bears have all but clinched a playoff spot already, and if they can fend off Green Bay they have a good chance of securing a bye in the playoffs with a top 2 seed.

Detroit Lions (4-4)
Projected Wins: 8.1
Compared to our ratings from last season, the Lions are down about a point on normal pass plays and almost a point in run defense. As a result, they are currently only projected at a 28% chance of making the playoffs. But if the Lions can regain a form more like last season, they will be in the wild card hunt.

Green Bay Packers (6-3)
Projected Wins: 10.2
The Packers are down about 4 points per game in the pass game from their incredible 2011 performance, but still are our 4th highest rated team in the league. Because of a bit of luck for the Bears so far, the Packers have just a 35% chance of coming back to win the division, but remain a slightly better bet to advance deeper in the playoffs. Like other high performing pass games that have struggled a bit so far, Green Bay is liable to still increase their rating. If they do and they manage to win the division, they would likely be among the favorites to win the Super Bowl come playoff time.

Minesota Vikings (5-4)
Projected Wins: 7.7
We warned against buying into the Vikings hot start, and since they have fallen back to reality a bit. Since last season, the Vikings have improved on pass plays by about a point per game, and made slight progress on defense as well. Still, they have just a 20% chance of making the playoffs despite looking right in the middle of things in the current standings.

Atlanta Falcons (8-0)
Projected Wins: 13.0
Matt Ryan appears to finally be developing into a top level quarterback, as the Falcons have improved a whole 3 points on pass plays over last season. The run game has dropped about a point per game but the defense remains about equally strong. Atlanta currently ranks 2nd in our overall ratings, and has essentially already clinched the NFC South. The Falcons are unlikely to produce nearly as many wins in the second half of the season, but still maintain a 63% chance of acquiring the #1 seed in the NFC and are almost a lock to at least have a bye in the playoffs. They are essentially tied with the Texans as Super Bowl favorites at the moment with a 17% chance of winning the title, but several teams are still not far behind.

Carolina Panthers (2-6)
Projected Wins: 5.5
Compared to last season, the Panthers have lost about a point in our ratings on pass plays and lost almost 2 more points on run plays. Meanwhile they have actually sured up the defense with over a full point of improvement. With no real playoff hopes remaining, Carolina will look to improve the offense back to an efficiency similar to last season during the second half of the season.

New Orleans Saints (3-5)
Projected Wins: 7.0
Whether due to Sean Payton, random chance, or a little of each, the Saints have been much worse than last season. A little regression was expected from the ridiculous efficiency of 2011, but the pass game is down about 5 points per game, the run game is down about 2 more, and the pass defense is down another point. All told, the Saints are still our 10th ranked team this year, but a bit of bad luck and a very tough schedule have them in a bad position. We currently still give New Orleans a 12% chance of making the playoffs as a wild card, which we would not be surprised to see increase some as their pass offense has a good chance of improving.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4)
Projected Wins: 7.8
The Bucs have increased their offensive ratings this season by over 2 points on pass plays and over 1 point on run plays. The pass game numbers look like they did in the successful 2010 season despite coming off a terrible 2011. They have also managed to improve the defense by almost 2 points with most of the progress coming on rush defense. In spite of the vast improvement, The Bucs have just a 17% chance of making the playoffs in a crowded NFC wild card hunt.

Arizona Cardinals (4-5)
Projected Wins: 6.4
Like the Vikings, we warned about jumping onto the Cardinals bandwagon early on, and they have come back to reality even harder than expected. Compared to 2011, the Cardinals are worse by about a point both passing and rushing, but have managed to be almost a full point better while punting. The defense has been about equally strong. All in all, Arizona is 3rd worst in our ratings, meaning even with a decent record now they have virtually no hope of making the playoffs. The Cardinals have been slightly better when Kevin Kolb has played, but they might find themselves searching for a new quarterback when the season is over.

San Francisco 49ers (6-2)
Projected Wins: 10.9
The 49ers have improved since 2011 in the pass game and run game by about 2 points per game each, but are about a point worse while punting. The defense has remained about equally strong while improving against the pass but worsening against the run. Because the 49ers were a bit lucky last season, even an improved 2012 squad places San Francisco 6th overall in our ratings. The 49ers are solid 85% favorites in the NFC West, and are currently our 5th most likely team to win the Super Bowl with an 8% chance.

Seattle Seahawks (5-4)
Projected Wins: 8.7
We have doubted the Seahawks, but they are starting to prove themselves in recent weeks. The offense have improved about 2 points per game since last season, with the increase spread among several areas but especially in not suffering as many sacks. The defense has been good again, but is still about a point worse than their dominant 2011 performance. Despite a rating still slightly below average, the Seahawks currently occupy our projected 6th seed in the NFC playoffs. However, even then they have only a 42% chance of making the playoffs because so many teams are still in the mix.

St. Louis Rams (3-5)
Projected Wins: 6.3
The Rams pass game has improved several points compared to their terrible 2011 season, but remains near the bottom of the league. The rest of the team has been rather average and similar to last season. The Rams hold a slight 5% chance of making the playoffs still, but can just about be ruled out.

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