AccuScore forecast: Dolphins, ‘Boys fall hard

Simulation based forecasting and methodology: AccuScore uses past player-performance statistics to describe how players perform under different environmental, match-up and game-situation conditions. Using projected starting lineups, AccuScore simulates each game of the 2009 season one play at a time. By repeating the simulation 10,000 to 20,000 times per game, AccuScore calculates the precise probability each team has of winning each game, winning its division, making the playoffs, advancing in the playoffs and winning the Super Bowl.

Miami's controversial loss dropped it to 1-3 in the AFC.
(Alan Diaz/AP Photos)

AFC

The Ravens struggled to beat the Bills but still saw a solid 7.5 percentage point improvement in playoff probability. The Ravens benefited from losses by the Bengals and Chargers – two wild-card competitors. The Steelers lead the entire NFL in playoff probability at nearly 89 percent, and despite their Week 4 loss at home to the Ravens, the Steelers still have the edge in the AFC North (57-43 percent). The Bengals have only a two percent chance of making the playoffs after another disheartening loss. The Browns have to be pleased with their solid play in recent weeks, but they still have no shot at the playoffs.

The biggest loser in the AFC was the Dolphins. They not only got the short end of the stick at home against the Steelers, but with none of the teams ahead of them in playoff probability losing, it resulted in a nearly 20 percentage point drop. The Patriots and Jets are in a tight battle for the division with the Jets getting the slightest advantage by virtue of beating New England in Week 2. The Bills should have beaten the Ravens but the moral victory is small consolation and their zero percent playoff probability does not help much either.

The Titans got a quality win over the Eagles, saw their playoff chances improve 12-plus percentage points and are closing the gap on the Colts. The Colts were idle but dropped 5.1 playoff percentage points because of wins by other AFC playoff contenders and big injuries they have suffered. The Texans are 4-2, but they have struggled the past few weeks and AccuScore is expecting another 8-8 season once they have to go back on the road.

The Chiefs impressively beat the Jaguars while the Chargers, once again, fumbled their way to a deficit they could not overcome. The Chiefs are now solid 63 percent favorites in the AFC West. The Chargers’ playoff chances have dropped double digits for a second straight week and now they are a long shot to make the playoffs despite being No. 1 in the league in passing and top three in both pass and rush defense. The Raiders demolished the Broncos but they can’t expect a performance like that again. The Raiders and Broncos both have less than a five percent chance of making the playoffs.

AFC Projections Playoff Perc. chance
Team Wk. 7 Wk. 8 Perc. diff. Win div.
Kansas City Chiefs 48.6% 65.6% 17.0% 62.9%
Tennessee Titans 44.4% 56.8% 12.3% 40.8%
New England Patriots 70.4% 81.2% 10.7% 46.4%
Baltimore Ravens 69.8% 77.3% 7.6% 42.8%
Pittsburgh Steelers 84.1% 88.5% 4.4% 56.6%
Oakland Raiders 0.9% 3.1% 2.2% 2.9%
Houston Texans 17.0% 18.3% 1.2% 11.0%
Buffalo Bills 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Cleveland Browns 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
New York Jets 81.4% 80.7% -0.8% 48.4%
Jacksonville Jaguars 3.9% 1.7% -2.2% 1.1%
Cincinnati Bengals 6.9% 2.4% -4.5% 0.6%
Indianapolis Colts 68.3% 63.2% -5.1% 47.2%
Denver Broncos 13.1% 3.9% -9.2% 3.8%
San Diego Chargers 48.8% 35.0% -13.8% 30.5%
Miami Dolphins 42.3% 22.5% -19.8% 5.3%

NFC

The Cowboys’ playoff chances plummeted from 31 to virtually two percent. Ten percentage points were attributed to the loss to the Giants; rest is due to the possible season-ending injury to Tony Romo(notes). The Giants are well-positioned to take the division with a dynamic offense and quality defense. The Giants have a 64 percent chance of winning the NFC East. The Eagles are still sitting in a good position for a wild-card spot at a 56 percent chance of making the playoffs. The Redskins have played well enough to see their playoff chances improve to nearly 29 percent this week.

The Vikings saw their playoff chances drop double digits after losing to the Packers. Brett Favre(notes) could miss several games due to injury, and even though he has not played well this year, AccuScore simulations indicate that the Vikings are eight percentage points better, on average, with Favre than with Tarvaris Jackson(notes). Green Bay saw a huge 16 percentage point improvement after beating the Vikings and getting another horrible loss by the Bears. Chicago dropped nearly 10 percentage points after losing at home thanks to poor decisions by the coaching staff and QB Jay Cutler(notes).

The Falcons are second to the Giants in playoff probability in the NFC after beating the Bengals. The Falcons’ playoff chances improved more than expected because the Saints suffered a horrible home loss. The Saints dropped 12.5 points, but even with all their struggles they have the third highest playoff percentage in the NFC. The Saints are benefiting from the mediocrity in the NFC. Tampa Bay is second in the division but AccuScore is not yet a believer in the Bucs. They improved 10 points but they still have only a 23 percent chance of making the playoffs.

The Seahawks may run away with the NFC West title by merely going 8-8 or 9-7, which could give them a two- to three-game lead at the end of the season. The Seahawks improved 13.4 percentage points by beating a division rival at home. It also helped that the rest of the division all lost again. The Rams lost to the Bucs, but only saw a 3.6 point drop because they played very well for most of the game defensively. That bodes well for the rest of the season. The 49ers (1-6) have no business having as high a playoff probability as they have (12.9 percent), but in this division and conference you are never really out of playoff contention.

NFC Projections Playoff Perc. chance
Team Wk. 7 Wk. 8 Perc. diff. Win div.
New York Giants 58.9% 84.3% 25.4% 64.4%
Green Bay Packers 53.8% 69.8% 16.1% 50.9%
Seattle Seahawks 48.5% 61.9% 13.4% 60.0%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 12.9% 22.9% 10.0% 5.6%
Atlanta Falcons 70.6% 79.4% 8.8% 59.2%
Washington Redskins 20.4% 28.9% 8.5% 8.5%
Carolina Panthers 1.2% 3.6% 2.4% 1.1%
Detroit Lions 0.1% 0.2% 0.1% 0.1%
Philadelphia Eagles 57.2% 55.5% -1.6% 26.7%
San Francisco 49ers 16.0% 12.9% -3.0% 12.4%
St. Louis Rams 23.3% 19.7% -3.6% 18.3%
Chicago Bears 26.7% 17.2% -9.5% 10.4%
Arizona Cardinals 20.8% 10.2% -10.6% 9.3%
New Orleans Saints 88.4% 75.9% -12.5% 34.1%
Minnesota Vikings 70.1% 55.6% -14.5% 38.6%
Dallas Cowboys 31.4% 2.1% -29.3% 0.4%