AccuScore: Flacco hurting Ravens

AccuScore uses past performance statistics to describe how players perform under different environmental, matchup, and game-situation conditions. Using projected starting lineups AccuScore simulates each game of the season one play at a time. By repeating the simulation 10,000 to 20,000 times per game AccuScore calculates the precise probability teams have of winning each game, winning their division, and making the playoffs. Here is the AccuScore.com preseason analysis of the 2010 NFL season after Week 1. Visit AccuScore.com for weekly updates to the season forecast and all game forecasts.

AFC

The Jets rebounded in an enormous way to the tune of a 38-percent rise. Whenever you beat the predicted division leader, you are going to see a sizable 15-25 percent boost. When Mark Sanchez(notes) actually shows an NFL-caliber arm and LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) looks like he did four years ago, you get the added bump that the Jets showed.

But the big story in the AFC East is actually the Dolphins who were forecasted for a solid 8-8 season. Their high quality road win against the Vikings didn’t drastically impact their playoff chances, but they are still winning the AFC East more than the Jets and Patriots in simulations. New England lost 17.5 points because they had a division loss and its defense has major issues. Buffalo is a non-factor.

Like the Jets, the Bengals also showed a solid improvement (12.2 points) thanks to a stellar defensive effort fueling a key division win. Their improvement was not as vast as the Jets’ because the offense struggled and did not show the spark that many anticipated this season. The Steelers have taken the overall lead in the division with a 60.6 percent chance of winning the AFC North. Their defense has been spectacular and if they end up winning at least three of the four games that Ben Roethlisberger(notes) is suspended they are in a great position to make the playoffs. The Ravens dropped more than 23 percentage points. Unlike the Jets, they lost a division game and their quarterback, Joe Flacco(notes), has thrown five interceptions in two games. His poor start has had major negative impact in simulations in Weeks 3-17.

The big loser this week was the Titans. A loss at home against the undermanned Steelers hurts, but the real reason the Titans plummeted this week was the resounding victories that the Colts and Texans had. The Titans cannot improve without solid QB play from Vince Young(notes) and he has not taken major strides this year. The Titans also are getting hammered because so many wild-card competitors did well this past week. The Texans got a nice bump up this week and are now at a 59 percent chance of making the playoffs and the Colts are still leading the division. The Jaguars were hammered by the Chargers and their secondary does not seem equipped to compete with the prolific offenses in their own division.

The Chiefs had only a 15.3 percent chance of starting the season 2-0, but despite the win in Cleveland, they still lost 4.3 percentage points this week. They have two wins, but their offense has not scored many points and they are not expected to finish better than 8-8. The Chargers lost to the Chiefs but are still the heavy 82 percent favorite in the AFC West. The Broncos more than doubled their playoff chances after an impressive win over the Seahawks. They are still relative long shots to make the playoffs, but they are expected to be competitive all season long.

AFC Week 2 review Playoff Perc. chance
TEAM WK1 WK2 Perc. diff. Win div.
New York Jets 12.1% 50.3% 38.2% 31.0%
Cincinnati Bengals 15.8% 28.0% 12.2% 12.4%
Pittsburgh Steelers 67.7% 79.5% 11.8% 60.5%
Denver Broncos 7.2% 14.8% 7.6% 7.7%
Houston Texans 52.2% 58.9% 6.7% 35.4%
San Diego Chargers 82.3% 88.0% 5.7% 81.7%
Miami Dolphins 49.5% 53.6% 4.1% 34.8%
Indianapolis Colts 68.5% 71.8% 3.3% 51.8%
Cleveland Browns 0.3% 0.2% -0.1% 0.1%
Jacksonville Jaguars 11.3% 10.8% -0.5% 4.9%
Oakland Raiders 7.7% 4.5% -3.2% 2.2%
Buffalo Bills 3.9% 0.5% -3.4% 0.2%
Kansas City Chiefs 22.0% 17.6% -4.3% 8.3%
New England Patriots 71.9% 54.4% -17.5% 34.0%
Baltimore Ravens 75.1% 51.7% -23.4% 27.1%
Tennessee Titans 52.8% 15.5% -37.2% 7.9%

NFC

The Bears had only a 20 percent chance of starting the season 2-0 and they had only a 30 percent chance of beating the Cowboys on the road. With the victory, the Bears essentially won 0.7 more wins than expected, a huge improvement in a 16-game season. They are up 26.6 percent this week. The Bears’ gain was the Vikings’ loss. AccuScore recommended the Vikings pay the price for Vincent Jackson(notes) because he improved their playoff chances by nearly 10 percentage points if he were ready to play in Week 5. Without him the Vikings are now behind the 2-0 Packers, who saw a nice 10.8 percentage point bump largely because of the Vikings’ struggles. The Lions have some dynamic talent, but their playoff chances have dropped to under 1 percent.

How did the 49ers lose, start 0-2 and still improve their playoff chances by nearly 17 points? They had a “good” loss in Week 2 while the Seahawks, Cardinals and Rams all suffered bad ones. All of the NFC West teams are averaging under eight wins per simulation. The 49ers are down only 0-1 in their division, QB Alex Smith was impressive in a loss and the defense looked great against the Saints. AccuScore says future on-field performance will help San Francisco ultimately take the division, despite the 0-2 start. Seattle’s defense was destroyed by Denver and the offense is still struggling with turnovers. Arizona is not expected to get the job done with Kurt Warner(notes) dancing and not playing football.

The Eagles improved 14 percentage points thanks to the losses by the rest of the NFC East teams. With the statistical performance we have in simulations, AccuScore shows Philly is better with Michael Vick(notes) starting at least for now. The Giants defense is looking as bad as it did the second half of last season, but they are still clinging to a slight lead in the division (32.1 percent chance of winning NFC East) over the Eagles (28.9) and Dallas (29.9). The slow starts by the NFC East teams combined with wild-card competition from the NFC North and NFC South has hurt all NFC East teams.

New Orleans’ offense is not clicking but the Saints are still 2-0, and even with the injury to Reggie Bush(notes) they are the heavy 86 percent favorite to repeat as NFC South champs. The Falcons were very impressive against the Cardinals but Matt Ryan(notes) needs to show he can put up big numbers against top teams in the league, something he has not done in his career. If the Falcons can upset the Saints in Week 3 then they could easily flip-flop with the Saints. Tampa Bay had only an 18 percent chance of starting 2-0 this season but the competition gets much tougher, starting in Week 3 against the Steelers. The Buccaneers are clearly improved but they have only a 17 percent chance of making the playoffs.

NFC Week 2 review Playoff Perc. chance
Team WK1 WK2 Per. diff. Win div.
Chicago Bears 15.7% 41.3% 25.6% 15.2%
San Francisco 49ers 37.1% 54.0% 16.9% 51.0%
Atlanta Falcons 33.4% 49.9% 16.5% 11.8%
Philadelphia Eagles 26.4% 40.6% 14.2% 28.9%
Green Bay Packers 72.9% 83.7% 10.8% 63.4%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10.9% 17.3% 6.4% 1.9%
St. Louis Rams 1.7% 1.7% 0.0% 1.5%
New Orleans Saints 98.1% 97.0% -1.1% 85.6%
Washington Redskins 18.9% 17.4% -1.5% 9.1%
Detroit Lions 7.8% 0.9% -6.9% 0.2%
Dallas Cowboys 50.1% 41.3% -8.7% 29.9%
New York Giants 54.8% 45.2% -9.7% 32.1%
Seattle Seahawks 35.7% 24.8% -10.9% 21.9%
Arizona Cardinals 41.0% 27.8% -13.2% 25.6%
Carolina Panthers 19.7% 6.0% -13.7% 0.7%
Minnesota Vikings 75.9% 51.1% -24.8% 21.2%