AccuScore: Chiefs finally getting some respect

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

Chiefs running back Thomas Jones (20) celebrates with running back Jamaal Charles (25) after Jones scored a touchdown vs. the 49ers.
(Charlie Riedel/AP Photo)

After a 2-0 start, the Chiefs were only given a 17.6 percent chance of making the playoffs. However, after a third win, they are up 32 percentage points. While the win itself helped, the main reason why their odds improved so much was the quality of the play offensively and defensively. This helps the Chiefs play better in future game simulations. The Chiefs also benefited from losses by the rest of the division. The slow-starting Chargers are still favored to ultimately take the division at 63.1 percent, but the Chiefs have to be given proper respect.

In the AFC North, the Bengals, Ravens and Steelers all won and all saw improvement in their playoff chances after Week 3 wins. The Steelers have been the most impressive team in the division and are favored to win the division at 58.3 percent. Baltimore lost to Cincinnati in Week 2, but is projected to finish ahead of the Bengals in the division. Cincinnati has the tougher schedule as last year’s division winner and Carson Palmer(notes) has just not performed well at all. Cleveland puts up a solid effort each week but with no wins they, it is already eliminated from playoff contention in simulations.

The Jets’ defense was not very good without Darrelle Revis(notes) in Week 3, but they still had a huge win as the offense lifted the team. The Jets are now leading the AFC East. The Patriots beat Buffalo, but their defense has to be a major concern after allowing 30 points to the Bills. The Dolphins took the biggest hit dropping nearly 19 percentage points. They had the double whammy of losing at home and losing to a division opponent.

The AFC South has quickly reverted back to the typical scenario that one has come to expect. Indianapolis looks like the class of the division despite a lack of a running game and running defense. Tennessee and Houston are talented enough to win any game they play, but ultimately they still lay too many eggs every few weeks to take control of the division. The Texans dropped more than 30 percentage points for three reasons: 1) they lost, 2) the Titans and Colts both won, and 3) they played poorly offensively and defensively. Poor performance often hurts more than the actual loss because it reduces winning percentages in all future games.

AFC Week 3 review Playoff Perc. chance
Team WK 2 WK 3 Perc. diff. Win div.
Kansas City Chiefs 17.6% 50.0% 32.4% 33.6%
Cincinnati Bengals 28.0% 44.5% 16.5% 16.1%
Baltimore Ravens 51.7% 64.0% 12.4% 25.6%
New York Jets 50.3% 58.2% 8.0% 43.4%
Tennessee Titans 15.5% 23.3% 7.8% 15.5%
Pittsburgh Steelers 79.5% 84.7% 5.2% 58.3%
Indianapolis Colts 71.8% 73.0% 1.2% 63.7%
Cleveland Browns 0.2% 0.0% -0.1% 0.0%
Buffalo Bills 0.5% 0.0% -0.4% 0.0%
Oakland Raiders 4.5% 1.1% -3.4% 0.6%
New England Patriots 54.4% 50.6% -3.8% 34.5%
Jacksonville Jaguars 10.8% 6.5% -4.3% 4.0%
Denver Broncos 14.8% 4.1% -10.7% 2.7%
San Diego Chargers 88.0% 76.6% -11.4% 63.1%
Miami Dolphins 53.6% 34.7% -18.9% 22.0%
Houston Texans 58.9% 28.6% -30.3% 16.8%

NFC

Michael Vick(notes) was AccuScore’s pick to start for the Eagles before Kevin Kolb(notes) was benched and Vick has more than lived up to our high expectations. He obviously has good chemistry with his big-play wideouts and he has not lost a step scrambling with the ball. With no real reason to doubt that Vick can maintain his high level of play, the Eagles are up 27 percent this week and are the projected NFC East leader with a 50.1 percent chance of taking the division. The Cowboys helped their cause by beating Houston, but they are still 1-2 and as big as the win over the Texans was psychologically, a win over a non-conference opponent just does not help as much as losses within the division or conference can hurt. The Giants keep making a ridiculous number of mental and physical errors. Their playoff chances have dropped nearly 24 percent. Washington was taken out quite easily by St. Louis and its chances are now below 5 percent.

The Seahawks’ upset victory over San Diego helped them improve around 12 percentage points, but the rest of the 27-point improvement comes from the San Francisco disastrous start and their willingness to rely on their more dynamic playmakers like Justin Forsett(notes) and Leon Washington(notes) over aging veterans like Julius Jones(notes). The 49ers plummeted more than 30 percentage points. A 0-3 start combined with a surprisingly poor defensive effort in Week 3 all lead to a worst-case scenario for San Francisco. Arizona won in Week 3 but without Kurt Warner(notes), this team is a long shot at making the playoffs even though it is in a very weak division.

No single goat will likely have a bigger impact on a divisional race than Garrett Hartley(notes). His missed overtime field goal delivered a seismic shift in the NFC South with the Saints going from an 85 percent favorite to win the division to a 56 percent favorite. The Falcons are now in a great position to obviously make the playoffs at nearly 74 percent which is third highest in the NFC. The Saints still have an exceedingly high 86 percent chance to make the playoffs because their schedule has plenty of easy games on it and there is a lack of competition in the NFC for wild-card spots due to the weakness of the NFC West.

The Vikings won in Week 3 but they still saw their playoff chances drop nearly 18 percent because beating Detroit at home was expected. Chicago beating Green Bay was not expected and with the Bears’ emergence and 17.6 percentage point improvement, their rise is the Vikings’ loss. Just as important as the Bears’ emergence is the continued lackluster play of the Vikings passing game. With every passing week, the simulations rely more on 2010 season data and less on 2009 data. Green Bay lost at Chicago but except for penalties and its late fumble, the Packers still looked like the team to beat with a dynamic offense and defense.

NFC Week 3 review Playoff Perc. chance
Team WK 2 WK 3 Perc. diff. Win div.
Philadelphia Eagles 40.6% 67.8% 27.2% 50.1%
Seattle Seahawks 24.8% 51.9% 27.1% 49.5%
Atlanta Falcons 49.9% 73.7% 23.8% 41.8%
Chicago Bears 41.3% 58.9% 17.6% 28.2%
Dallas Cowboys 41.3% 56.7% 15.3% 37.7%
St. Louis Rams 1.7% 5.3% 3.6% 4.9%
Detroit Lions 0.9% 0.4% -0.6% 0.1%
Arizona Cardinals 27.8% 26.0% -1.8% 24.5%
Green Bay Packers 83.7% 81.1% -2.5% 58.6%
Carolina Panthers 6.0% 0.6% -5.5% 0.1%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17.3% 9.1% -8.2% 2.2%
New Orleans Saints 97.0% 86.0% -10.9% 56.0%
Washington Redskins 17.4% 4.6% -12.9% 1.6%
Minnesota Vikings 51.1% 33.3% -17.8% 13.1%
New York Giants 45.2% 21.4% -23.7% 10.6%
San Francisco 49ers 54.0% 23.3% -30.7% 21.1%