AccuScore: Colts, Dolphins make biggest climbs
AccuScore.com 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 3. Visit AccuScore.com for weekly updates to the season forecast and all game forecasts.
Miami's continued road success, combined with losses by the Jets and Steelers, helped the Dolphins improve their playoff chances by 15 percentage points. The Patriots are now 67 percent favorites to win the AFC East after the Jets lost at home. The Jets' defeat wasn't the only reason for their 23 percentage point decline; poor offensive play, interceptions, low completion percentage and dropped passes negatively impacted future game simulations. New York is still a likely playoff team, but it may need to beat the Patriots on the road for a shot at the division crown.
The Colts were the other big winner in the AFC. Not only did they score plenty of points without two of their three leading receivers and their starting running back, but they got a win over a division rival. The Colts also benefited from the Titans' loss. Houston and Tennessee combined for an 18 percentage point drop with 11.6 going to the Colts' benefit and the remainder to the Jaguars after their big win over the Cowboys. Based on current standings there is plenty of parity in the AFC South, but no other team has the consistency of the Colts; it's why Indy is the 62 percent favorite to win the division.
The Chargers are still a few games behind the Chiefs, but they picked up nearly 10 percentage points this week despite a win by K.C. Kansas City is still the favorite to win the AFC West at 54 percent, but its advantage over San Diego is not as great as you would typically see when a team has a 2 ½ game lead. The Raiders have proved that they definitely should not be ignored. They are, however, better off sticking with Jason Campbell(notes) at quarterback. With Campbell under center, Oakland has a 10 percent chance of making the playoffs; that is cut in half with Bruce Gradkowski(notes).
The Ravens did not play Sunday, but still had a great week. They saw their main division rivals lose (Steelers, Bengals) and a key wild-card competitor (Jets) go down, too. They now have the same record at 5-2 and a tiebreaker at this point in the season. In a slight statistical anomaly, the Steelers have the higher playoff percentage at 85 percent compared to the Ravens at 80, but Baltimore has the edge to win the division because it already beat the Steelers once in Pittsburgh. The Bengals were hopeful to start the season, but now have just a 0.4 percent chance at the postseason after starting 2-5 in the ultra-competitive AFC.
St. Louis' defense ranks sixth in points allowed, and with the losses by Seattle and Arizona the Rams are now the favorite in the NFC West at 40 percent. Currently, the Rams are averaging 0.1 more wins per season simulation than the Seahawks. Their Week 17 matchup in Seattle will likely determine the winner of the division. The 49ers looked better with Troy Smith(notes) at quarterback, and they picked up eight percentage points this week. They still have a respectable 21 percent chance of making the playoffs, even after their 2-6 start.
Tampa Bay just keeps on rolling. With their 17.6 percentage point increase this week, the Bucs have a 40.5 percent chance of making the playoffs despite having just an 8.6 percent chance of winning their division. The Saints beat the Steelers thanks to a great defensive effort combined with a clutch offensive performance. Can one game turn around a season? Yes, as the Saints have vaulted to the top of the AFC South with a 50.1 percent chance of winning the division despite being half a game behind Atlanta and Tampa Bay and having already lost to Atlanta at home. Besides their two matchups with the Panthers, every other remaining opponent for Atlanta is at least .500 or better. The tough schedule is a big disadvantage for the Falcons.
Green Bay got a huge win over the Jets on the road. With another Vikings loss, the Packers saw a nice 11.6 percentage bump this week. The Lions scored a nice win Sunday, but they are still just 2-5 and a long shot to get into the playoff picture. The Vikings are also 2-5, and despite cutting Randy Moss(notes) they still have a decent 31 percent chance of making the playoffs because they should be solid favorites in all but two of their remaining games. That should result in an 8-8 finish for Minnesota. This year 8-8 could make the playoffs.
The NFC East is still projected to go to the Giants at 65 percent. The Redskins' chances dropped nearly 19 points after a loss to the Lions and the negative aftermath of Donovan McNabb's(notes) benching. The Cowboys are now down to a pathetic 0.2 percent chance of making the playoffs. The Eagles and Giants were idle.