Simulation based forecasting & 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 their division, making the playoffs, advancing in the playoffs and winning the Super Bowl.
The Bengals bounced back from a damaging Week 6 with an impressive Week 7 win. Their playoff chances improved significantly not only because they won a game that was a "coin-flip" (50-50 chance of winning), but they won in an impressive fashion and the stats from the Chicago game helped their future simulation performance. The Steelers also improved their chances slightly by beating the Vikings. These two wins by division rivals hurt the idle Ravens and the lowly Browns.
The Chargers also got a much needed win and while it will be hard to catch Denver in the AFC West (just 15.7 percent projection to win division), the Chargers do have a favorable forecast for making the playoffs as a wild card. The Broncos were on a bye, but their playoff chances are still rock solid at over 95 percent. If the team can pull of another win in Week 8 at Baltimore, they will really be in great position for home-field advantage in at least their first playoff game. The Chiefs and Raiders both have no realistic chance at turning the seasons around.
The Jets and Patriots both saw their playoff chances increase modestly after winning games in which they were clear-cut favorites. The Bills also won, but their playoff chances did not improve because the rest of their key AFC competitors also won. The fact that the other AFC East teams won and the Dolphins blew a large lead to the Saints, Miami's playoff chances dropped by more than 20 percentage points.
The AFC South is still clearly in the hands of the Colts, who should cruise to a division win by simply beating the teams they are supposed to beat. Even if they lose to the Patriots and Broncos (both games at home), they still have an excellent chance of winning 14-plus games and finishing with a five-game lead in the division. Houston clung to a win in Week 7 but with each week that passes where the Colts win, the chances of any other AFC South team making the playoffs goes down.
Week 7 review
The Packers not only won over the lowly Browns, their playoff chances (up more than 25 percentage points) rose because of the Bears and Vikings' losses. The Vikings only dropped minus-1.5 points because they lost a game they were expected to lose and they did have some good moments. The Bears, however, were blown out again due to a lack of a running game and Jay Cutler's(notes) turnovers. These poor statistical performances negatively impact the Bears' simulations for Weeks 8 through 17 and this is the reason why their playoff chances are down dramatically.
The Eagles and Cowboys both capitalized on the Giants' struggles. The Eagles' chances improved because they beat a division rival. The Cowboys' chances improved because they beat a wild-card competitor, in Atlanta. The Cowboys will likely find themselves in second place to win the division next week behind whoever wins the Eagles-Giants game. This assumes their revived passing offense leads them to another win at home (vs. Seattle).
The 49ers actually improved their chances despite losing last week. This is due to the strong performance from Alex Smith vs. Houston. If Smith can improve the San Francisco offense, the Niners still have a decent 20-percent chance of catching Arizona thanks to their Week 1 win at Arizona. The Cardinals saw their playoff chances improve to more than 80 percent thanks to an impressive win over the Giants and a defense that is improving each week.
The Saints are approaching Colts territory with a 99 percent-plus chance of making the playoffs. Their Week 8 game vs. the Falcons obviously will have a huge impact on playoff chances. While the Saints can 'afford' to lose a game, if Atlanta, down minus-12.5 points this week, can run the ball well and beat the Saints their playoff chances will increase by double digits. Currently, the Saints are a heavy 80-percent favorite in their game.
Week 7 review