Another week of the NFL is in the books and that means it’s time for another NFL simulation. The playoff races are starting to take shape and each subsequent game is more meaningful towards the final projection. The teams are listed in order of average wins at the end of 10,000 seasons. This week, I’ve added the most likely projected finish for each team to go along with their current record. You can click on each team to see the breakdown of their projection. Let’s rank all 32 teams:
The Lone Undefeated
1. Carolina Panthers 11-0, Projected 15-1
Last week, the simulation proclaimed that the Panthers game at Dallas was the toughest test remaining on the schedule and the Panthers passed with flying colors. Cam Newton has to be the favorite to win the MVP at this point and they have a 2-game lead over the Cardinals for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Panthers finished 16-0 in 29.1% of simulations and are more likely to finish 16-0 than 14-2. If you want Cam to stop celebrating, then somebody is going to have to step up and stop him.
Best of the Rest
2. New England Patriots 10-1, Projected 14-2
3. Cincinnati Bengals 9-2, Projected 13-3
4. Arizona Cardinals 9-2, Projected 13-3
The Patriots lost the chance at a perfect season in Denver and are projected to lose another one along the way once you adjust for injuries (most likely at the Jets in Week 16). Still, a 14-win season is projected to be the best finish in the AFC by a game over the Bengals.
The simulation has been in love with the Cardinals for a while now, and they keep churning out wins. However, the Cardinals still have a tough schedule with home games against the Vikings, Packers, and Seahawks still remaining. The game against Minnesota is huge in terms of getting a bye as the Vikings are currently only one game back in the standings.
5. Denver Broncos 9-2, Projected 12-4
6. Minnesota Vikings 8-3, Projected 11-5
Denver has a lot of question marks about the roster, but the wins continue to pile up. The Osweiler vs. Manning debate will be discussed ad nauseam on sports talk shows for weeks, but for now Osweiler is providing competent play and the Broncos are the projected AFC West champion.
The Vikings have won six of seven games and have a 1-game lead over the rival Packers in the NFC North. Minnesota controls their own destiny as they play five NFC teams including finishing the season at Lambeau field in what could ultimately decide the division. The offseason “distraction” for Adrian Peterson now appears non-existent as he has already amassed 1,164 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
7. Kansas City Chiefs 6-5, Projected 10-6
8. Green Bay Packers 7-4, Projected 10-6
Two teams projected to finish with ten wins; two teams that are heading in completely opposite directions. The Chiefs are winners of five straight games and figure to be favorites in all of their remaining games. Kansas City is now fifth in the league in point differential, trailing only the Patriots, Panthers, Cardinals, and Bengals.
The Packers have lost four of their last five including a surprising loss on Thanksgiving night as a 7.5-point favorite to the Bears. Over those five games, Green Bay has averaged fewer than 20 points scored per game and Aaron Rodgers has a 73.8 quarterback rating over that same span. The sky isn’t falling though and Rodgers himself would probably tell you to relax. The simulation still has the Pack finishing with ten wins and as stated above, the Packers still play the Vikings in Week 17 to possibly erase the 1-game deficit.
Clown Car of Playoff Hopefuls
9. Seattle Seahawks 6-5, Projected 9-7
10. Pittsburgh Steelers 6-5, Projected 9-7
11. Indianapolis Colts 6-5, Projected 9-7
12. New York Jets 6-5, Projected 9-7
13. Atlanta Falcons 6-5, Projected 9-7
14. Houston Texans 6-5, Projected 8-8
All of these teams can make the playoffs, but it’s a Rubik’s cube to try to figure out who will. Either the Colts or Texans will win the AFC South and the other you could likely eliminate. The other two teams in the AFC are projected to be the Chiefs and Steelers, although the Jets are still a legitimate threat with a few darkhorse looming in the following group.
In the NFC, the number of spots looks sketchier. If you pencil in the 8-win Vikings and the 7-win Packers as getting in, that leaves one wildcard spot. Currently that spot is projected to be the Seahawks after a big win over the Steelers on Sunday. The Seahawks look like the feared wildcard team that gets hot going into the playoffs and makes the run all the way to the Super Bowl. The Falcons have the same current record and projection so it could come down to tiebreaking procedures (fun!) to decide who gets the sixth and final spot, but Seattle is trending in the right direction.
15. Buffalo Bills 5-6, Projected 8-8
16. Chicago Bears 5-6, Projected 8-8
17. New York Giants 5-6, Projected 7-9
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5-6, Projected 7-9
19. Washington Redskins 5-6, Projected 7-9
20. Oakland Raiders 5-6, Projected 7-9
Either the Giants or Redskins are likely to win the NFC East division and get a playoff spot. The rest of the teams listed are in a world of hurt. They would have to go at least 4-1 to get to nine wins, and then would have to win some tiebreakers to get in. Perhaps a 5-win run is in the cards for the Bills as they face the Texans, Eagles, Redskins, Cowboys, and Jets to finish the season.
Another Losing Season
21. Detroit Lions 4-7, Projected 6-10
22. St. Louis Rams 4-7, Projected 6-10
23. Jacksonville Jaguars 4-7, Projected 6-10
24. Miami Dolphins 4-7, Projected 6-10
While the Lions have had two recent playoff berths, for the most part these teams are perennial losers. The Dolphins haven’t had a winning season since 2008. The Jaguars haven’t had a winning season since 2007. The Rams haven’t had a winning season since 2003. It will be another season of “wait until next year” for these teams. And next year could wind up being in Los Angeles.
25. New Orleans Saints 4-7, Projected 6-10
26. Philadelphia Eagles 4-7, Projected 6-10
27. Baltimore Ravens 3-7, Projected 5-11
All three of these teams were projected to compete for a playoff spot and the beginning of the season. Now, not so much. While the Ravens struggles has been driven by some bad luck and recent injuries, the Saints and Eagles have pretty much been garbage most of the season. The Saints defense has been a sieve all year, making quarterbacks like Kirk Cousins and Brian Hoyer look like Pro-bowlers. The Chip Kelly experiment has never really had the good quarterback it needs to gain traction. Time will tell to see if he gets another year to keep the testing going or if he heads back to college.
Time to Tank
28. San Diego Chargers 3-8, Projected 4-12
29. Dallas Cowboys 3-8, Projected 4-12
30. San Francisco 49ers 3-8, Projected 4-12
31. Cleveland Browns 2-8, Projected 3-13
32. Tennessee Titans 2-9, Projected 3-13
Last week, the Cowboys had a slim shot of winning the division with Tony Romo back. Well, Romo’s out again, and that door is closed for good. At this point, if you are a fan of these teams, you should be rooting for your team to lose to move up the draft board for next season.
Most Likely Playoff Picture
The Seahawks play at the Vikings this week in what is legitimately a playoff preview. The Packers and Giants have had some memorable playoff games, and the Chiefs going back into Indy to try to exact revenge on the Colts from two seasons ago would be highly entertaining as well.