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Winning Stats 2014 NFL Season Preview: NFC and AFC North

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One of these eight teams has a greater than 90% chance of making the Playoffs, according to the Winning Stats. Who is it? The answer may surprise you.

John Grieshop

One of the things I upgraded with the Winning Stats during the year last year was the ability to have semi-relevant percentages on the chances a team has to win their division, advance in the Playoffs, or win the Super Bowl. It's pretty cool to be able to run through 50,000 seasons in about 10 minutes. It's also valuable information if you happen to be like me and like taking trips to Las Vegas.

My preview series will include each division, complete with number of wins, chances of winning the division, a wild card team, and the chances of being each seed in the Playoffs. Then I'll look at the conferences as a whole for advancing and ultimately winning the Super Bowl (that'll come next Thursday). Finally I'll have a game-by-game preview with win probability for the Colts season. I'll be throwing in wagering nuggets as well (all for fun, of course), but they'd be plays I'd make if I had easy access to a sportsbook.

NFC North

Let's start with the NFC North, because this division has the biggest detriment to the Winning Stats system. Because it doesn't do any predicting of actual stats, only an overall number based on previous weeks, the Packers are severely underrated because of the lack of Aaron Rodgers for six weeks last year. It's also weighted towards most-recent, which makes it even worse. So really you can think of these Packer projections at least 2 if not 3 wins better just because of the QB, and in turn probably a half to a full win less for the other teams. Knowing that, here's how I think their chances at each Playoff seed will go:

NFC North
Team Wins 1 Seed 2 Seed 3 Seed 4 Seed 5 Seed 6 Seed Total
Lions 7.8 1.7% 4.1% 10.3% 18.9% 1.1% 2.4% 38.5%
Bears 7.2 0.8% 2.7% 7.2% 14.1% 0.9% 2.1% 27.8%
Packers 6.9 0.6% 1.9% 5.7% 12.1% 0.8% 1.9% 23.0%
Vikings 7.0 0.6% 1.9% 5.6% 11.9% 0.8% 2.0% 22.8%

You can see the Winning Stats like the Lions better than the rest of the Division, but it's very close even without Rodgers. As they sit now there isn't much chance any of these teams would win a Wild Card, and all of them are most likely headed for the 4th seed. Again, grain of salt. It does tell us that the Bears are getting a lot of hype for a team that is projected to be right around .500 (like last year).

Want some Division and Playoff Odds?

Team Div. Title Wild Card Division Playoff Odds
Predict Predict Odds Yes No
Lions 35.0% 3.5% 20.0% 36.4% 68.3%
Bears 24.8% 3.0% 26.7% 40.8% 63.6%
Packers 20.3% 2.7% 55.6% 69.2% 35.1%
Vikings 20.0% 2.8% 9.1% 18.2% 86.7%

The Packers are the heavy favorite in Vegas, but the Playoff Odds for both the Lions and Vikings are pretty close to what the Winning Stats say. How about their Over/Under on wins?

Team O/U O Odds U Odds Over % Under %
Bears 8.5 62.3% 42.6% 25.9% 74.1%
Lions 8.5 50.0% 56.5% 35.6% 64.4%
Packers 10.5 53.5% 53.5% 3.3% 96.7%
Vikings 6 60.0% 45.5% 59.4% 22.4%

The other nice thing about all these simulations is it tells you what percentage of the season were blow the Vegas number, and we can compare them to what the Winning Stats gives us. The first two columns there are the Vegas numbers, while the 2nd two are the Winning Stats numbers. My only bet here would be the Bears U8.5 Wins. I'm ignoring the Packers number.

AFC North

When I ran these simulations there was one team that jumped off the page at me with how well the Winning Stats think they will play. That team? The Cincinnati Bengals. Yes, the Bengals, who haven't won a Playoff game since I was in the 3rd grade. My biggest concern with them is the loss of both coordinators, but they have the kind of schedule, and the talent, to make a run this year.

AFC North
Team Wins 1 Seed 2 Seed 3 Seed 4 Seed 5 Seed 6 Seed Total
Bengals 11.3 38.0% 20.3% 12.6% 7.6% 8.4% 4.7% 91.6%
Steelers 8.9 5.9% 5.4% 4.1% 3.2% 19.2% 13.4% 51.1%
Ravens 6.2 0.3% 0.4% 0.5% 0.7% 2.5% 3.6% 8.0%
Browns 5.6 0.1% 0.2% 0.3% 0.4% 1.5% 2.3% 4.8%

Yes, the Winning Stats say the Bengals have over a 91% chance of making the Playoffs! Makes you think twice about them, eh? I don't believe that number is correct that high, but all this does is tell us there might be something we overlook when just looking at how good a team is, or how many wins they'll have. Again, this takes into account matchups, which certainly looks like the Bengals have a lot of favorable ones. The other big surprise here is the Ravens being so low. Wasn't expecting that.

Team Div. Title Wild Card Division Playoff Odds
Predict Predict Odds Yes No
Bengals 78.5% 13.1% 33.3% 45.5% 60.0%
Steelers 18.6% 32.5% 33.3% 45.5% 60.0%
Ravens 1.9% 6.1% 26.7% 40.8% 63.6%
Browns 1.0% 3.8% 16.7% 20.0% 85.7%

A theme you'll see with the rest of the division is the Winning Stats want you to bet on the Bengals, and bet against the Ravens. You see here that it is a good bet on the Bengals winning the division as well as them making the Playoffs, and the Ravens missing the Playoffs, even paying a premium for it (-175). How about the Over/Unders on wins?

Team O/U O Odds U Odds Over % Under %
Bengals 9 53.5% 53.5% 84.2% 6.4%
Ravens 8.5 56.5% 50.0% 10.7% 89.3%
Steelers 8.5 60.0% 45.5% 58.0% 42.0%
Browns 6.5 57.4% 48.8% 31.6% 68.5%

Yep, Bengals O9 and Ravens U8.5. I hope you got the drift there. Vegas loves the Steelers over (-120), but I expect an Over bet to be the favorite for a nationally-popular team.

Let's recap the North Divisions:

  • The Winning Stats really struggle with injuries, so I'm ignoring anything it says with respect to the Packers.
  • Bears Under 8.5 Wins: +135
  • Bengals Win Division: +200
  • Bengals Make Playoffs: +120
  • Bengals Over 9 Wins: -115
  • Ravens Under 8.5 Wins: EVEN