Last week, ESPN launched the NFL version of its Football Power Index (FPI) -- a predictive measure of team strength that can be used to project performance going forward.
Green Bay debuted at No. 1 with a 6.2 FPI, meaning the Packers are expected to be about 6.2 points better than an average team on a neutral field. Although the Packers’ FPI provides fodder for debate, the real value of FPI is its game and season projections.
The game projections account for a number of factors, including team strength (using FPI), opponent strength, game site, rest, altitude, distance traveled and quarterback injuries or absences. All of these factors combine to produce each team’s chance to win each game of the 2015 season.
For example, FPI projects that the Eagles have a 51 percent chance to beat the Falcons on Monday Night Football, the closest projected game of Week 1. The Cowboys, on the other hand, are expected to be in the most lopsided matchup; they have a 68 percent chance to beat the Giants.
After producing the game predictions, each team’s schedule is simulated 10,000 times to produce projections for the 2015 season.
FPI’s top 5 things to know for the upcoming season:
1. Packers are FPI’s favorite to win the Super Bowl: As the top team in NFL FPI, the Packers not surprisingly are FPI’s favorite to win the Super Bowl entering the season. FPI projects that Green Bay has a 16 percent chance to win Super Bowl 50, two percentage points better than any other team. The Packers are buoyed by an offense that (even without Jordy Nelson) is expected to be the best in the NFL because of FPI’s top projected quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
2. Colts have a favorable path to the playoffs: The Packers have the best chance to win the Super Bowl, but the Colts are the most likely team to make the playoffs (84 percent likely) because of their path to a possible division title through the AFC South. Indianapolis is the only team from its division ranked in the top half of FPI, and it is projected to play one of the easiest schedules in the AFC. The Colts are the FPI favorite in each of their games this season, the only team favored in all 16 regular-season games.
3. NFC East expected to be closest divisional race: The Eagles and Cowboys have nearly identical chances to win the NFC East (40.5 percent for Eagles and 39.7 percent for Cowboys), according to NFL FPI. Each team is projected to have a top-10 offense and FPI expects each to win about nine games.
4. AFC North can produce three playoff teams, again: The AFC North is the only division with three teams projected to win at least 8.5 games this season, according to NFL FPI. Each of those teams has at least a 40 percent chance of making the playoffs.
5. Raiders have best chance for top pick in 2016 NFL draft: It’s early (very early!), but based on NFL FPI’s season projections, the Raiders enter the season with the best chance (19 percent likely) for the top pick in the NFL draft. There is also a 50 percent chance that the Jaguars have a top-five pick for a record fifth straight season.
Note: FPI was updated since its original release to include the most recent information on Tom Brady’s suspension and other developments.