With most teams at the unofficial midpoint of their seasons, it’s a good time to look back at which teams have over- and underachieved the most based on the Football Power Index’s preseason expectations.
The Carolina Panthers are arguably the biggest surprise of the first half. The Panthers began the year ranked 17th in preseason FPI with a 40 percent chance to make the playoffs, but after their best start in franchise history (8-0) they have more than doubled the wins FPI projected they’d have at this point in the season.
Similarly, the Cincinnati Bengals are undefeated and have won nearly four more games than FPI projected through nine weeks. Because the AFC North was expected to be tightly bunched, the Bengals began the year with a 25 percent chance to win their division, but halfway through the season, they have it nearly wrapped up.
On the other side, the Detroit Lions, San Diego Chargers and Dallas Cowboys have been the biggest underachievers when it comes to a team’s projected win total through this point. After winning 11 games last season, the Lions were expected by FPI to suffer a dropoff (average projection of 7.8 wins), but FPI did not expect Detroit to have the worst record in the NFL through nine weeks. The Lions now have the best chance (24 percent) to claim the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
The Seattle Seahawks are on the rise, but they have seen their chances of winning their division fall more than any other team in the NFL. Seattle began the year with a 67 percent chance to win their division, according to FPI, which was the second-best chance in the NFL behind the Indianapolis Colts. After a slow start and the rise of the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams, the Seahawks’ chances to win the NFC West have fallen by 55 percentage points to 12 percent. If the Seahawks beat the Cardinals this week, however, those odds would jump to about 22 percent.
Just as the odds have swung drastically in the first half of the season, there will be plenty more changes before the season is over. The first major swing can occur this Thursday when the New York Jets host the Buffalo Bills. If the Jets win, their chances of making the playoffs will rise to approximately 80 percent, but if they lose, those chances will fall to about 51 percent (currently at 68 percent). Similarly, the Bills’ playoff chances will rise to about 49 percent with a win and fall to about 19 percent with a loss (currently at 31 percent).
Matchups to watch in Week 10
Top Game: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
- Highest pregame matchup quality of the week (90.3 on 0-100 scale)
- Cardinals: 53 percent chance to win (1.0 predicted point differential)
- Currently the Cardinals have an 83 percent chance to win the division and the Seahawks have a 12 percent chance. Cardinals’ divisional odds will rise to about 94 percent with a win and fall to 71 percent with a loss. Seattle’s divisional odds will rise to about 22 percent with a win and fall to three percent with a loss.
Biggest Mismatch: Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals, Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/WatchESPN
- Bengals: 78 percent chance to win (10.5 predicted point differential)
- Andy Dalton: No. 2 in Total QBR (36.3 career QBR vs Texans)
- Bengals: 2.5 percent chance to finish the season 16-0
- Texans: -9.8 PPG margin in non-divisional games (1-4 in those games)
- Redskins: 51 percent chance to win (0.3 predicted point differential)
- Saints: 27.0 defensive efficiency, on pace to be lowest since 2011 Buccaneers
- Drew Brees: 85.5 Total QBR in last four games