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Season in review: AFC and NFC East

This season, I published power rankings after each week where I stated my updated projected number of wins for each team. The point of those posts was to put in writing my thoughts at that time, so that once the season was over, I could look back and see how I did. Over the next two weeks, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

The picture below graphs my projections for each team for each week of the season. I’ve also added the Vegas futures win totals for each team from the pre-season as the first data point in each graph and the final number of regular season wins for each team as the final data point. My projected win totals for each week N come following the conclusion of week N (i.e., my week 1 power rankings were released after week 1).

AFC East

New England Patriots

Pre-season Projection: 12 wins
Maximum wins: 13 (after weeks 1 and 14)
Minimum wins: 10 (after weeks 6 and 7)
Week 1 comment: Incredible offensive weapons, an improved defense and a cupcake schedule. Only injuries on the offensive line or to Tom Brady could derail them.

The Patriots started hot with a big win over the Titans, but managed to lose nail-biters to the Cardinals and Ravens the next two weeks. A loss in Seattle — which was an upset, at the time — dropped them to 3-3 and my projected total to just 10 wins. An overtime win over the Jets the following week was unimpressive and didn’t cause me to bump them, but I kept steadily increasing their win total after that.

In the end, it was another monster statistical season for Brady and the Patriots. New England broke a record for offensive first downs and finished with the third most points scored in a season. I was a little bumpy in my New England projections, but they ended up landing right on the Vegas number.

New York Jets
Pre-season Projection: 8.5 wins
Maximum wins: 9 (after weeks 1 and 2)
Minimum wins: 6 (first after week 8)
Week 1 comment: The additions of Quinton Coples and LaRon Landry were easy to mock, but these two could make the Jets defense a top-three unit. So far, so good. Right tackle Austin Howard exceeded expectations by infinity against Mario Williams, and his play this year will be tied to the Jets success on offense.

The Jets best game of the season came in week 1, which inspired a glimmer of early-season hope. In the end, Coples and Landry had strong seasons, but the loss of Darrelle Revis and the disappointing years by Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas, and Aaron Maybin prevented the Jets from having a complete defense. Mark Sanchez regressed, and injuries to Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller, and Stephen Hill didn’t help the offense. Rex Ryan lost control of the team, again, and the Jets struggled against good teams early before disappointing against bad teams late. For the second straight year, the Jets lost their final three games of the season, and it appears like they will fire the offensive coordinator again, too.

Miami Dolphins
Pre-season Projection: 7.5 wins
Maximum wins: 9 wins (after weeks 6 7, 8, and 9)
Minimum wins: 5 wins (after week 1)
Week 1 comment: Some coaches inspire you to go through a wall for them. Joe Philbin is not one of those coaches. I don’t think they’re any good, but let’s not forget they started 0-7 last year and still got to 6 wins.

I never quite got a handle on Miami. They looked terrible in the pre-season and Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins looked outclassed in week 1 against Houston. After week 8, the Dolphins defense looked great, and at that point, they had only lost to Houston and in two overtime games. For awhile the SRS and just about every advanced metric had them as the 4th or 5th best team in the AFC, but in the end, the offense just wasn’t good enough to win most weeks. They ended the year with an embarrassing shutout loss to the Patriots. They’re still a possible sleeper for 2013, but they need to add some weapons for Tannehill in the off-season.

Buffalo Bills
Pre-season Projection: 7.5 wins
Maximum wins: 8 wins (after weeks 3)
Minimum wins: 6 wins (first after week 1)
Week 1 comment: The Bills go from being a trendy sleeper team to a team that’s 1-9 in their last 10 games. Bad Ryan Fitzpatrick showed up for the first 40 minutes of the Jets game, and I don’t know if we’re going to see the good version anytime soon.

This is one I hit on the head pretty nicely. After week 1, I projected them to finish 6-10, and that’s how they ended the year. In every week but one, I pegged Buffalo as a 6- or 7-win team. It’s easy to forget now that with Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, and Kyle Williams on defense, the Bills were one one of the sleeper teams of the pre-season. And while C.J. Spiller was outstanding, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills run defense ultimately sank the team.

I was a little less successful projecting how the NFC East would turn out…

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles
Pre-season Projection: 10 wins
Maximum wins: 10 wins (after weeks 1, 2, and 4)
Minimum wins: 4 wins (first after week 12)
Week 1 comment: Trendy to rip the Eagles, but they notched the win. I still love what an offense with Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin can do, and I think the defense is going to be strong. A very talented team if they can ever get it together.

Spoiler: they couldn’t get it together. The Eagles had 10 Pythagorean wins last year and Michael Vick didn’t even play that well in 2011; after a 3-1 start I was on board with the team. Obviously everything came apart for the Eagles. Juan Castillo was a sacrificial lamb but the defense has been in the tank all year — after 50 sacks in 2011 they recorded just 30 in 2012. They ended the year tied with the Jaguars for the third most points allowed. On offense, the Eagles continued their turnover happy ways of 2011, and it looked like the team quit on Andy Reid by around mid-season. Their graph looks like the housing market starting in 2007.

New York Giants
Pre-season Projection: 9.5 wins
Maximum wins: 11 wins (after week 8)
Minimum wins: 9 wins (first after week 1)
Week 1 comment: A nod to how good the Giants were the last month of last season, as a 9-6 record the rest of the way against their schedule is not going to be easy. New York can’t afford any slip-ups.

Most weeks of the season I had the Giants at 9 wins. New York finished the year 9-7 — just like they did last year — but I never once projected them not to finish with a winning record. The Giants schedule always made me skeptical of their ability to have a monster season, but after a 6-2 start I felt compelled to bump them to 11 wins. Hakeem Nicks spent much of the year banged up, and both him and Victor Cruz fell far short of expectations. Eli Manning had a rough season, after it looked like he cemented his reputation as an elite quarterback after winning Super Bowl XLVI.

But the Giants defense deserved to shoulder much of the blame, too. New York finished 31st in yards allowed, and in the bottom five in rushing yards per carry allowed and net yards per attempt allowed. Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck failed to deliver much of a pass rush, and the Giants seem unable to win with any other formula on defense.

Dallas Cowboys
Pre-season Projection: 8.5 wins
Maximum wins: 10 wins (after week 15)
Minimum wins: 8 wins (first after week 4)
Week 1 comment: Nothing really changes about my opinion of Dallas, but banking a road win against New York helps. If Rob Ryan gets this defense together, watch out.

Like the Giants, I kept Dallas in a pretty narrow range all season. It didn’t hurt that the Cowboys didn’t win or lose more than two games in a row until week 15. The Cowboys were consistently in the third tier, far behind the elite teams of the NFL but always capable of playing well in any given week. DeMarco Murray ended up disappointing but Dez Bryant quietly had a monster year.

As has been the case the last few years, the season came down to the final week of the season. Unfortunately for Tony Romo, the result was all too familiar. This seems like another ‘back to the drawing board’ season for Dallas; the Cowboys seem to have the talent to compete but have yet to put it together. It’s hard not to wonder how much of that is on the head coach.

Washington Redskins
Pre-season Projection: 6.5 wins
Maximum wins: 10 wins (after week 16)
Minimum wins: 6 wins (after weeks 2 through 5, 9, and 10)
Week 1 comment: Very intriguing defense and Robert Griffin III was marvelous. The creativity of Mike Shanahan was surprising and impressive; unfortunately, there are still 3 better teams in their division and their schedule is brutal after this week.

The Redskins weren’t a pre-season favorite and then stunned the Saints in week 1. And while it’s easy to think of them as a successful team now, don’t forget that they started off 3-6. My comment that week was short and sweet: The breakout team of 2013. The Redskins always fit the profile of a potential playoff team, thanks to an excellent running game and a very effective passing attack. Now they’re now just a playoff team but a division winner. The stat of the year: Robert Griffin III led the NFL in both yards per attempt and yards per carry. What an amazing season in Washington, Albert Morris delivered a monster performance to lead them into the playoffs.

{ 4 comments }
  • Richie January 1, 2013, 11:36 pm

    One of the interesting things to me is seeing how close the pre-season over/unders generally are. The Eagles and Redskins were real outliers, but 5 of the 8 teams above finished within 2 games of their o/u totals.

    Reply

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