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2011 Final NFL Standings, Playoff Predictions

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Jonathan Bales

Last year, I correctly predicted in the preseason that the Packers would win the Super Bowl.  The rest of my final record predictions were average, down from a 2009 year when my preseason predictions included correctly forecasting the final record within one game for 19 of the 32 teams and not missing on any team’s final record by more than three games.  I also correctly predicted 10 of the 12 playoff teams.

I say this not to toot my own horn, but to provide evidence that I’m the sh*t in terms of preseason predictions (horn toot?).  I do not subscribe to the theory that one must predict six new teams to make the playoffs simply because that has been the average over the last 20 years or so.  I wrote an entire article on the subject of predicting playoff teams, and here is a snippet of my thoughts:

While it is a virtual certainty that some (and often times, many) different teams will make the playoffs in a given season, I disagree with the notion that it is rational to displace a talented team with a mediocre one in one’s playoff predictions simply to accommodate the “six new teams will make the playoffs” trend.

The reasoning is simple.  For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that all of the playoff teams from last season really do have a 50 percent chance of making the playoffs again this year, while the non-playoff teams have a 30 percent chance of making it (which would be the case if 12 teams are each a coin flip).  We’ll label last year’s playoff teams as P1, P2. . .P12, and last year’s non-playoff clubs as N1, N2. . .N20.

Which group of 12 teams is the most likely to make the playoffs in 2010?  It is actually the same group as last season (in this hypothetical example).  Of course, the chance of that exact group of 12 making it again is incredibly small. . .but that isn’t a reason to not predict it will happen.

The reason is that, while we can be fairly certain the group of playoff teams will contain some newcomers, we don’t know which newcomers it will be, and we don’t know which teams they’ll replace.  To predict that a team with a 30 percent chance of making the playoffs will do so at the expense of a team with a 50 percent chance is simply bad math.

Let’s say you have a lopsided die that is just slightly weighted toward the number ‘six.’  Numbers one through five have a 16 percent chance of showing up on any given roll, while the number six has a 20 percent chance of coming up.

Now, let’s say you must predict the outcome of 100 future rolls of the die.  What would you choose?  Nearly everybody I know would select some “random” combination of numbers, perhaps with slightly more of the number six to account for the slight increase in likelihood of it coming up.

That prediction would be wrong, however.  The most likely scenario (as compared to all specific alternatives) is that the number six comes up all 100 times.  Even though you could roll the die your entire life and never see the number six come up even 25 straight times, much less 100, that is the statistically correct prediction.

People have a tough time believing this because the chances of six not coming up, at least once, are a lock.  Why bet against certainty?  The answer is because we aren’t betting that six won’t come up 100 straight times, but rather we are asked to predict a very specific combination of numbers.  If we were asked to predict whether the die will show either six or ‘one through five,’ we’d obviously choose the latter, but we aren’t making vague forecasts.

The same is true in predicting playoff football teams.  While teams obviously change from year-to-year and randomness has its affect on seasonal outcomes, the fact that the most likely group of 12 playoff teams is the 12 best teams (or the best in each division and the next two best in each conference, to be exact) is statistically irrefutable.

So will I pick the same 12 teams from last year in my 2010 predictions?  Nope, because one season isn’t nearly a large enough sample size to determine a team’s level of talent.  In fact, in any given season, the chances of the 12 best teams actually making the playoffs are almost zero.

Having sufficiently bored you, here are my forecasts for the 2011 season:

NFC

East
1. Philadelphia (11-5)
2. Dallas (10-6)
3. New York (8-8)
4. Washington (3-13)

North
1. Green Bay (11-5)
2. Detroit (9-7)
3. Chicago (7-9)
4. Minnesota (7-9)

South
1. Atlanta (12-4)
2. New Orleans (10-6)
3. Tampa Bay (7-9)
4. Carolina (4-12)

West
1. St. Louis (9-7)
2. Arizona (8-8)
3. San Fransisco (7-9)
4. Seattle (7-9)

AFC

East
1. New England (12-4)
2. New York (10-6)
3. Miami (6-10)
4. Buffalo (5-11)

North
1. Pittsburgh (10-6)
2. Baltimore (10-6)
3. Cleveland (5-11)
4. Cincinnatti (3-13)

South
1. Houston (10-6)
2. Tennessee (8-8)
3. Indianapolis (8-8)
4. Jacksonville (5-11)

West
1. San Diego (12-4)
2. Kansas City (9-7)
3. Oakland (8-8)
4. Denver (4-12)

Playoffs
NFC

Green Bay over Dallas
New Orleans over St. Louis

Atlanta over New Orleans
Green Bay over Philadelphia

Atlanta over Green Bay

AFC
1. New England
2. San Diego
3. Pittsburgh
4. Houston
5. Baltimore
6. New York

Pittsburgh over New York
Houston over Baltimore

New England over Houston
San Diego over Pittsburgh

San Diego over New England

Super Bowl: San Diego over Atlanta

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7 Responses to 2011 Final NFL Standings, Playoff Predictions

  1. Omar says:

    Yeah, I don’t really disagree a whole whole lot. Mine are:

    NFC East:

    Philly
    Dallas
    New York
    Washington

    NFC North:

    Green Bay
    Detroit
    Chicago
    Minnesota

    NFC South:

    New Orleans
    Atlanta
    Tampa
    Carolina

    NFC West:

    St. Louis
    Arizona
    Seattle
    San Francisco

    AFC East:

    New England
    New York
    Buffalo
    Miami

    AFC North:

    Pittsburgh
    Baltimore
    Cleveland
    Cincinnati

    AFC South

    Indy
    Houston
    Tennessee
    Jacksonville

    AFC West:

    San Diego
    Kansas City
    Oakland
    Denver

    While I disagree about Indy/Houston, I am willing to admit that as of now it could go either way. My Super Bowl is Baltimore over New Orleans. I can see San Diego but Norv’s got a bit of Wade Phillips underperforming in him, so that’s out. If New England gets Moss back I’ll take them to win it all.

  2. Vince_Grey says:

    JB- For the most part, I like your individual divisional picks, except Philly over Dallas. I like Garrett to have this team playing better/harder than it has in some time and I have little faith in Vick over 16 games. And Atlanta over the Saints. Look for the Saints to rebound BIG. Atlanta in the SB? With that defense? You really drinking that Julio Jones kool-aid? How many rookie receivers make a team a SB squad? None.

    San Diego is an interesting pick. Could happen, but Norv does not wow me as a head coach. Great O-coordinator though. Thinking more along the lines of Jets myself.

    NFC

    East – Dallas
    North – Green Bay
    South – New Orleans
    West – St Louis

    Wild Cards – Atlanta, Tampa Bay

    NFC Championship – New Orleans over Dallas

    AFC

    East – NY Jets
    North – Baltimore
    South – Houston
    West – San Diego

    Wild Cards – New England, Pittsburg

    AFC Championship – Jets over Ravens

    SB – Saints over Jets

  3. Omar says:

    Meh, fuck it. I’m changing things.

    Everything stays the same, by the way my WC teams were Dallas and Atlanta in the NFC (obviously) and Pittsburgh and New York in the AFC.

    I’m picking the Cowboys to win it all. Fuck the Eagles, Fuck the Saints, Fuck the Packers, and fuck the entire AFC. Red’s bringing it home this year.

  4. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    AFC Playoffs:

    Baltimore over Houston 12 – 3
    Pittsburgh over Kansas City 21-10

    San Diego and New England have 1st round byes

    Then, Pittsburgh over San Diego 28 – 6
    Baltimore over New England 17-14 (OT)

    Baltimore over Pittsburgh 17 – 12 = Baltimore represents AFC in SB

    NFC Playoffs:

    Arizona over Philly (Vick will be hurt) 38 – 30
    New Orleans over Detroit 21 – 9

    Atlanta and Chicago have 1st round byes

    Then, Atlanta over New Orleans 41-14
    Chicago over Arizona 19 -14

    Atlanta over Chicago 31 – 9 = Atlanta represents NFC in SB

    Atlanta over Baltimore 27-12.

    BTW – Dallas will be 7-9 (not trying to be a hater, just more realistic w/ the lack of experience along the O line, the “new” defense and the injuries to Newman, Jenkins, FJ, at least one other TE/WR/DL/LB…)

  5. chris stallcup says:

    right now dallas is an 8-8 team until i see them play

  6. Jonny Danger says:

    I am far more optimistic. This offensive line finally impresses me and we are not the only team in the league with inexperienced and young players starting. I see no reason not to believe in this team. Other then the every year Powerhouse Teams No other team is better then Dallas in my eyes. We still have a very high powered offense people and this defense will only get better as the year moves along. 7-9 just makes my stomach turn and I just can’t believe that’s all JG and RR are capable of accomplishing with these guys.

    Maybe this year will be a lot like the 91′ season and everything falls perfectly into place next year and we go on to establish ourselves as “Americas Team” once again. But come onnnn! 7-9 8-8 pff! 10-6 11-5 is more then capable of achieving.

  7. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    CS, I don’t think I understand your viewpoint so humor me for a moment…

    Is there such as thing, in your eyes, as a BETTER option or competitor? Can you delineate the differences between, say Rex Grossman and Tom Brady? Yes, they play on different teams with different players, yes they are part of different schemes and have different coaching but if you were able to make everything equal (same players surrounding them, same coaching, etc.) – who would you say is better?

    I don’t know about you, but Brady is better IMO. He just is. He’s more accurate in his passing. He displays better leadership to his team. He reads defenses at a quicker rate and is able to discern the best option more efficiently. But most important, he is better at executing whatever action he determines is needed for the given situation. That’s what most people use to determine which person is better at the position of QB.

    So, let’s say a competition is devised where both Rex and Tom go out and are required to perform different throws. Throws at moving targets, throws at stationary targets at 10, 30 and 50 yards. Throws at targets while the QB is required to scramble (move around) left and right. And many other throws – lets’ say 100 in all. I’m sure out of that 100, Rex would perform better than Tom on at least a few. But, I’d be very surprised if Tom wasn’t significantly better.

    Now, throw in the stochastic nature of all the moving parts which is football (reading defenses, avoiding an actual pass rush, etc.) and make all the same throws. Add crowd noise, audibles, weather and wind conditions, whatever and I’d bet money that Tom looks a WHOLE lot better than Rex on the same throws now.

    Point I’m making, is that I understand your argument about Dallas being a .500 team, but that can’t really be true when you add up all the factors they are starting the year with. Their offensive line might end up being the best in football but common sense tells us that they lack the actual playing experience that would be expected. There are 2 rookies starting and/or backing up the starter. Doug Free is in his 5th year and Kosier is actually about in his prime (maybe a lil older). If you were to compare that line to one like, say the Steelers, you can see the obvious differences. The expectations of the level of play for the Dallas line and the Steelers line should be different. Not saying we give the Dallas line a pass – just saying they shouldn’t be expected to play at a level as high.

    So, I really don’t get how you see Dallas as an 8-8 team until you see them play. Are the Patriots an 8-8 team? Are the Panthers?

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