2011 NFL Season Preview

Republican presidential debate, Obama addressing the nation, AND the start of the NFL season. It’s almost too much to handle.

Before we get to any NFL predictions, I’ll make a presidential prediction.  Mitt Romney is going to win the Republican nomination.  I don’t care what Perry’s poll numbers are right now.  I don’t think Republican’s will vote for a guy who’s first google auto-complete term is “gay”.  (Maybe I under-estimate Republican’s tolerance, but then again, maybe I don’t.)

Anyway, I’ve been toying with the idea of simulating the NFL season for a little while now (I did a bit of this last year, later in the season.) This year I’ve done it before any games have been played, so we’ll see how this model works out. it’s a pretty simply model and uses only data from the 2010-2011 regular season and playoffs.  Using that data, I used a logistic regression model to model the probability that one team beats another team.  Then I simulated the upcoming season 5000 times.

Let’s begin with some pictures.  The first has nothing to do with the simulations, but it’s interesting.  It also give me a chance to quote myself.  So, here is a plot of some Chernoff faces based on the final 2010 NFL regular season team statistics.  (I posted about this before here)

My comments from before:

The face represents the offense and the defense is represented by hair. The size of the nose indicates sacks, the ears indicate turnovers (ear width is interceptions; ear height is forced fumbles).  The eyes indicate penalties and, finally, the size of the mouth indicates wins with a smiling face if the team made the playoffs (a really nice touch, if you ask me.)  The face at the bottom right indicates the league leader.

Some observations on the NFL faces:  The two superbowl teams last year (Pittsburgh and Green Bay) are both located at the bottom of the graph and there faces look very, very similar.  San Diego looks similar to to both Green Bay and Pittsburgh (similar face, nose, eyes, and hair), but the big differences are the ears and, of course, the San Diego face is frowning.  Another thing that pops out at me is how similar Houston and New England look to each other.  They have very similar face shape, eyes, and hair.  The big differences are the nose and ears (sacks and turnovers).

Here is a graph with 32 side by side boxplots representing each of the NFL teams.  Each boxplot displays the distribution of the predicted number of wins for each team.  The teams are in order of the SITW power ranking (which means it’s mostly made up).  I have also included a red W for how many wins the team had last year, a green dollar sign for the over-under betting line, and a blue P indicating whether or not the team made the playoffs last year.

Now it’s time for my Super Bowl favorites table.  The first column lists the team, the second column lists the my predicted odds to win the 2012 Super Bowl, and column three displays my predicted probability of each team making the playoffs.  One interesting thing to note in the first couple lines of this table is that Pittsburgh is more likely to win the Super Bowl than Baltimore, but Baltimore is more likely to make it to the playoffs than Pittsburgh.  This is a result of the NFL scheduling system.  Pittsburgh and Baltimore share the exact same schedule except for two games.  Those two differing games for Pittsburgh are New England and Kansas City whereas those two games for Baltimore are the New York Jets and the San Diego Chargers.  So what is happening is that because Pittsburgh has the chance to play New England in the regular season, in the simulations, when they do make it to the playoffs, they are most often making the playoffs as a 1 seed.  Baltimore is making the playoffs more often, but they are rarely (relative to Pittsburgh) simulated to be a 1 seed.  Remember, this table is ordered by odds that a team wins the Super Bowl; it’s not ordered best to worst team.

 Team S.B. XLVI Odds  Prob(Make Playoffs)
 New England  6.8  .7018
 Pittsburgh  9.4  .6402
 Atlanta  10  .7164
 Baltimore  11  .7156
 New York Jets  14  .5352
 Chicago  16  .5842
 Green Bay  16  .5402
 Tampa Bay  21  .4636
 Philadelphia  21  .449
 New York Giants  24  .4294
 New Orleans  28  .393
 Indianapolis  37  .4328
 Miami  46  .3174
 Seattle  60  .3512
 San Diego  60  .3254
 Kansas City  63  .3596
 Minnesota  64  .2902
 Detroit  69  .3082
 Jacksonville  75  .2952
 Dallas  76  .2678
 Oakland  78  .3274
Washington  88  .2438
Cincinnati  99  .2514
Cleveland  103  .2538
St. Louis  105  .2916
Tennessee  108  .2872
Buffalo  131  .208
San Francisco  146  .2826
Arizona  160  .2732
Houston  160  .2048
Denver  216  .1442
Carolina  555  .1156

Below are some over-under bets that I like.  It seems like a lot of times forget that they are betting on the NFL. Every single team can beat every other team (See Miami beating New England as 13.5 point underdogs a few years ago.) Betters over value good teams and under value bad teams.  My two favorite bets here are Green Bay and Cincinnati.  Green Bay had a great run through the playoffs last year, but they still only won 10 regulars season games in 2010.  Add that to the fact that Aaron Rodgers is a concussion waiting to happen and winning 12 games seems like a difficult task.  Cincinnati has been blessed by the scheduling gods.  Not only did they finish fourth in their division last year earning them games against Denver and Buffalo they have also drawn the NFC west division giving them games against Arizona, Seattle, San Francisco, and St. Louis.  Then add to that two games against Cleveland and it’s not to hard to see 6+ wins in their future.  And think about this, they start their season Cleveland, Denver, San Francisco, and Buffalo.  Is it that far fetched that they start 4-0?  (Yes, it is that far fetched.  Just saying is all….)

Team Bet Odds
Green Bay  Under 11.5  -145
 San Diego  Under 10  +115
 Minnesota  Under 10  +110
 Houston  Under 9  +145
 Philadelphia Under 10.5  +120
 Dallas Under 9  -120
 Cincinnati Over 5.5  +135
 Carolina Over 4.5  even
 Seattle Over 6  +125
 Buffalo Over 5.5  -135
 Oakland Over 6.5  +110
New England Under 11.5 -110

Other bets that intrigue me.

Team Bet Odds
 Seattle  Win Division +900
 Oakland  Win Division +700
 Chicago  Win Division +600
 Washington  Win Division +2000
 Minnesota  Win Division +1200
 Kansas City  Win Division +500
 Baltimore AFC Champs +900
 Atlanta NFC Champs +600
 Tampa Bay NFC Champs +1500
 Seattle NFC Champs +4500
 Chicago NFC Champs +2000
 Washington NFC Champs +4500
 Atlanta Super Bowl Champs +1200
 Seattle Super Bowl Champs +8000
 Tampa Bay Super Bowl Champs +3000
 Baltimore Super Bowl Champs +2000
 Chicago Super Bowl Champs +4000

And finally, let’s make some predictions that will ultimately prove to be way off.  But it is fun to try here is what the playoffs will look like.

The AFC.

Team Seed Mean wins
 New England  1  10.116
 Pittsburgh  2  9.88
 Indianapolis  3  8.1634
 Kansas City  4  7.7488
 Baltimore  5  9.648
 New York Jets  6  9.3434

I know, I know.  It’s boring and it’s exactly the same as last years AFC playoff teams down to the seeds.  But wait until you see my NFC picks!


Team Seed Mean wins
 Atlanta  1  9.4892
 Chicago  2  8.9044
 Philadelphia  3  8.5046
 Seattle  4  7.6006
 Green Bay  5  8.8728
 Tampa Bay  6  8.7434

Ok.  Those weren’t that exciting either.  At least I made a stand with Tampa Bay, right?

And now for my Super Bowl prediction.  Based solely on the numbers I am taking new England over Atlanta.  That’s wicked boring though.  So my gut is taking Tampa Bay over Baltimore 21-20.  And I’m still picking Mitt Romney.


Posted on September 8, 2011, in Sports. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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