Seth Walder, ESPN AnalyticsMight 22, 2023, 06:50 AM ET
The defending Tremendous Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are the No. 1 workforce in ESPN’s Football Power Index rankings for the 2023 NFL season. However apparently, the mannequin truly views the Philadelphia Eagles — who misplaced to the Chiefs within the title sport final season — because the Tremendous Bowl favourite. It is a results of the huge distinction in high quality between the NFL’s two conferences: The AFC is loaded with expertise, whereas the NFC seems to have only some contenders, paving the way in which for Philly.
For the uninitiated, the Soccer Energy Index — generally known as the FPI — is our rating and projection model for NFL groups. Within the preseason, the mannequin’s predictive scores are primarily based considerably on win totals from Caesars Sportsbook and energy of schedule, together with components reminiscent of previous workforce efficiency and returning starters. We use workforce scores to simulate the season 1000’s of instances, creating our projections, which replace each day in the course of the season. Recreation predictions are additionally knowledgeable by components reminiscent of journey, relaxation differential and modifications at beginning quarterback.
Let’s take a more in-depth have a look at the preliminary 2023 scores, together with storylines rising from these numbers.
Ratings | Super Bowl | Tight divisions
Schedule strength | Surprises | Draft order
Chiefs at No. 1 total
Who else, actually, might be No. 1? Offense is extra secure year-to-year than protection, and the Chiefs led the league in anticipated factors added per play final season by a large margin. They’re additionally returning their two most necessary substances in Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. Offensively, they’re simply too good, and that alone is sufficient to put the Tremendous Bowl champs again atop the league to start this coming season.
After Kansas Metropolis, the sample holds — the Buffalo Bills and Eagles had been the 2 next-best groups in offensive EPA per play final season, they usually rank Nos. 2 and three right here, respectively. (The Detroit Lions, who ranked fourth within the class, are eleventh in FPI due to a a lot weaker protection and maybe much less confidence in Jared Goff repeating his glorious 2022 marketing campaign.)
The Cincinnati Bengals are fourth in FPI ranking, as they return their key offensive triumvirate of Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. Cincy has additionally added Orlando Brown Jr. at left sort out to shore up its greatest weak spot. Rounding out the highest 5 are the San Francisco 49ers. Regardless of a scarcity of readability at quarterback with Brock Purdy recovering from elbow surgical procedure, their roster and Kyle Shanahan’s offensive playcalling are robust sufficient to justify a excessive ranking.
Eagles to the Tremendous Bowl?
The median AFC playoff workforce in our simulations is roughly 2.4 factors per sport higher than the median NFC playoff workforce. That is an enormous cause Philadelphia leads Kansas Metropolis in Tremendous Bowl probabilities, 14% to 13%. The Chiefs additionally face fairly the gauntlet of a schedule within the common season — second hardest within the league, based on FPI — which dampens their projections regardless of being the most effective workforce in soccer by virtually a full level. The 49ers, Payments and Bengals spherical out the highest 5, whereas the Dallas Cowboys are the one different workforce above 5% (7%).
That the Eagles are the favorites at simply 14% is a sign that this season is a bit more broad open than most. FPI has made preseason predictions going again to 2015, and 14% is the second lowest for a favourite we have had in that point interval. The 2016 Packers had been simply 12% favorites (lowest), whereas the 2017 Patriots had been at 32%, the strongest by an enormous margin. (We have altered the mannequin a couple of instances in that interval, so it isn’t a direct apples-to-apples comparability.)
Tight races in NFC South, NFC North and AFC East
Three divisions emerged from the projections as particularly shut. The woebegone NFC South won’t have a ton going for it in 2023 — each workforce ranks twenty second or worse within the FPI — however it is rather a lot up for grabs. The New Orleans Saints, with new quarterback Derek Carr on the helm, are the projected winners however at simply 42% — the shortest favorites in any division. The Atlanta Falcons (29%), Carolina Panthers (22%) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9%) observe, every with a minimum of a possible path to the division title. However each NFC South workforce has a imply projected win whole below 9.
Over within the NFC North, the Lions are 43% favorites. Though the Minnesota Vikings received the division final season with 13 wins, and the Lions missed the playoffs with 9, there’s proof that Detroit was — and is — the higher workforce. It had the next factors differential (plus-26) than Minnesota (minus-3) a 12 months in the past, and the Lions ranked fourth in EPA per play on offense (Minnesota was fifteenth). The Vikings have a 29% shot on the division, with the Chicago Bears (16%) and Green Bay Packers (12%) lurking behind.
The AFC East can also be tight, however for a extra compelling cause. All the division ranks within the high half of the FPI’s rankings. Buffalo, which boasts the second-highest FPI ranking within the league, has solely a 44% shot to win the division as a result of the New York Jets (25%) and Miami Dolphins (22%) pose official threats. Due to the energy of the division, the New England Patriots have simply an 8% likelihood to win regardless of being the Sixteenth-best workforce within the league within the mannequin’s view.
Right here come the Jets!
It is wonderful what Aaron Rodgers (and a robust protection) can do for a workforce. The Jets are sixth within the scores and have a win whole of 9.5 (however it’s shaded towards the over and comes regardless of a tough schedule). They ranked fifth in EPA per play on protection final season however twenty ninth on offense. Clearly, the expectation is that issues will change considerably with a Corridor of Fame quarterback.
Now, the excessive ranking doesn’t suggest the Jets’ projections are all that robust. We’re speaking a couple of workforce with a 25% likelihood to win the division and a 4% shot at profitable the Tremendous Bowl. That is the schedule, energy of the division and convention speaking. The Jets can concurrently be workforce and have a troublesome street to success, which is what the FPI is suggesting. Nonetheless, I did not suppose New York was a lock to be forward of the Dolphins, and it is a good signal for the Jets that the numbers fell that method.
That is the FPI’s ninth season making preseason projections, and it’s the first time the Jets have even a 1% likelihood to win the Tremendous Bowl — not to mention 4% — getting into the season.
Patriots face the NFL’s hardest schedule
Everybody is aware of measuring energy of schedule by the earlier season’s win share is deeply flawed. The Bengals are actually a extra formidable opponent than the Vikings, for instance, despite the fact that Minnesota received extra video games final 12 months. Utilizing the FPI, we will get a lot nearer to a real measure of schedule energy as a result of it is opponents primarily based on their forecasted energy. And when it runs the numbers, there’s one workforce that stands proud with the hardest schedule: the Patriots.
It in all probability should not be a lot of a shock, as the opposite three groups within the AFC East all sit within the high 9 of the FPI and the Patriots should face all of them twice. Plus, New England squares off towards each members in final 12 months’s Tremendous Bowl.
On the different finish of the spectrum are the Saints, who’ve the best slate within the NFL. New Orleans will get the advantage of enjoying within the weak NFC South and does not face a single workforce within the FPI’s high 10 your complete season.
Is Sean Payton the Broncos’ savior?
Contemporary off an completely disappointing 2022 marketing campaign that resulted in a not-even-one-and-done for Nathaniel Hackett, the Denver Broncos‘ FPI ranking appears … surprisingly optimistic? Russell Wilson continues to be at quarterback, however Payton is in as the brand new coach, and based on the mannequin, the Broncos might be fairly respectable in 2023. Denver ranks thirteenth in FPI, is projected for 8.4 wins and, regardless of enjoying within the AFC, is getting a 34% likelihood to succeed in the playoffs.
Nevertheless it’s not simply Payton. There’s plenty of expertise on the Broncos. The protection ranked eighth in EPA per play final season, and Wilson was top-10 in QBR simply two years in the past. Plus, the workforce has an awfully robust receiving group — Jerry Jeudy‘s receiver tracking metrics counsel he broke out greater than his 972 receiving yards final season may point out — and added to an already robust offensive line this offseason. The large concern stays Wilson, but when he can determine it out, there’s fairly a bit to love in Denver.
FPI shopping for new eras for Lions, Jaguars
On the heels of robust 2022 campaigns, the FPI is in on the hype across the Lions (No. 11) and Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 12). For the Lions, the information is even higher. Because the fourth-best workforce within the weak NFC, Detroit has a 65% likelihood to succeed in the playoffs and a 4% shot to win the Tremendous Bowl — seventh highest amongst all groups. The Jaguars’ projections aren’t a lot worse as a result of they play in a weak division, which truly offers them a barely larger likelihood to succeed in the playoffs (67%) and nonetheless a 3% shot to win the Tremendous Bowl.
Each groups have proven confirmed success on offense with their present quarterbacks, as each ranked within the high 10 in EPA per play final season. Goff ranked fifth in QBR final season for Detroit, whereas Trevor Lawrence ranked fifteenth (however was burdened with a poor offensive line and a weak broad receiver room that has since added Calvin Ridley).
Cardinals’ inside observe to No. 1 draft choose
Even with out the commerce with the Texans, who chosen Will Anderson Jr., the Arizona Cardinals would have been the favorites to land the No. 1 choose within the 2024 draft, based on the FPI. The Cardinals’ personal choice has an 18% likelihood to be the No. 1 choose. However proper behind them are the Houston Texans at 13%. The Cardinals personal Houston’s choose, because of the Texans’ draft-day transfer as much as No. 3 to draft Anderson. In different phrases, earlier than enjoying a down this 12 months, the Cardinals have a 31% shot on the No. 1 choice in 2024. These two picks have a 57% and 46% likelihood to be within the high 5, respectively, as properly.
It is not a shock to see Arizona because the workforce more than likely to have the fewest wins. With Kyler Murray‘s well being standing up within the air, the workforce appears prone to begin Colt McCoy at quarterback and has holes on the roster.
The Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams — sure, the Rams truly management their very own first-round choose subsequent 12 months — are the three subsequent more than likely groups to earn that No. 1 choice.