Written by AccuScore Staff
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NFL Season Preview: NFC
The NFL season starts Thursday with an NFC North matchup between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. Based on Week 1 predictions, the home team has an advantage in this game, but Accuscore has simulated every game of the 2019 NFL season 10,000 times to project out which teams will win their divisions and which teams will battle for the conference.
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Chicago bumped up to the division winner after improving their win column from 5 to 12 last season. A trip to the playoffs was short lived, though, as the Bears lost the Wild Card game against the Eagles. This season, the Bears have about 55% probability to reach the playoffs again, but it looks like the Minnesota Vikings will be the team to beat in the division.
Last season was a major disappointment for Minnesota, as the Vikings dropped from Super Bowl contenders with 13 wins to the outside of the playoffs with the record of 8-7-1. Core pieces for Minnesota are still in place, and simulations predict the Vikings will rule the NFC North. Minnesota is 46% to win the division.
The third possible contender for the division title is the Green Bay Packers, who have a new coach and new offensive system. One should never underestimate the boost a new head coach will bring to the team, but the Packers need to outperform the simulations significantly if they want to win the division. The Packers' playoff probability is close to 30%, so by winning few tight games, they should be in the middle of the mix for the Wild Card at least.
The Detroit Lions had a new head coach year ago, but that didn’t boost up the team too much. Results dropped from 9 wins to 6, and the playoffs were naturally a distant hope for Matthew Stafford and company. Accuscore got the projection right last year, and not much has changed in Detroit from last year to this year in the computer's eyes.
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The Philadelphia Eagles have reached the playoffs two years in a row and have won at least one postseason game during these campaigns. Again, they are favorites to win the division and have greater than 60% probability to reach the playoffs for the third time in a row. Last year's winner of the division, the Dallas Cowboys, are projected to have tough time repeating their success. Even with the running back situation cleared up, Dallas is around 37% to reach the playoffs.
Washington and the NY Giants selected new QBs during the first round of the draft in April, which signals that both teams are in the middle of the rebuild, and the expectations shouldn’t be too high for either team. Both teams have below a 10% chances to win the division, and the simulations give them around six wins each during the regular season.
One of the toughest divisions in recent years has been the NFC South. The New Orleans Saints have won it two times in a row, but the Atlanta Falcons as well as the Carolina Panthers have been loaded to challenge them since their visits to the Super Bowls 51 and 50, respectively. However, New Orleans looks to still be the team to beat down south. They have more than an 80% chance to reach the playoffs, and the Saints project to win the division two times out of three.
Atlanta and Carolina will fight for the Wild Card spots. Simulations show that they have around 35% probability for the playoffs. A great deal is dependent on quarterback performances, as a playoff spots most likely requires over 5,000 passing yards from Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and healthy season from Carolina’s Cam Newton.
Bruce Arians came back from retirement in the hopes to guide the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. This season, though, there have significant changes on both sides of the ball, and simulations project Tampa Bay to only have about six wins this season. A playoff appearance would be a big surprise, as the computer calculates only 10% probability for the postseason.
The losers of the last Super Bowl, the Los Angeles Rams, are the clear favorites to repeat in the NFC West. They have over 80% probability for the playoffs, which is one of the highest in the conference. Meanwhile, the odds for the Rams to win the division again are close to 70%. This team’s window of opportunity is right now, and anything short of another run to the NFC Championship would be seen as a major disappointment.
The Seattle Seahawks boosted their roster with a last minute trade with the Houston Texans and acquired pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney. The team has been fighting for its postseason slot every time since its last Super Bowl trip in 2014. This fight continues, as the Seahawks are about 35% to make the playoffs based on Accuscore’s super computer.
San Francisco was a fancy pick for the postseason a year ago, but Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury and tight games that turned against the 49ers resulted only four wins. If Garoppolo stays on the field and produces like many believe he is capable of, San Francisco will improve, but it might still not be enough. Simulations predict that they will take 8 wins and have around 30% probability for the postseason.
Meanwhile, Arizona has a new head coach and new first round draft pick as a QB. The expectations for them shouldn’t be too high, as they are clearly starting the rebuilding process after fighting the inevitable for a few years. Reaching the playoffs would be a major shock, and it is more realistic to aim for 6-7 wins. Right now, AccuSore gives them 5 wins.
The LA Rams and the New Orleans Saints will return to NFC Championship, while Minnesota and Philadelphia are predicted to be the other divisional winners. The Chicago Bears have the best chances of landing the first Wild Card spot, but there is a tight competition between Seattle, Dallas, Green Bay, Atlanta, Carolina and maybe even San Francisco for the last postseason spot.
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