Austin Mock projects the score for every game and the final win percentage for every team using his NFL betting model. The model phases out older data and uses data from this year as the season progresses. The simulation then runs 100,000 times after each day of games to give us, in this case, our projected top-10 draft order plus each team’s projected win total and playoff chances.
How does that projected top 10 look after Week 2 of the NFL season?
Projected top 10 (as of Sept. 19)
A few thoughts on this week’s projections:
1. Welcome to the top 10, Jets
Apparently, Mock’s model did not like what it saw from Robert Saleh’s team in a 20-point loss at Dallas. With QB Zach Wilson back in the starting lineup, facing what might be the NFL’s top defense, the Jets never found any footing on offense — save for a 68-yard Wilson-to-Garrett Wilson touchdown pass.
The biggest issue, as The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt noted: the O-line. From Rosenblatt’s postgame coverage:
Well, the Jets have been trying to fix the offensive line for a long time. Left tackle Duane Brown undoubtedly struggled against the Cowboys. Pro Football Focus credited Brown with four pressures, two hits and one sack in 36 pass-blocking snaps. He was bad against Dallas, but he wasn’t exactly being put in position to succeed against the NFL’s most dynamic pass rusher. The Jets rarely gave him help — double teams, chip blocks, anything — and so Micah Parsons feasted.
Perhaps a bit of good news for Jets fans is that our draft guru, Dane Brugler, had three offensive tackles among his preseason top 10 draft prospects: Penn State’s Olu Fashanu, Georgia’s Amarius Mims (who’s out four to six weeks with an ankle injury) and Alabama’s JC Latham.
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2. Welcome to the top 10, Vikings
Interesting one here, because the Vikings are off to a rough 0-2 start — their 34-28 Thursday night loss in Philadelphia was one of those “not as close as the score suggests” jobs — but(!) Mock’s model still gives them a 24.4-percent chance of making the playoffs. That’s the highest number for any team in this week’s top 10. Given Minnesota’s paltry projected win total of 7.4, the explanation probably lies within the NFC North’s early struggles.
The North went 0-4 in Week 2, with all four setbacks coming against NFC opponents (Green Bay lost in Atlanta, Detroit lost in OT to Seattle, Chicago got pushed around by Tampa Bay). Our projections still like the division to claim two spots among the seven-team conference playoff field — the Packers (9.1 projected wins) still have a 61.3-percent postseason shot; Detroit (9.1) is at 57.1 percent. But even at 0-2, the Vikings have held onto a 14.6-percent likelihood of winning the division.
Like the Jets, any 2023 Vikings turnaround will have to start up front. Kevin O’Connell’s club has been putrid when it runs the ball, and D’Andre Swift just gashed the defense for 175 yards on 28 carries.
3. A step forward for the Colts
At this time last week, Indianapolis sat No. 4 in our projected draft order at 6.5 wins. After Sunday’s 31-20 win in Houston, the Colts have moved to No. 7, their projected win total is now 7.1, and they’ve helped their playoff chances (15.3 percent, up from 9.1). Are you buying the mini-turnaround?
The next four weeks will be telling. The Colts face a very difficult Week 3 test at Baltimore, before hosting the Rams and Titans in Weeks 4 and 5, respectively. They’ll close the stretch with a trip to Jacksonville.
Considering last season’s 4-12-1 finish, Indianapolis probably would be more than satisfied to come out of those games sitting at 3-3 overall. Anything better, and the Colts can start to dream. Worse, and these 2024 draft stories start to carry a lot more immediate relevance.
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One thing’s for certain, though: Rookie QB Anthony Richardson has to stay healthy. He suffered a concussion in Sunday’s game, after leaving Indianapolis’ Week 1 loss early with a leg injury. From The Athletic’s James Boyd:
The 21-year-old grew up idolizing Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson, who were Heisman Trophy winners and NFL MVPs, but they’ve both dealt with significant injuries. Newton’s career was shortened because of it, while Jackson hasn’t played more than 12 games in a season since 2020.
They learned the hard way about trying to be Superman and succumbing to the kryptonite of unnecessary hits.
It’s not too late for someone to tug on Richardson’s cape.
4. Which direction are the Giants headed?
In our post-Week 1 projections, the Giants held pick No. 7 and a 17.2-percent chance of reaching the playoffs. Post-Week 2, after their rally from 21 down to beat Arizona, the Giants … hold pick No. 6 and a 14.5-percent playoff chance. Subtracting Saquon Barkley from the lineup will do that, but New York also has this four-game run ahead of it starting Thursday night: at San Francisco, Seattle, at Miami, at Buffalo.
It’s early, but not too early to suggest that could be a season-defining portion of the schedule. As is, the Giants are the only team in the NFC East with a loss, and both the Cowboys (11.9 projected wins, 13.4-percent chance of winning the Super Bowl) and Eagles (11.8 wins, 11.8-percent Super Bowl shot) already have established themselves as clear contenders.
There isn’t any margin for error in the NFC East right now, so the Giants can’t afford to slip in the wild-card race, too.
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5. Could the top four hold?
It would be wild and unprecedented if it did — the Cardinals (by virtue of owning Houston’s initial Round 1 selection) securing the first and second picks of the draft, and the Bears (by virtue of owning Carolina’s Round 1 selection) sitting at Nos. 3 and 4.
If anything, Week 2 made it more likely we could see that result. The now 0-2 Bears’ win total dropped from 6.0 a week ago to 4.8, the Texans from 5.9 to 4.7, and the Panthers from 6.5 to 5.8.
How drastically would it change the outlooks of the Cardinals and Bears franchises if Arizona landed, say, Caleb Williams and Marvin Harrison Jr., or Chicago walked out of Round 1 with Olu Fashanu and either a Justin Fields replacement or an elite pass rusher like Dallas Turner/Jared Verse? A light at the end of the tunnel.
(Top photo of Zach Wilson: Richard Rodriguez / Getty Images)
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