2006 Season Predictions

Yes, I know it's 2007 now. But back in the early weeks of the 2006 NFL season the model I developed could use each team's efficiency stats to predict the team's number of wins. After accounting for strength of opponent, it started to make sense as early as week 2. Teams like Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Diego looked like division winners. By week 5, 7 of the 8 division winners were correctly predicted and 2 of the 4 wildcards were predicted.

Here is how the predicted wins looked after week 4.

The only division winner the model missed was New Orleans, which was actually predicted to win the division by Week 3, but not by Week 4. Still it was close, plus, Atlanta suffered a nearly unprecedented let-down that got their coach fired.

The wildcard predictions are tougher by nature because it's not 4 teams competing for 1 spot, it's usually 6 teams competing for 2. Still, the NFC wildcards were accurately predicted as the Cowboys and Giants. In fact, the model accurately predicted the top to bottom rankings of the NFC-East. I'm not sure how many people thought the Eagles would win the East when the Giants were 6-0 and then Tony Romo caught fire in mid-season. The model predicted too many wins for the NFC-East in total, becuase it could not account for head-to-head match-ups between division members. Obviously, a division is extremely unlikely to produce 4 teams that average 12 wins. But what's important here is the order in which the teams fall within their division.

The AFC wildcard predicitions were incorrect. But remember this was from week 4. Cincinnati would have slipped in if not for a missed extra point in week 16 or a missed short field goal against the Steelers in week 17. Additionally, Denver controlled its own destiny at the end. Had they won at home in week 17 against the 49ers, they would have made the playoffs.

Again, the main purpose of the model is to understand the inner-workings of the game, not to predict outcomes. But by comparing the predictions of the model against actual outcomes, we can qualititatively verify the validity of the model. Besides, predicting winners is fun.

Week 4 was the last week I used this model. Realizing that the model could not take into account head-to-head match-ups, I switched to a game-by-game model.

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