Nate Silver, we need you.
Maybe the statistical swami who nailed the presidential election results beforehand can answer the most pressing debate question heading down the NFL season homestretch.
Who is the league’s best team?
Based solely on the standings, Houston (10-1) and Atlanta (10-1) would lead the pack if the playoffs started today. But there is reason to believe both could begin to fade in December or get eliminated quickly come January.
The Falcons have a recent history of this, losing their opening playoff game all three times in the first four years of Mike Smith’s head coaching tenure. While running away with the NFC South and enjoying a 1½-game lead over San Francisco for the conference’s No. 1 seed, Atlanta isn’t blowing out the competition like other 10-1 teams in the past. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Falcons are the first team since 2006 to win seven games by fewer than seven points.
As for the Texans, injuries are chipping away at what was one of the league’s top defenses. Houston surrendered 791 passing yards and six aerial scores in its past two games against Jacksonville and Detroit. Last month, the Texans were shredded at home in a six-touchdown performance by Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. That doesn’t bode well considering all three of the AFC’s other divisional leaders – Baltimore, New England and Denver – field passing attacks ranked in the Top 11 as well as franchise quarterbacks in Joe Flacco, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
Without the benefit of polls or sabermetrics, here’s my prediction as to how the playoff field will look with five weeks left in the regular season. When I did this for Patriots-Oakland-Raiders-postseason-predictions FOXSports.com last season after Week 10, I nailed the exact seeding for six teams—including the top four NFC spots — and postseason berths for two others. I whiffed on my picks for the other four squads (serves me write for banking on perennial heartbreakers like Dallas and Oakland).
Not 100-percent perfect, but hey—not even Nate Silver was in November. - - Alex Marvez
(AP Photos) Courtesy of FOXSports.comThe opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.