On Thursday, ESPN released what they call their “Football Power Index rankings” for the 2017 NFL season. These rankings are created based on combining calculated efficiency on offense, defense and special teams. ESPN then uses those metrics to simulate each game of the NFL season 10,000 times and formulate power rankings and predicted records for the 2017 season.
In other words, it’s ESPN’s predictive model that uses way-too-early statistics to spit out extremely premature predictions. But, hey, it’s the offseason, what else is there to talk about?
According to ESPN’s FPI rankings, the Lions are projected as the 20th-best team in the league, ranking them 11th in the conference and third in the NFC North.
The Green Bay Packers, who have the No. 2 ranked offense according to their metrics, are listed as the second-best team in ESPN’s power rankings. Filling out the division, the Vikings (13th) are second in the North, while the Bears (28th) continue to occupy the basement.
In addition to power rankings, FPI allows ESPN to calculate projected win/loss records based on those game simulations. According to those calculations, the Lions fare even worse, finishing with an average of 7.5 wins and 8.5 losses. That prediction ranks 23rd overall.
The reasoning for an even worse ranking despite a marginally better power ranking is because of Detroit’s difficult schedule. The Lions have the 11th-hardest schedule according to ESPN’s metrics, and the fifth-hardest in the entire NFC.
As a result, ESPN is giving the Lions just a 24.6 percent chance of making the playoffs, with just a 12.9 percent chance to win their first NFC North division title.
But worry not, Lions fans, because ESPN’s FPI predictions were pretty far off last year. They gave Detroit just a 16.9 percent chance to make the playoffs, with a projected win total of just 6.9. The Lions managed to beat the small playoff odds by making the postseason for the third time in six years, and posted two more wins than the prediction model spit out.
While all of these projection models we’ll see in the upcoming months should be taken with a grain of salt, it is nice to see that Detroit’s preseason predictions are trending upwards, ever so slightly. Who knows? Maybe by 2025, some advanced analytics will actually favor a Detroit Lions NFC North crown.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, ESPN is giving the Lions a 0.6 percent chance to win Super Bowl LII.