Zwiller: Rams to win Super Bowl
Thomas Zwiller | Friday, September 3, 2021
At the time I am writing this, it is almost exactly a week away from the 8:20 kick-off of Cowboys @ Buccaneers on NBC. Football. Is. Back. And with the return of football comes the return of the ZLO Model.
For those who did not read my columns last year, the ZLO Model is an algorithm I created to predict the outcome of a given football game and the eventual Super Bowl Champion. The Model did pretty well, indicating the correct result of games at a 70% clip. 538’s ELO model picked at a 64% clip.
Well, I spent the summer advancing the model a bit, adding in a Monte Carlo Simulator as a way of seeing the average result of a season as opposed to just one given outcome. I also used ESPN and CBS fantasy projections as a way to predict how teams would do.
Well, the results are in, and boy, are they surprising.
The Buffalo Bills taking the AFC East division was not at all surprising to me. Based on last year’s performance, the Bills should be an offensive powerhouse. The Patriots being only slightly above .500 was somewhat unexpected, but it makes sense when you consider they are starting a rookie quarterback. The real surprise to me was the Dolphins being sub .500 despite having the most promising defense; their offense is not up to scratch.
Buffalo Bills: 12.3-4.7
New England Patriots: 9.3-7.7
Miami Dolphins 7.5-9.5
New York Jets 3.8-13.2
The AFC North is a division I could see falling to the Steelers, Browns, or the Ravens. In the majority of the simulations, the Steelers win the division, but the Browns are in the mix just as much. The Ravens are right there, but the loss of Dobbins last week did hurt them. The Bengals will progress in their rebuild if Burrow can stay upright.
Pittsburgh Steelers: 10.4-6.6
Cleveland Browns: 9.3-7.7
Baltimore Ravens: 7.9-9.1
Cincinnati Bengals: 7-10
The AFC South is an incredibly close two-team race between the Titans and Colts. The difference? WR Julio Jones, who the Titans were able to acquire from the Falcons in the offseason. Jones, WR A.J. Brown and RB Derrick Henry are a great trio and give QB Ryan Tannehill plenty of weapons to work with. The Jaguars and Texans are both rebuilding, so don’t expect much from them.
Tennesse Titans: 10-7
Indianapolis Colts: 8.7-8.3
Jacksonville Jaguars: 6.8-10.2
Houston Texans: 4.4-12.6
If you were expecting something different from the AFC West, you are going to be sorely disappointed. The Chiefs should run away with the division en route to another deep playoff run. The Chargers, Raiders, and Broncos are all going to finish with respectable .500 records.
K.C. Chiefs: 11.3-5.7
L.A. Chargers: 9-7
Denver Broncos: 7.4-9.6
L.V. Raiders 7.3-9.7
The most significant change from last season for the NFC East is that the winner will have a winning record. A low bar, to be sure, but one I expect the Cowboys to clear, and quite possibly the Washington Football Team. I think the Model is a little bit high on the Eagles and low on the Giants, and I expect the records to be a little closer than projected.
Dallas Cowboys: 11.6-5.4
Washington Football Team: 8.5-8.5
Philadelphia Eagles: 8.3-8.7
N.Y. Giants: 5.6-11.4
For Packers fans expecting Aaron Rodgers to have another MVP caliber season, I am sorry to disappoint. ESPN and CBS both have the star QB falling back to earth. Don’t shoot the messenger. The Minnesota Vikings should be in the mix for a playoff spot, bouncing back from last year’s disappointing season. The Bears and Lions get to battle it out for third. Oh my.
Green Bay Packers: 10.5-6.5
Minnesota Vikings: 9-8
Chicago Bears: 6-11
Detroit Lions: 5.6-11.4
As a diehard Panthers fan, I truly wanted the model to come back with a reason for hope this season. Sadly it did not. This season, Tampa Bay should comfortably win the division while the Saints and Falcons battle it out for the 7th seed in the playoffs. The Panthers improve from last season, and Sam Darnold plays well, but it is not enough.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 11.6-5.44
New Orleans Saints: 8.5-8.5
Atlanta Falcons 8.1-8.9
Carolina Panthers 6.8-10.2
The NFC will be the most fun and most competitive division in football, with all four teams having a solid case to make the playoffs. I expect at least two of the teams, if not three, to make the postseason and one in particular to make a deep run. Stafford is going to have an electric season with the Rams and have a legitimate chance at MVP. Trey Lance will impress and lead the 49ers to a solid record and quite possibly a playoff berth (He’s also my darkhorse pick to win Rookie of the Year).
L.A. Rams 12.3-4.7
Seattle Seahawks: 10.2-6.8
San Fransico 49ers: 9.5-7.5
Arizona Cardinals 8.3-8.7
In the AFC, the Bills sneak out with the bye while the Chiefs barely get the second seed. The Steelers win the AFC North and take the third seed, while the Titans win the AFC South and get the final home game. Their opponent is a familiar foe: the Colts. The other wildcard teams are the Patriots and Browns.
In the NFC, the Rams are the ones with the bye, while the Buccaneers get the second seed. Dallas grabs the third, and the Packers get the fourth. The wildcard teams are Seattle, the 49ers, and the Saints.
The Titans have a solid chance of beating the Colts, so they advance to face the Bills. It should be a good game, but the model predicts the Bills will return to the AFC Championships. The Steelers beat the Patriots while the Chiefs beat the Browns resulting in Pittsburgh facing down the Chiefs at Arrowhead.
Back in the NFC, the Buccaneers and the Cowboys win their respective matchups to face off in Tampa Bay. While the Cowboys are good, winning on the road against the defending champs is too tall and order. The Buccaneers will face off against the Rams, who denied the Packers a third consecutive NFC Championship game.
The Chiefs-Bills matchup will be a fantastic game, as well as a rematch of last year’s AFC title bout. However, this time, the Bills narrowly advance to the Superbowl. Their opponent will be the Rams, who deny Tom Brady back-to-back Super Bowl appearances.
In the Super Bowl, the Rams win at home in SoFi stadium.