Expectations are always high for all 32 NFL teams at this point in the year, but a lot can impact a season over 17 games. There will always be surprises, and 2021 will be no different.
To look at the bigger picture and just how good — or bad — every team could be this season, we turned to our ESPN Football Power Index (FPI). FPI gives us projected win totals for every team based on 20,000 simulations of the entire season performed by our ESPN Stats & Information team, but to find a high and low, we picked out the middle 90% of those simulations. That gave us a ceiling and a floor in terms of expected record for each team in 2021, and extremely unlikely outliers were eliminated. In other words, we identified the realistic best case and worst case for every team.
So what can we expect for each NFL team this season? If everything goes right, what might each team’s record be? And if the worst scenario plays out, what would all 32 teams’ records look like? We pulled those FPI ceilings and floors, and then we asked our NFL Nation reporters to explain what will determine where each team falls within that win-total spectrum — the biggest factor in each team hitting the high or low end of the range.
Ceiling: 13-4 | Floor: 8-9
Biggest variable: Something went drastically wrong if the Bills win only eight games this season. If the defense continues to decline after a down year in 2020 (at least by their recent standards), the Bills could become overly reliant on quarterback Josh Allen and the offense to keep them in games. But even in that scenario, Buffalo’s offense should be good enough to keep the reigning AFC East champion from hitting the eight-win floor. And if the defense reverts to its 2019 form, the rest of the conference better hope the Bills win only 13 games. Because if you can’t score or keep them from scoring, you’re in for a long day in western New York. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
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