How Screwed Are the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers?
The Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers are both 1-3, and the collective fans from both Charlotte and Phoenix are probably losing their minds right now. After all, both teams had high hopes entering the year after facing each other in the NFC Championship just nine months ago.
In fact, according to our numbers, Carolina entered the season with the fourth-highest odds of winning the Super Bowl at 6.9%, while Arizona sat in seventh at 5.8%. The Panthers' playoff odds were at 60.30%, and the Cardinals had a 51.10% chance.
Fans and the teams weren't just hopeful: our algorithms were, too.
Fast forward to Week 5, and the two teams are a combined 2-6. Arizona's in last in their division, trailing both the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams by two games, while the Panthers rank below the 3-1 Atlanta Falcons in the AFC South.
But not all hope is lost.
Historically, teams with a 1-3 record will make the playoffs about 14% of the time. Those aren't great odds. But, according to our nERD metric, which measures the number of points a team would win or lose by against an average one on a neutral field, the Cardinals and Panthers are still both top-10 teams. Arizona actually has a fourth-ranked 4.93 nERD, while Carolina ranks ninth with a 2.87 nERD.
nERD will factor in our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric and adjust for strength of opponent, which can help explain the logic behind seeing these two teams ranked in the top 10. Carolina's already faced the Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings, and Falcons -- the Broncos are our top-ranked team, the Vikings aren't far behind at 7th, and the Falcons are 12th. They faced the Falcons and Broncos on the road, too, which doesn't help.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals are 1-3 despite having a point differential of +12 -- they've scored more points than they've allowed. That's better than all but 10 teams in the NFL. That'll happen when two of your three losses are by a combined six points.
So what does it all mean for a potential playoff run? Well, as it stands, Carolina's odds to make the playoffs are 35.0%, good for 16th-highest in the NFL. Arizona has 30.7% odds, which ranks 17th. Both of those odds are better than three 2-2 teams: Kansas City, Washington, and the New York Giants.
And both of those odds are far better than what's traditionally happened to 1-3 teams.
It's not a coin flip chance for these teams, but sitting at 1-3, it could be much, much worse.