Top 5 Biggest NFL Record Improvements

It's all about the win column, baby. And numberFire thinks these five teams have the best chance of putting up a bigger digit there in 2012 than they did in 2011.

It's exactly one week until the start of the regular season, Cowboys against Giants on September 5th. And if you're like me, your voodoo doll of Eli Manning is almost complete (here's to hoping you're not like me). With the meaningless preseason almost over, it's time to start taking a bit of a closer look into numberFire's NFL projections this season, not just on the fantasy side but around the entire league. numberFire's projections are based on past advanced data, but player movement, new schedules, and erasing last year's bad luck means that some teams will see a few more wins this year. Others, meanwhile, will be dropping down the charts. Here's the five teams that numberFire projects will see the biggest increase in wins in 2012.

Top Five Projected NFL Team Win Increases

5. Chicago Bears
2011 Overall Rank: #19
Projected 2012 Record: 9.4-6.6
Final 2011 Record: 8-8

Call it the Brandon Marshall effect, the Bears just may have an offense this season for the first time in a while. While numberFire may not be as extraordinarily high on the Bears offense as Michael Wilbon seems to be, as the unit finished last year ranked #29 in our overall rankings, even a slight tick up the ladder should be enough to win the Bears some games this season. It all hangs on the defense, which I presume is a good thing for Chicago: they finished 2011 as the #1 defensive unit in numberFire's rankings. Despite finishing with a +12 point differential, an even .500 record in a tough NFC North, and a winning 7-5 record in conference, the Bears couldn't hold up under the blizzard of injuries. With everyone from Cutler to Forte gone, the Bears lost five straight games down the stretch, including an absolute 10-3 stink bomb to the Chiefs, where the only touchdown scored was a Tyler Palko Hail Mary to end the first half. Don't expect that same play down the stretch this season... as long as they've chased that injury bug out of the Bears' Den.

4. New York Jets
2011 Overall Rank: #16
Projected 2012 Record: 10.1-5.9
Final 2011 Record: 8-8

Even when accounting for the very scientific Rex Ryan Anything Can Happen Factor, the Jets still stand to be an improved team this year. Wait, now stop your laughing self-deprecating Jets fans (aka, 99% of Jets fans), there's a good reason for this. First of all is the schedule: the AFC East faces off against the NFC West and the AFC South this year. The slate of quarterbacks they will be facing against in those two divisions is a list of exactly who you would want stranded on Revis Island: Alex Smith (week 4), Matt Schaub (week 5, easily best of the bunch), rookie Andrew Luck (week 6), rookie Russell Wilson (week 10), Sam Bradford (week 11), the Arizona Cardinals' flavor of the week (week 13), Blaine Gabbert (week 14), and Jake Locker (week 15). If you can't get excited about that, you're comatose... or have just been a Jets fan since 1970. With the Jets defense finishing 2011 ranked #2 overall and Sanchez actually not playing as terribly as you might think, this could be the Jets' time to strike.

3. Denver Broncos
2011 Overall Rank: #27
Projected 2012 Record: 10.6-5.4
Final 2011 Record: 8-8

It's Manning (and perhaps just as importantly, not Tebow) Time! The Broncos are a strange case, considering that they only finished with a .500 record last season and will have the hardest schedule in the league. However, because of their division, they have over a 50% chance of making the playoffs, mostly on the back of Manning and the defensive unit that allowed 13 points or less five times in their final eight games played. The Broncos' 4.8% chance of winning the Super Bowl is the highest in the AFC West, fourth highest in the entire AFC (behind the Steelers, Ravens, and Patriots), and eighth highest in the entire NFL. That's a far cry from wondering whether Tebow would hit a 40% completion percentage for the Broncos last year. And it would mean a turnaround in the franchise's recent fortunes as well: the Broncos haven't had a 10-win season since the Jake Plummer glory days of yore (2005), when the Broncos went 13-3 and made the AFC Championship Game.

2. Indianapolis Colts
2011 Overall Rank: #30
Projected 2012 Record: 4.9-11.1
Final 2011 Record: 2-14

OK, so maybe it's not fair to include a team that won the first overall pick in last year's draft in the season's biggest record improvements. There's really nowhere to go but up. But while numberFire predicts the Rams to only go from 2-14 to a projected 3.1-12.9 record, the Colts jump almost three wins to a semi-respectable 4.9-11.1. While Andrew Luck is certainly a big part of this Indianapolis Renaissance (two words you're not likely to see side-by-side too often), a big part of the Colts' increased chances have to do with their division. That almost 5-11 record puts them dangerously close to the Jaguars, who are projected to go 5.3-10.7 and finish third in the AFC South. The Titans aren't too much further ahead, projected to go only 7.7-8.3 on the year. If the Texans collapse this season, the Colts might actually be a team that could sneak into the playoffs, as their 21.3% playoff odds gives them a better chance than six other teams: the Cardinals, Jaguars, Browns, Redskins, Bucs, and Rams.

1. Philadelphia Eagles
2011 Overall Rank: #9
Projected 2012 Record: 11.1-4.9
Final 2011 Record: 8-8

We're down to our #1 most improved team, and it's the Philadelphia Eagles. Perhaps this would be an important place to note that our projections don't take injuries into account: they're just way too hard to predict. Most of the time. When you're not dealing with Michael Vick, that is. But alas, in these projections he's healthy the entire season, and if that's the case it's easy to see why the Eagles would be the most improved team. Despite finishing with an 8-8 record last season, the Eagles had an insanely high +68 point differential, the highest differential in the NFC East (the division champion Giants actually had a -6 point differential) and the fifth highest difference in the NFC behind the 15-win Packers, 13-win Saints, 13-win 49ers, and 10-win Lions. Of the Eagles' eight losses last season, five were by a touchdown or less, and two of the remaining three came in games when Vince Young was the starting QB. Behind the Packers and Saints, the Eagles have the third highest projected NFC record this season. Don't be surprised if they're dancing down Broad Street come January when the Eagles are back in the playoffs.