By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The 2017 Patriots ought to be good. Really good.
And according to ESPN’s Sports Analytics team, nobody else in the NFL is even close.
ESPN released its Football Power Index rankings on Thursday, a model which takes ratings and uses them to simulate the NFL season 10,000 times. The results show that there will be a lot of pressure on the Patriots to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
According to the models, the Patriots enter 2017 with a 50.7 percent chance of making the Super Bowl, and a 34.7 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl.
By comparison, the next-best teams on the list is Green Bay, which has a 19.7 percent chance of making the Super Bowl and a 9.8 percent chance of winning the championship.
The Seahawks are given a 22.8 percent chance of making the Super Bowl, but a 9.6 percent chance of winning.
Among AFC opponents, only Pittsburgh (15.4 percent to make Super Bowl; 8.5 percent to win Super Bowl) is anywhere close to New England. Oakland would be next, with an 8.1 percent chance of making the Super Bowl and a 4.3 percent chance of winning it.
Overall, the Patriots have a plus-9.2 FIP ranking. Green Bay ranks second at plus-4.8, with Pittsburgh (plus-4.7) and Seattle (plus-4.2) ranking second and third. As ESPN noted, the gap between New England and Green Bay from No. 1 to No. 2 is roughly the same as the gap between Green Bay and Cincinnati from No. 2 to No. 14.
Given the Patriots’ high quality in the ranking system, it’s not surprising to see that the Patriots are involved in the four highest-ranked games in terms of FPI — at Pittsburgh, at Denver, at Tampa Bay, and at New Orleans.
The system also gives the Patriots a 92.3 percent chance of winning the AFC East — which, if we’re being honest, seems a bit low.
Obviously, it’s only June. Injuries, surprise signings, any any other combination of events could make for a different setup come September. Still, there should be no denying that the 2017 Patriots enter this upcoming season with some of the highest expectations ever placed upon a football team.