Indianapolis, New Orleans, and San Diego are still the big three headed into the divisional round games. My system is not very high on Minnesota and Arizona, and it could very well be wrong about those teams. But it's worth looking at why they don't fare well in the projections.
Let's look at the efficiency stats as of week 16 for the teams still alive. (The projections below include performance from the wildcard games but exclude week 17.) We'll see why the projections shake out the way they do.
First, let's look at Arizona. They face two road games on the way to the Super Bowl, which hurts their overall chances right off the bat. Second, while they are known for their potent offense, they turn the ball over more frequently than any other NFC contender. But their biggest problem is that their own offense pales in comparison to the phenomenal Saints' offense. The Cardinals' defense is only slightly better than average on net. Lastly, the Cardinals faced the 3rd easiest schedule this season, enjoying two games against the rest of the woeful NFC West.
Minnesota is much the same story. They've had the 2nd easiest schedule in 2009, but still failed to put up any impressive numbers. Despite the hype around Adrian Peterson, their running game is very average. Minnesota has been winning because of two things: smart passing and luck. Favre has protected the ball very well this year, bouncing back from a terrible 2008. His interception rate is among the lowest in the NFL, and he's still generating above average passing efficiency. Minnesota has benefited from some timely miscues by opponents--missed field goals and penalties at critical times that have saved 2 or 3 wins for them.
With that, here are your playoff probabilities going into the divisional round games.
|AFC||Div Round||Conf Champ||SB Champ|
|NFC||Div Round||Conf Champ||SB Champ|