Courtesy of Chris Cox at NFL-forecast.com, the latest playoff probabilities for each team.
These are generated using the NFL-Forecast software app, which uses the win probabilities generated by the team efficiency model to simulate the NFL season 5,000 times. And if you don't buy the game probabilities from Advanced NFL Stats, you can tweak them as much as you like to generate your own playoff projection. I encourage everyone to download the app and test out your own scenarios.
Well, the simulation machine said it was the High Leverage game last week, and it sure wasn't kidding. After Houston's pasting of Tennessee in Nashville, the Texans increased their overall playoff probability by 29 points, up to 91%, while the Titans plummeted in the tables, dropping 34 points to 24%.
Much of Houston's rise (and Tennessee's fall) is attributable to the way in which the Texans won—they didn't just beat the Titans, they did so with such brutal efficiency as to rise to the top of the team rankings and send Tennessee tumbling down to #18. Overall, the model now gives the Texans a 78% chance to finish with ten or more wins, an outcome almost certain to result in a playoff berth.
But, as discussed last week, there are structural factors at play as well, with the Texans' win giving them a strong edge in the race for the NFC South. One way to assess how much of the model's output is due to structural factors—tiebreakers, strength of competition for playoff berths, etc.—as opposed to how many games we expect a team to win is to look at how often a team makes the playoffs assuming they finish the season with a given number of wins, particularly if they finish with nine wins. (Ten wins, and you will usually make the playoffs; eight wins, you usually won't. Nine wins is right on the edge.)
Since the 2002 realignment, 34% of the teams that finished 9-7 entered the postseason. The Texans, on the other hand, are predicted to earn a playoff spot more than twice that often, making the playoffs in 78% of their 9-7 seasons.
High Leverage Game(s) of the Week
This week two games stand out as being of particularly high importance to the unfolding playoff picture.
Dallas at Philadelphia | Sunday, October 30 | 8:20pm ET
|Playoff Prob.||PHI Win||DAL Win|
In his 12 seasons as head coach, Andy Reid has never lost a game following a bye week. This is not the time to break that streak, as this week's division matchup against Dallas provides a very real opportunity for the Eagles to get back into the playoff hunt.
The NFC East is very close and very competitive. As of the latest team rankings, the lowest-ranked team is the #14 Redskins, and only two games separate the team in first from the team in last (that is, the Eagles). In such a situation, division games take on an outsize importance in determining a team's playoff chances. Philadelphia is 2-4, but if they win here and the Redskins lose to Buffalo, the Eagles would actually move into second place in the division.
A Cowboys win on the other hand would move Dallas up to 4-3 with a 2-0 division record, making them the favorites to win the East—they go on to win the division twice as often as any other team. And it would drop Philadelphia to 2-5, leaving the Eagles with just a 3% chance to come back from the basement to win the division and only a 6% shot at a wild card berth.
New England at Pittsburgh | Sunday, October 30 | 4:15 ET
|Playoff Prob.||PIT Win||NE Win|
At 5-1, New England is on the top of the heap in the AFC. Though the Patriots are well-situated to win their division and earn a playoff berth, Buffalo can hardly be counted out yet. And of course the Patriots have their seeding to think about—a win here would increase their chances of being the top seed (and enjoying home-field advantage throughout the playoffs) to over 50%.
On the other side of the ball, Pittsburgh has the second-best record in the AFC, but the next two weeks could make or break their shot at winning the North, with this week's game against the Patriots followed by a pivotal division matchup at home against the #7-ranked Ravens. Having already lost their season opener in Baltimore, the Steelers can't afford another loss to their main rival for the division title. If they lose both games, their odds of taking the division drop to 4%.
News & Notes
- The Packers continue to dominate, and, as the league's sole remaining undefeated team, it would take a rather epic collapse to shut Green Bay out of the postseason. For the record, they finish the season with 16 wins in 2% of simulated seasons (and chances are about one in two hundred that they finish a perfect 19-0).
- For those of you who keep track of such things, the Colts now have a 40% chance of claiming the number one pick in next year's draft. Of course, then they would have to figure out who to pick. Decisions, decisions...
|AFC Percent Probability Playoff Seeding|
|NFC Percent Probability Playoff Seeding|