Playoff Probabilities: Week 11

Welcome to this week's edition of playoff probabilities, now featuring new and improved probability tables. As always, these numbers come courtesy of Chris Cox at NFL-forecast.com and are generated with the help of his 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 projections. I encourage everyone to download the app and test out your own scenarios.

Regular readers of Advanced NFL Stats will know that we've had the Texans as the AFC team most likely to earn a playoff berth for several weeks now. But with starting quarterback Matt Schaub's injury, it's difficult to say where things stand in the AFC. Schaub has been a big part of Houston's success this year. His EPA ranks 5th among quarterbacks and his 6.9 AYPA is second only to Aaron Rodgers. Schaub's prognosis remains uncertain, but it's almost sure he will miss the next few games and very possible that he will be out for the season.

While losing your starting quarterback generally won't help your team's playoff chances (see the Colts, Indianapolis), even if we assume that the loss of Schaub severely reduces Houston's effectiveness, there are two primary reasons that this won't necessarily signal the death knell for the Texans' playoff hopes:

  1. Houston has a fairly substantial cushion in the South—a two-game lead over the Titans, who they've already beaten on the road, and a 3-0 division record.

  2. Houston's remaining schedule is among the easiest in the league, with games against Jacksonville, Carolina, and Indianapolis. Overall, the average GWP of their remaining opponents (after adjusting for home-field advantage) is just .405.
Our model doesn't account for catastrophic injuries, but as a quick and dirty fix, let's assume that losing Schaub drops the Texans from their astronomical .83 GWP to the league average. (This is just for illustrative purposes—personally, I think this assumption underestimates the Texans' strength, but I'll leave it to others to debate the precise ramifications of Schaub's absence.) And now we turn to another trusty heat map:

HOU-TEN Week 11

As the above shows, even if we assume that a Leinart-helmed Houston is a league-average team, the Texans still have a 73% probability to finish with a better record than Tennessee. In addition, Houston's edge in tiebreakers over the Titans means that a tie result will almost always tip in Houston's favor, giving them a probability of better than 85% to win the South and earn their first ever postseason berth.

High-Leverage Game of the Week

Cincinnati at Baltimore | Sunday, November 20 | 1:00 pm

Playoff Prob. BAL WinCIN Win
CIN 2560
BAL 9064

This week, one game clearly stands above the rest in terms of potential leverage, and yet again it features two teams from the AFC North. The model has the Ravens heavily favored to win this matchup, with a game-win probability of .72, but the Ravens have been the definition of inconsistency over the past four weeks. On the one hand, they beat the Steelers on the road. On the other, they lost to Jacksonville and Seattle and just barely eked past Arizona.

A Baltimore win wouldn't do much to help the Ravens catch up to Pittsburgh—the model would still have the Steelers as a 62% favorite to win the North. What it would do is give Baltimore a definite edge in an AFC wild card field that is just as crowded as it was last week, resulting in an 86% probability of a wild card spot given that the Ravens don't win the division.

This game is even more important for the Bengals, who see a swing of 35 percentage points dependent on the outcome. A loss here would reduce their probability of winning the North to only 1%, severely hampering Cincinnati's chances at a playoff berth. A win, however, would put them back in the hunt, giving them an 8% likelihood of winning the North, and, failing that, a 56% chance of getting a wild card spot.

News & Notes
  • The Packers continue to close in on an undefeated season. Their biggest hurdles are coming up in Weeks 12 and 13, with games on the road against the Lions and the Giants. If they can get past those two (and win this week), the model estimates they have a 35% chance at an undefeated season.
  • It's official—for the first time since 2001, the Colts will not be participating in the postseason. My condolences.
Some changes to announce: The division tables now include a column listing each team's current record as well as their average projected number of wins. Also, in the overall playoff probabilities column, ">99" and "<1" will be used to indicate probabilities that are, respectively, very large but less than 100% or very small but non-zero. Let me know if you guys think this clutters up the tables too much—the last thing I want is a mob of angry ANS readers outside my door with torches and pitchforks.

The probabilities below are the result of simulating the season 50,000 times using the game-win probabilities from the team efficiency model. They may not add up to 100 (in percent form) due to rounding. Enjoy.

AFC EAST
TeamRecWins1st2nd3rd4th
NE6-311.2871120
NYJ5-48.9453421
BUF5-48.7936532
MIA2-74.400396
AFC NORTH
TeamRecWins1st2nd3rd4th
PIT7-311.8673030
BAL6-310.53052181
CIN6-39.0318754
CLE3-65.400495
AFC SOUTH
TeamRecWins1st2nd3rd4th
HOU7-312.299100
TEN5-48.7184150
JAC3-66.3015850
IND0-101.1000>99
AFC WEST
TeamRecWins1st2nd3rd4th
OAK5-49.0751861
SD4-57.21649297
DEN4-56.78294617
KC4-55.2141975
NFC EAST
TeamRecWins1st2nd3rd4th
DAL5-49.9583481
NYG6-39.63948112
PHI3-67.03166517
WAS3-65.7021781
NFC NORTH
TeamRecWins1st2nd3rd4th
GB9-014.197310
CHI6-310.2151480
DET6-39.8247510
MIN2-74.4000>99
NFC SOUTH
TeamRecWins1st2nd3rd4th
NO7-311.296400
ATL5-48.5483111
TB4-55.7095634
CAR2-74.9033364
NFC WEST
TeamRecWins1st2nd3rd4th
SF8-112.2>99000
SEA3-65.90463123
ARI3-65.80354124
STL2-75.00192853


AFC Percent Probability Playoff Seeding
Team1st2nd3rd4th5th6thTotal
HOU532916200>99
PIT183413127498
NE17214533696
BAL101081371683
OAK016670177
CIN1110131935
NYJ013172435
BUF026151327
TEN000071422
SD000150117
DEN0007019
KC0001001
JAC0000011
CLE000000<1
MIA000000<1
IND0000000


NFC Percent Probability Playoff Seeding
Team1st2nd3rd4th5th6thTotal
GB81151031>99
SF175817800>99
NO11543370197
CHI0000463480
DAL0923263970
DET1100382868
NYG03142251155
ATL002351423
PHI0003015
SEA0000011
WAS0000001
ARI0000001
TB000000<1
STL000000<1
CAR000000<1
MIN000000<1


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4 Responses to “Playoff Probabilities: Week 11”

  1. Chris says:

    Josh -- Awesome, as always. I agree with you that Houston is still a strong favorite to win the South, even without Schaub.

  2. JDA says:

    I think it's interesting that the model expects Houston to go 5.2-0.8 the rest of the way, even though their remaining schedule includes Atlanta, @Cincinnati, and Tennessee. I realize the model doesn't know that the Texans are now starting Lefty McBroseph instead of Matt Schaub at QB, but that still seems like an aggressive prediction.

  3. JDA says:

    Also, Indianapolis is projected to be the worst team in the league by a margin of 3.3 wins. So, who's getting Peyton in the offseason to make room for Luck?

  4. Boston Chris says:

    JDA, all three of those teams you mentioned are average teams (remember w/ Schaub Hou is ranked #1) and 2 of the 3 games are at home. So if those are the "tough" games remaining on the schedule, w/ a healthy Schaub I wouldn't find it at all surprising if they only had slipped up once in the last 6.

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