Welcome to this week's edition of playoff probabilities, wherein I survey the playoff field in preparation for the annual binge of turkey, football, and beer that is Thanksgiving in America. 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.
Things have really come into focus in the NFC. The Packers, 49ers, and Saints all have comfortable leads in their respective division races, and the wild card is mostly down to the Bears, Lions, Falcons, and whichever team winds up in second place in the NFC East.
Speaking of which, this was not a very good week for the New York Giants. Two weeks ago, they had a two-game cushion atop the East, but the combination of their loss to the Eagles last week and the Cowboys' win over the Redskins dropped the Giants' overall playoff probability down to 32%. Things this week will not be getting any easier, as the Giants travel to New Orleans to face a Saints team that is undefeated at home, followed by a game the week after against the Packers. Yikes.
In the AFC, Cincinnati's loss in last week's high-leverage game was not as costly as the model anticipated, since it was partially offset by losses by both the Jets and the Bills. Most of the Bengals' playoff hopes rest in claiming a wild card spot at this point, with the race for the North having been largely reduced to a two-team battle between the Ravens and Steelers, which the Steelers are roughly 2:1 favorites to win. This might seem surprising—both teams have fairly easy remaining schedules and Baltimore has the clear edge in tiebreakers, having beaten the Steelers twice. For the answer, look no further than the latest team efficiency ratings—our model simply considers the Steelers to be, on average, the superior team, with a GWP of .73 to Baltimore's .56.
High-Leverage Game of the Week
Denver at San Diego | Sunday, November 27 | 4:15 pm
|Playoff Prob.||SD Win||DEN Win|
This game has a lot of upside potential for Team Tebow. As things currently stand, the Broncos are given only a 13% chance to overtake the Raiders and claim the AFC West title. But coupled with an Oakland loss, a win here could put Denver at an even 50% to earn a playoff berth. Denver and Oakland have split their season series, but a win gives the Broncos a 3-2 division record (with their final division matchup being a very winnable home game against the Chiefs).
A lot of the volatility in the teams' playoff probabilities stems from the fact that the team efficiency model just doesn't consider the teams in the West to be all that good. As a result, the model expects nine wins to be enough to take the division, and, given that low bar, a few surprise wins could really shake things up. Thus, if the Broncos win here and then finish out the season just 3-2, they make the postseason in 80% of simulations.
As for San Diego, they have dug a rather deep hole for themselves. A win should be enough to give them a meaningful chance at the division title (16%), but a loss would drop their overall playoff chances down to just 1 in 50.
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, and Happy Thanksgiving.
|AFC Percent Probability Playoff Seeding|
|NFC Percent Probability Playoff Seeding|