Assessing Every NFL Team's Odds of Making the 2012 Playoffs
This is every NFL team's percentage chance at making the playoffs in 2012.
Here is the fine print:
I looked at all 32 teams' schedules, game by game, and decided each team's best possible dream scenario for winning percentage, and every team's worst-case "Tom Brady gets hurt in the first game" scenario.
I then averaged those outcomes together to create my own personal projection variable.
I averaged these new variables in with each team's Vegas over/under wins totals to serve as respective measures of central tendency.
This is an interesting task, assigning a "percentage chance" to each NFL team's playoff hopes. For this extrapolation of NFL crystal ball voodoo, we need to start at the division level. Meaning, there needs to be two separate distributions of likelihood awarded.
The first distribution occurs within each division. The combined percentage totals of all four teams in each division (in percentage likelihood to make the playoffs) must equal exactly 100. The reason being, the division winner gets an automatic berth into the playoffs. This is obvious. Division winners are guaranteed a spot. There is a 100 percent chance that one team from each four-team group will make the postseason.
So, here we have set aside 400 percentage points per conference, meaning 800 total. Eight total divisions, each collectively awarded with the 100 total percentage points that guarantees their respective rights to send one member of their division to the playoffs.
This is where the second distribution comes in. Wild-card teams must be accounted for.
Twelve teams go to the playoffs, not eight. So, the 800 percent that we started out with for all eight divisions now needs 400 percent more added on top, to total 1,200 percent. Twelve teams are 100 percent guaranteed to make it to the playoffs this year. The extra 400 percent must be dispersed at exactly 200 percent per conference.
Once division winners are identified via the process previously outlined, a new baseline is created for measuring winning percentage versus each conference's respective "cut off" for wins to get in to the playoffs. With a newly established a baseline, percentage points out of the 200 percent "wild card escrow account" per conference can be allocated appropriately.
These disbursement values are set at a rate that is correspondent to their original averaged projection; above, or below the cut off for "best-case scenario" outcomes as defined in my original projection.
No division can be awarded under 100 percent, of course, but no division is guaranteed to be assigned over 100 percent, either. All divisions were given wild card disbursements in our case, however, some more than others.
Take the NFC West. My experimenter average coupled with Vegas yields no wild card team from this division. Therefore, there is no allotted disbursement to any NFC West teams' original percentages dedicated, outside of the predicted winner, San Francisco, who projects a win total well above the secondary established median.
These extra percentage points are instead granted to teams in competitive divisions, such as the NFC North, which grades out as more likely to produce one or more wild-card berths.
These slides are your postseason hopes in the preseason.
The Browns could run this season on simulation seven times and still have a small chance at not making the playoffs even once.
I'm not wondering whether they will make the playoffs. I'm wondering whether QB Brandon Weeden will be able to accomplish what Colt McCoy was never able to in his eight tries: win an AFC North division game. That is a more reasonable benchmark for the success of the Browns organization moving forward. You have to learn to crawl before you learn to walk.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are facing an uphill battle in 2012.
Their chances of making the playoffs are equal to the chance that an American male who just turned 65 will live to age 95.
People can say all they want from camp. Blaine Gabbert is not progressing.
If the Texans slip up, or if there is an unlikely wild card berth in the AFC South, the Titans will be going to the playoffs, not the Jags.
Maurice Jones-Drew can't do it by himself as we've seen, and I'm starting to get the sense that we might see a 2011 Chris Johnson-esque performance out of him if his holdout continues much longer.
Well, it took one play of onfield action in the Hall of Fame preseason game to remember what a disaster the quarterback position is in Arizona.
LT Levi Brown and his sorry crew of no-blocking comrades are going to get whoever lines up at the position murdered. Levi Brown will for another five years. My goodness.
As of now, RB Beanie Wells is still a mystery after ending his stay on the PUP list.
The Cardinals defense is actually surprisingly athletic and full of potential when you break it down, and young, explosive pieces are in place on offense in WR Michael Floyd, TE Rob Housler (Wow) and RB Ryan Williams.
Not to mention one of the best players of our current century in WR Larry Fitzgerald.
The problem will be getting the ball in the hands of the playmakers.
I don't think I am the only one who sees real promise in QB Christian Ponder's game.
I know I am not the only one who has witnessed the magic of Adrian Peterson or the versatility of his backup, Toby Gerhart. I'm not alone as a witness to the NFL dominance and majesty that is WR Percy Harvin or DE Jared Allen.
In most other divisions, the Vikings would have a better shot. But this is the NFC North and it is going to be brutal this year.
Picture yourself at a poker table with six players left to act behind you. You are first to act, or "under the gun." You look down at pocket sevens.
The Vikings, and HC Leslie Frazier, are under the gun in more ways than one.
I have good news and I have bad news, Redskins fans.
First, the good news.
As you know, you have not only a quarterback, you have a face of your franchise for years to come in Robert Griffin III. Owner Dan Snyder finally got one right.
It's only fitting that such a future ambassador for a team resides in our nation's capitol.
The other good news is that there was only a 23 percent chance that the Vikings third overall pick would be traded in the 2012 draft. As we know, Trent Richardson is a Cleveland Brown, and he was drafted in the spot the Browns acquired from the Vikings at pick three.
The bad news is that lightning doesn't strike twice. The NFC East will be too much to overcome in 2012.
If I know one thing about new Colts HC Chuck Pagano, I know that he is instilling a confidence in his team that will be a serious intangible asset.
Look at where he comes from.
In 2012, the Colts will not think of themselves as a returning two-win team, but they will have a two-win chip on their shoulder. It will be impossible not to even though everything has changed.
Rookie QB Andrew Luck might as well be a second-year pro. He has a calculating mind that I have been told "is like a computer" by one AFC South scout. Adjustment to speed of the game just takes new inputs, not work in practice. He is unbelievable.
I love WR Reggie Wayne to have a bounce-back season in 2012, and I feel like the best-case scenario for the Colts, after my analysis, is securing a wild-card spot at 9-7.
The bad news is, that is absolute best-case. And it will take more than just the seemingly insurmountable goal of reaching nine wins. It will take other teams floundering. All in all, not quite a one-in-four chance.
New York Jets
When you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback.
Even Fireman Ed will be wearing a Tim Tebow jersey if starting QB Mark Sanchez loses four of the Jets' first five games, (which he is likely to do.) The Jets face in their first five-game stretch the Bills, the Steelers, the 49ers and the Texans.
I can already hear it. I can't believe I'm saying it, but the Dolphins have a better shot at the playoffs out of the AFC East. Mark Sanchez is getting worse and worse and now he has a whole new albatross to deal with.
St. Louis Rams
New HC Jeff Fisher is immediately charged with the responsibility of keeping up with Harbaughs in the NFC West.
While Fisher is a formidable football mind and terrific coach, he is far from a one-year turnaround guy.
Fisher and GM Les Snead are building for the future in St. Louis.
With the return of QB Sam Bradford, and the attainment of so many playmakers on both sides of the ball via the draft and free agency, I think that the 49ers days are numbered as being unrivaled in the NFC West catbird's seat.
Just not this year.
Tampa Bay Buccanneers
New Bucs HC Greg Schiano brings with him a blue collar attitude and a serious aversion to lazy play.
That is exactly what the Bucs need.
That and the best offensive guard in the league in Carl Nicks. The Bucs also acquired WR Vincent Jackson who is the absolute best receiver in the league for the returning, cannon-armed Josh Freeman to utilize. They even gave Jackson 55.55 million dollars because Josh Freeman's jersey number is 5.
It is a match made in heaven.
Add in rookie RB Doug Martin, who Schiano believes can be a workhorse in the style of Ray Rice who he coached at Rutgers, and you have the beginnings of a new era in Tampa Bay. Coming out of the NFC South with a playoff berth will be a tricky proposition in 2012, however.
We know they cant get any worse with the whole penalty issue.
New Raiders HC Dennis Allen told me at the NFL combine how much he loves McFadden. He said that when facing McFadden, as the defensive coordinator of the Broncos, he represented the single toughest player to game plan for in his career.
It will be a run-first offense in Oakland in 2012 with developing outside weapons everywhere. The AFC West is the toughest division to handicap and could go any way this season.
The Seahawks, like everyone else in the NFC West, are in keep-up, copy-cat mode, trying not to lose sight of the target sitting squarely on chest of the 49ers.
Whether Marshawn Lynch is suspended for any point in the 2012 season, we know that QB will be a question mark. We know that the developing pass rush will hinge largely on a beastly rookie in Bruce Irvin.
Basically, we know that this proposition is not likely.
Based on what we know now, Ryan Tannehill will not start the 2012 season for the Dolphins. That position will be occupied by David Garrard.
Garrard has never been good, but he has been clutch at least. Tannehill is the antithesis of clutch.
He blew leads in college like Marshawn Lynch blows stop signs in O-Town. If Tannehill were to be named starter, I would make adjustments to this system that would move Miami into the Jacksonville/Cleveland area of the cellar.
As it is, I think they are just good enough to be better than the worst team in the AFC East—the Jets.
The Titans check in at just over a one-in-three chance of making it to the dance.
I fully expect RB Chris Johnson to have a comeback year in 2012, and while the Houston Texans are clearly the new bully in the AFC South schoolyard, I see the Titans picking their fair share of fights with the little second-graders who are the Colts and the Jaguars.
A full offseason is a luxury that new Titans HC Mike Munchak has never been afforded. In looking at their schedule, I can see a 6-7 start for the Titans, along with which they will have an opportunity to win out and snatch the final wild-card slot.
The Panthers are in this slot for one reason and one reason only. You know it and I know it.
The Prototype, Cam Newton.
When looking at the Panthers' 2012 schedule, there are not too many games in which you can say "Cam Newton can't win that one."
The running backs are an elite group collectively, and the defense got a major boost in production the minute rookie LB Luke Kuechly was drafted.
As things stand, the Panthers have as good a chance of making the NFL playoffs in 2012 as a professional skateboarder does to break his ankle in the forthcoming year.
San Diego Chargers
With all the talk of the Chargers reloading everywhere, I can't say I'm sold. I can't say that new WR Robert Meachem is Vincent Jackson. I can't say that RB Ryan Mathews will suddenly stay healthy for the 20,000 touches that HC Norv Turner promises.
I can't say that TE Antonio Gates is 25 again, with any sign of plantar fascia far off in the distance.
I always love a veteran defensive backfield and a young, promising defensive front. The Chargers have this. This is how things should be in an ideal developmental situation on defense. You want "little" screw ups to stay little. You can get away with more near the line of scrimmage.
We've said it for years about the Chargers, but as far as the 2012 version, the window is officially closing. They need to make their run this year.
New York Giants
Winning back-to-back championships isn't easy.
The first thing the New York Giants will have to do in attaining this goal is make the playoffs.
As things stand now, the Giants stand the same chance of making the playoffs as experts believe that either Israel or the United States do in staging a military attack on Iran within the span of the next year.
The running game is different. WR Mario Manningham is gone and WR Hakeem Nicks is coming off a broken foot. The Giants have the most dominating defensive line in the league, but we have selective memories sometimes.
We forget just how magical (and improbable) the Giants' 2011-12 Super Bowl run was.
This is the NFC East, and it now has the faces of four QBs that would make an epic Mount Rushmore photoshop. It's not going to be easy. But it never is for the Giants.
Fran Tarkenton was a guest on our radio show last year. He lives in Atlanta.
He thinks the Falcons are, and have been for three to four years, an incredibly overrated team.
I agree. I think that Matt Ryan is slightly better than average and that Michael Turner has been astoundingly productive behind a weak offensive line.
Things change, though. Along with new DC Mike Nolan, who made the Dolphins' pass rush look really good in 2011, comes veteran secondary help and the return of a true stud in Sean Weatherspoon.
The pass rush has been an issue in Atlanta. When you face Cam Newton and Drew Brees twice a year each, you need to get pressure. The first step toward attaining that goal is to make some coverage sacks and getting the wheels spinning.
I like the direction. Finally.
RB Matt Forte has finally been paid and is currently being insured by the NFL's best backup running back in Michael Bush. Rookie Alshon Jeffery is securely in the fold.
But the Bears' biggest additions in 2012 were by subtraction. Gone is GM Jerry Angelo as well as OC Mike Martz.
With their personnel and corresponding playbook now solidly out of the "Greatest Show On Turf" era in St. Louis, the Bears and a healthy Cutler are poised to make a serious run at the division.
The NFC North is no gimme for the Packers. Not by any stretch. Even if the Bears don't win the division, I like the their chances to make the postseason, perhaps even more than this percentage indicates.
The Broncos check in at the same percentage likelihood for playoff inclusion as the Bears.
This occurs primarily as a function of their competition. If the Broncos played in the NFC North, they would not be projected at this level.
The changes in Denver have been drastic and obvious, but we know that defense will remain nasty, and, honestly, the offense can only improve.
I can't imagine a better conduit to continued offensive improvement than QB Peyton Manning. I don't think John Elway can, either.
The "Dream Team" is back, this time minus backup QB Vince Young.
The Eagles have a lot of reason to be excited coming into the 2012 season, but in making these projections, I had to be honest with myself.
What are the chances QB Mike Vick can stay healthy?
What are the chances that RB LeSean McCoy can score another 20 touchdowns?
I'll always remember 2011 as the year the Ravens exorcised the demon and swept the Steelers.
I would have predicted this percentage to come out higher, but perhaps my subconscious mind is toying with a notion that my conscious mind likes to put off.
AFC defensive player of the year, Terrell Suggs, has a torn Achilles. That is a huge, huge deal.
With Suggs on board, this percentage probably hops five points. For now, the Ravens have the same shot at the playoffs as a United States Android user does on clicking an unsafe link from his or her mobile device this year.
The Buffalo Bills up here in Ravens and Eagles territory?
They should be. They have done all the right things, and they are a franchise that should be proud of themselves for trying, no matter the outcome.
The defensive line should rival any other in the league. The receiving corps is vastly underrated as are RBs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller respectively.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick regressed last season, but it's hard to blame him with all the other losses on offense.
I love rookie CB Stephon Gilmore as a possibility to make major waves in his NFL debut, and I believe if a wild card is awarded in the AFC East, it will be going to the Bills.
Give me any stock in the Detroit Lions offense I can get. Well, maybe not in the running backs or the offensive line.
I watch back tape sometimes just to enjoy how good QB Matt Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson are.
It is their defense as a whole (like a whole unit) that I worry about. Even with all the great signings. It seems like a group that is being built for three years from now. I know Lions fans hope that I am a few years off in this estimation.
Still, I think Stafford has the biggest arm in the league, and the single most dangerous receiving weapon in Johnson.
Realistically, the running game is sure to be hit and miss as usual, but Stafford is masterful at using TE Brandon Pettigrew and WR Titus Young as extensions of the run in the screen and intermediate game.
Like the rest of the NFC North, the Lions' percentage likelihood to make the playoffs would be higher in any other division.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs above the Ravens and the Eagles?
This makes me want to complain about my own list, but I stand by my math.
A lot of people are sleeping on the Chiefs, and maybe we shouldn't be.
They are in a so-so AFC West that allows for easier entry to the playoffs via a division crown. This time last year, they were defending champs. They are also coming into their first full year under HC Romeo Crennel in what GM Scott Pioli is trying to turn into Patriots West.
There are some gems on this roster and the Chiefs are building for the future, which may be here sooner than most people think.
Add in the return of an actual NFL starting QB, a healthy, dynamic RB in Jamaal Charles, and a somehow forgotten elite talent in diva RB Peyton Hillis, and you have the makings of an old school AFC West contender.
The Bengals are addressing their issues at safety and have on their hands one of the league's most disruptive interior defensive talents in Geno Atkins.
A.J. Green was one of the most impressive rookie WRs I have ever seen, and he could not have accomplished near as many of his other-worldly feats without his main man, then-fellow rookie QB Andy Dalton, delivering the airmail.
Young talent is being vetted at the Z and Y positions that should serve as much better complementary pieces than new Viking WR Jerome Simpson did last season. Simpson is awful. I'm sorry Minnesota.
Exit Cedric Benson, enter RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis who is not good, but at least he doesn't fumble and has a nose for the end zone in goal-line situations.
I believe the Bengals have the second best shot at the playoffs in the AFC North.
Look who's in the saddle in the NFC East. It's probably about time for the Cowboys to make a move.
In all honestly, if not now, when? The window is closing.
WR Miles Austin may have hamstring issues for the rest of his career for all we know. QB Tony Romo is 32 years old and TE Jason Witten and OLB DeMarcus Ware are about to exit the prime of their careers.
I love RB DeMarco Murray, and I feel like the young pieces in place on both sides of the ball represent an explosive capability for exploiting matchups in space that has been absent in Dallas for almost a decade.
I think the Cowboys will win the NFC East. What Romo does in the playoffs, well, I guess I will cross that bridge when they get there.
Want to know if the Steelers are going to make the playoffs this season?
Flip a coin. It is an exact 50/50 proposal.
Missing from the 2012 equation will be RB Rashard Mendenhall who was, very interestingly, not replaced by a veteran free agent during this offseason as he recovers from ACL surgery.
In a division where you must establish the run, the Steelers will be relying on a player who was practice squad fodder for almost three years in RB Isaac Redman.
Also absent is WR Mike Wallace, who, in my opinion, is one of the top five most dangerous receiving weapons in the league.
Even with all this in the way, the Steelers still find themselves toward the top of the heap. Mike Tomlin is the "Shaft" of the National Football League and will always put a salty product on the field on Sundays.
New Orleans Saints
After spending so much time at Saints training camp, I came out with one overriding feeling that dominated all others: This team is ready.
The Saints are focused and fueled by a dark, inner anger that is hard to explain. It is like they are motivated to avenge the death of a family member.
In the wake of Bountygate, the Saints will win with NFC South, and will do so convincingly.
Green Bay Packers
We're getting into pretty lofty territory here.
The Packers have the same chance of making the playoffs as a mildly obese man does of developing diabetes.
It's hard to say much about the Packers, or heap any praise that has not already been poured on.
Their biggest area of weakness is in DB toughness and discipline, which has been a major issue against the Vincent Jacksons and Calvin Johnsons of the world.
That is why Chicago loaded up on all these big receivers. It's an arms race, but, thankfully for Packer Nation, they are still in the lead.
Who would have thought?
All that stuff old people say about the importance of establishing the run and playing mean, downhill defense really is true.
The Texans have the best running back in the league and a backup running back that would start for at least 15 other teams. They will have a top-5 defense in 2012, a defense built to stop Peyton Manning.
Now that Peyton Manning is gone, the Texans will get to take out their years of pent-up frustration on a rebuilding Indy franchise and a Jacksonville team that is, well, still Jacksonville.
Houston gets into the playoffs at approximately a 2/3 clip.
San Francisco 49ers
Who's got it better than us?
Well, Coach Harbaugh, only one team by my count.
The job the first year coach did in one season is nothing short of heroic. Almost miraculous.
Former HC Mike Singletary had the same players and did nothing besides drop his pants during weird locker room speeches and awkwardly quote Winston Churchill at press conferences.
Singletary couldn't win with Vernon Davis. Harbaugh didn't seem to have that problem.
Harbaugh has not only turned around a franchise and gotten every member to buy in, he has quickly created a culture. A deep culture; and it is not going away.
New England Patriots
There is no explanation necessary here, but if you are dying to hear one reason the Pats top my list, besides HC Bill Belichick, QB Tom Brady, two of the top five TEs in the NFL and a new WR in Brandon Lloyd that I like to call "Spiderman," I'll just say this.
Look at their 2012 schedule. I only see 3-4 possible losses.
The Patriots will walk into the playoffs.
How long are these dynasties supposed to last anyways?