Rex Ryan, New York Jets: Calculating the Real Playoff Odds
Does that feel about right to you? Let us take a look at the schedule and the remaining scenarios to find out what the odds really are.
Scenario One: Jets go 10-6
For purposes of approximation, let us assume that 10-6 is good enough to reach the playoffs in the AFC. There are only two teams who could realistically threaten that—the Indianapolis Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets have the head-to-head tiebreak over the Colts, and the Steelers just lost their star quarterback (via Yahoo! Sports).
So this is a safe assumption.
Unfortunately for the Jets, going 10-6 means winning out—seven in a row. Looking at the Jets schedule, they have a weak stretch of opponents remaining. They play six relatively easy games and one very hard one. The hard game is of course Thanksgiving Day on short rest against the New England Patriots.
Other than that game, the Jets play six below .500 teams.
Against the Patriots, a conservative estimate would be 20 percent for the Jets to take the game. It is at home, and the Jets took the Patriots into overtime earlier this season in New England. For the rest of the games—against teams as mediocre as the Jets—a simple 50 percent will suffice.
The odds of winning all seven: 0.3 percent. Not so good.
Scenario Two: Jets go 9-7, Replace Colts
Clearly 10-6 is not a likely result. The next possibility would be for the Jets to go 9-7 and win a tiebreak against the Colts. In order for this to happen, the Colts need to finish the year 3-4 or worse, while the Jets need to finish 6-1.
First let us look at the Colts' remaining schedule.
Those are three deadly games and most likely three losses. Then the question is whether they will lose one of the other four games, and the answer to that is again most likely yes. Thus, the odds of the Colts hitting 9-7 or worse is more than half; let us call it 60 percent.
The Jets have two ways to get to 9-7. They can beat the Patriots and win five more, or they can win all six other games. Using the previous probabilities, there is a 1.9 percent chance of going 9-7 while beating the Patriots and a 1.3 percent chance of going 9-7 while losing to the Patriots.
Thus, the total odds of this scenario (accounting for the Colts as well): 1.8 percent.
Scenario Three: Jets go 9-7, Steelers Collapse
The Steelers have the head-to-head tiebreak over the Jets. However, if they collapse to 8-8, the Jets can make the playoffs at 9-7. The Steelers would have to lose five of their last seven games, while playing a relatively easy schedule. This is not impossible, however, especially with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger injured.
Skipping some of the nitty-gritty details, the Steelers have about a 20 percent chance of dropping to 8-8 or worse. The odds of that happening, while the Jets reach 9-7 and the Colts also make the playoffs (to avoid overlap with scenario two) comes to about 0.2 percent.
Scenario Four: Jets go 8-8, Make Playoffs Through Extreme Luck (no pun intended)
In this final scenario, the Jets go 8-8 and make the playoffs through dumb luck. The odds of the Jets reaching 8-8—using the prior odds—are about 4.7 percent. Unfortunately, they would need a lot of other things to happen. Either the Steelers would have to completely collapse to 7-9 (about a two percent chance) or the Colts would have to fall to 8-8 (about a 10 percent chance).
The odds of either of those situations happening in conjunction with an 8-8 Jets finish is about 0.6 percent.
The Final Tally
It looks like Rex Ryan was too conservative. The Jets have roughly a 2.9 percent chance of making the playoffs this season. That is still pretty terrible, but it is slightly better than the two percent Ryan guessed.
The most likely scenario is a 9-7 tiebreak over the Colts for the last wild-card spot. The odds of it happening any other way are almost negligible.
So there you have it Jets fans. If you are feeling optimistic, you can root for that 2.9 percent chance. Otherwise, you can look forward to a more interesting draft than New York normally experiences.
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