NFL Playoffs Scenarios: Analyzing the Remaining Playoff Possibilities
About three weeks ago it seemed like 10 of the 12 seeds in the NFL playoff picture were locked up. Now it feels like there's an endless amount of possibilities for numerous teams to sneak into the postseason.
We're about to take a division-by-division look to see what teams are still alive, the odds of making into the playoffs and each team's remaining schedule.
In order to qualify for being considered "alive," a team must have a chance to finish at least 9-7—no 8-8 team is making the playoffs this year—which eliminated Detroit, Arizona, Carolina, Philadelphia, Cleveland, San Diego, Tennessee, Oakland, Jacksonville and Kansas City.
After that is cut down, teams with an opportunity at 9-7 but less than a three-percent chance of making the playoffs were also left off the list—apologies to St. Louis, New Orleans, Buffalo, the Jets and Miami.
All playoff percentages are taken from Football Outsiders' Playoff Odds, which is created after the remaining season is simulated 50,000 times.
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Green Bay Packers
Current record: 8-4, Playoff Odds: 94.7 percent, Current seed: No. 3
Remaining schedule: vs. DET, at CHI, vs. TEN, at MIN
Current record: 8-4, Playoff Odds: 82.2 percent, Current seed: No. 5
Remaining schedule: at MIN, vs. GB, at ARI, at DET
Current record: 6-6, Playoff Odds: 3.3 percent, Current seed: Out
Remaining schedule: vs. CHI at STL, at HOU, vs. GB
The Packers and Bears seem to be in the playoffs with only a matter of in what capacity. While both teams have the same record, Green Bay has a tiebreaker over Chicago and a slightly easier schedule with two of the final four games at home. The game that probably will decide the division will be when these two face each other in Week 15—the possible difference between a No. 2 seed with a bye or a road game during Wild Card Weekend.
The Vikings had a good run to start the year, but will most likely be one of the odd teams out in the division and wild card. Though, if Minnesota can beat Chicago at home, they might be closing the year against two teams already locked into a playoff seed.
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Clinched Division, Current seed: No. 1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Current Record 6-6, Playoff Odds: 9.5 percent, Current seed: Out
Remaining schedule: vs. PHI, at NO, vs. STL, at ATL
The Falcons have already clinched the division and, at 11-1, are in the driver's seat for the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Tampa Bay is on the outside looking in but has four winnable games to end the season. If the Buccaneers can find a way to go 3-0 against Philly, New Orleans and St. Louis, they could face an Atlanta team resting starters with the No. 1 seed already clinched.
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New York Giants
Current record: 7-5, Playoff Odds: 77.9 percent, Current seed: No. 4
Remaining schedule: vs. NO, at ATL, at BAL, vs. PHI
Current Record: 6-6, Playoff Odds: 39.2 percent, Current seed: Out
Remaining schedule: vs. BAL, at CLE, at PHI, vs. DAL
Current record: 6-6, Playoff Odds: 7.6 percent, Current seed: Out
Remaining schedule: at CIN, vs. PIT, vs. NO, at WAS
This is the most interesting division in the NFL for the remainder of the season. The Giants have the worst record of any current division leader and are only one game ahead of both Washington and Dallas.
The Giants have one of the toughest remaining schedules in the league, having to play at Atlanta and at Baltimore.
The Redskins have a slightly easier schedule, a division tiebreaker against the Giants and may be the hottest team in the NFL at the moment—something every team wants going into the playoffs. Winning at home against Baltimore in Week 14 will be key for their playoff hopes to continue.
The Cowboys record-wise are still in the hunt, but, like the Vikings, will be the odd team out in the division. Dallas doesn't have an easy schedule on top of the team not playing too well in recent weeks, or really all season.
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San Francisco 49ers
Current record: 8-3-1, Playoff Odds: 96.7 percent, Current seed: No. 2
Remaining schedule: vs. MIA, at NE, at SEA, vs. ARI
Current record: 7-5, Playoff Odds: 87.4 percent, Current seed: No. 6
Remaining schedule: vs. ARI, at BUF, vs. SF, vs. STL
San Francisco will make the playoffs and most likely win the division, but they will have to fight for a first round bye. The tie against the Rams could actually help as an 11-4-1 49ers team would beat out a 11-5 Green Bay team for a bye because of one less loss.
The Seahawks have the inside track for a wild-card spot and could actually still win this division. If Seattle can win out and the 49ers go 2-2, with one of those losses against the Seahawks, Seattle could jump all the way from the last wild card to the No. 2 seed with a bye.
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Current record: 9-3, Playoff Odds: 98.7 percent, Current seed: No. 3
Remaining schedule: at WAS, vs. DEN, vs. NYG, at CIN
Current record: 7-5, Playoff Odds: 67.7 percent, Current seed: No. 6
Remaining schedule: vs. SD, at DAL, vs. CIN, vs. CLE
Current record: 7-5, Playoff Odds: 58.1 percent, Current seed: Out
Remaining schedule: vs. DAL, at PHI, at PIT, vs. BAL
One of these teams probably isn't going to make the playoffs, even though all of their odds are over 50 percent.
Baltimore has a two-game lead but has not dominated an opponent recently and plays every remaining game against a playoff hopeful.
Pittsburgh could get the edge over Cincinnati for a wild-card spot thanks to an easier schedule. The Steelers could easily go 3-1 to finish the season. All of this is contingent, of course, on Ben Roethlisberger being healthy at quarterback.
If the Steelers have to continue to rely on Charlie Batch under center, then the Bengals should be the favorite to get in, with two winnable games in the next two. The Bengals still have to play both Pittsburgh and Baltimore, but if Roethlisberger isn't healthy, the Bengals could be 3-0 hosting Baltimore with the Ravens having nothing to play for.
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Clinched Playoff Berth, Current seed: No. 1
Current record: 8-4, Playoff Odds: 69.6 percent, Current seed: No. 5
Remaining schedule: vs. TEN, at HOU, at KC, vs. HOU
The Texans have clinched a playoff berth, but not the division yet, but should still be the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
The Colts have an interesting remaining schedule. Games against Tennessee and Kansas City should be wins, but games against Houston pop up between those games and to end the season. As the No. 5 seed at the moment, the Colts won't have to win out to make sure they make the playoffs. They should want to go 3-1, which means getting at least one victory over Houston.
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New England Patriots
Clinched Division, Current seed: No. 2
Surprise, the Patriots have already clinched the division. The test for the Patriots keeping the No. 2 seed and a bye are the next two games. New England plays Houston and San Francisco at home. They then get to end the season against the Florida tag team of Jacksonville and Miami.
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Clinched Division, Current seed: No. 3
The Broncos are going to back to the playoffs—in a bit of a different fashion than last season. The Broncos have one of the easiest remaining schedules in the league and could win out to end the season, with 3-1 probably being the worst-case scenario. Baltimore is the only team with a winning record Denver will play in the next four games, which include Oakland, Cleveland and Kansas City.
The Broncos could easily steal the No. 2 seed away from the Patriots. Peyton Manning probably wouldn't mind that.
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