2010 NFL Playoff Predictions

Jake WestrichSenior Writer IJanuary 8, 2010

For our playoff preview, we have simulated the 2010 NFL playoffs 10,001 times. The odds for each team winning each round are presented below.

All of our NFL content, including our most recent power rankings and previous weeks' picks and fantasy projections, is located here .

The inputs to the 10,001 simulations of each upcoming game are based on a rigorous analysis of each team that considers strength-of-schedule-adjusted team and player ratings and then makes modifications for injuries and depth at each position.

2010 NFL Playoffs (Winning Percentages from 10,001 simulations)

TeamWC Win %DIV Win %CC Win %SB Win %
New York Jets68.0%43.8%29.0%15.9%
New Orleans Saints-59.5%27.6%14.6%
Minnesota Vikings-50.3%27.1%14.0%
Dallas Cowboys63.0%36.3%24.4%13.7%
Baltimore Ravens59.1%36.3%18.1%9.7%
San Diego Chargers-43.5%19.0%7.0%
Indianapolis Colts-39.0%17.0%6.6%
Philadelphia Eagles37.0%19.1%9.4%6.2%
Green Bay Packers65.2%26.6%10.0%4.2%
New England Patriots40.9%20.9%8.7%3.8%
Cincinnati Bengals32.0%16.7%8.3%3.7%
Arizona Cardinals34.8%8.2%1.6%0.6%

Does Rex Ryan use WhatIfSports.com?

On Wednesday, the New York Jets coach said his team should be favorites to win the Super Bowl.

After running the playoffs 10,001 times, the computers at WhatIfSports.com have obliged.

Many NFL fans believe the Jets backed their way into the playoffs, only getting in thanks to late-season victories over backup players from the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals, who had already sealed their playoff fates.

But now that New York is in, their vaunted defense and impressive numbers on both sides of the ball make them favorites to win the Super Bowl. They advanced through the playoffs to win it all 15.88 percent of the time, more than one percentage point higher than the New Orleans Saints.

For the Jets to pull off what many others consider an improbable run, they'll have to live by the adage that defense wins championships. New York is second to none on that side of the ball.

The Jets boast the best passing defense in the league. They give up just 5.4 yards per pass attempt. That's more than half a yard better than the Buffalo Bills and nearly a yard better than their closest playoff foe, the Indianapolis Colts, in that category.

New York isn't far behind in terms of rushing defense. They ranked fourth in the league, allowing just 3.8 yards per carry, 0.4 ypc behind the Baltimore Ravens.

Thus, in terms of yards allowed per play, the Jets defense winds up on top by far. They gave up just 4.2 yards per play, a full 0.6 yards ahead of the second-place Green Bay Packers and at least a full yard better than two-thirds of the league.

Offensively, New York boasts a number that the computer likes as well. Behind Thomas Jones, the Jets rank fifth overall in rushing and third amongst playoff teams at 4.5 yards per carry.

But a 17th-ranked offense in terms of passing yards per attempt drops them all the way outside the top 20 in terms of offensive yards per play.

The obvious wild card comes with rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. A first-year signal-caller is capable of completely muddling up even the strongest of numbers. That was clearly the case as the Jets nearly missed out on the playoffs altogether.

Now that they're there, the numbers would signify that they could be the top contender.

The Jets beat the Bengals 68 percent of the time in this weekend's Wild Card matchup, advance to the AFC Championship 43.8 percent of the time, make the Super Bowl 29 percent of the time, and win it all at a 15.88 percent rate.

NFC Provides Top Contenders

Outside of the Jets, three other teams win the Super Bowl more than 13 percent of the time in 10,001 simulations, and they all come from the NFC.

The second favorite couldn't be much more opposite from the Jets. The Saints, top seed in the conference, hardly had to find a way into the playoffs. They even rested quarterback Drew Brees and their starters on the final weekend of the season.

More than that, they're opposite in terms of the numbers as well. The Saints boast the top offense in the NFL, picking up more than six yards per play.

They also have the third-ranked passing offense, gaining 8.3 yards per attempt and are tied for fifth with 4.5 yards per carry on the ground.

While the Jets have the top-ranked defense, the Saints rank just 21st in yards given up per play.

Still, while their route would be different, New Orleans comes in as the second favorite. They advance to the NFC Championship game 59.5 percent of the time, make the Super Bowl at a 27.6 percent clip and win it all 14.59 percent of the time.

The Saints should see nearly equal challenges in the NFC race from the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys. Both teams provide more of a balanced approach in terms of numbers on each side of the ball.

The Vikings, behind quarterback Brett Favre, rank 10th in the league at 5.8 yards per play on offense and 14th on defense at 5.2 yards per play. Minnesota makes the Super Bowl just over 27 percent of the time and wins it 13.99 percent of the time.

Dallas, coming off its first successful December in recent memory thanks to the play of quarterback Tony Romo, tied the Saints in offense at 6.3 yards per game during the regular season.

But the Cowboys rank 12th defensively, giving up 5.2 yards per play. They win the Super Bowl just 0.33 percent less of the time than the Vikings despite having to advance through the Wild Card Round.

The rest of the NFC—which wins the Super Bowl more than 53 percent of the time—faces a tall task.

The Philadelphia Eagles slipped to the sixth seed in the NFC and win it all 6.19 percent of the time. The Green Bay Packers make the Super Bowl more frequently at 10 percent, but win it at just a 4.2 percent clip.

The Arizona Cardinals, who made the league's final showdown a year ago, make it back just 1.6 percent of the time, the lowest of any playoff team.

AFC's Murky Picture

Outside of the Jets being the prohibitive favorite in the AFC, the picture is much less clear behind them.

The Baltimore Ravens, the other wild-card team, actually have the second-best chance to win the Super Bowl for the AFC.

They boast the third-best defense in the NFL, giving up just 4.9 yards per play. They also have the fourth-best rushing attack in terms of yards per play, but rank just 14th in overall offense.

Baltimore's biggest hurdle on paper may come right away this weekend as they draw the Patriots in the Wild Card Round. The Ravens advance more than 59 percent of the time, making the Super Bowl 18 percent of the time and win it at a 9.69 percent clip.

Then come the AFC teams with first-round byes—the Colts and San Diego Chargers.

San Diego coasted into the playoffs. They continue their winning streak and roll all the way to a world championship 7.09 percent of the time thanks to the fourth-best offense and 16th best defense in terms of yards per play.

Indianapolis threw away the shot at a 19-0 season in Week 16, resting its starters for much of its last two games. Perhaps they lost momentum towards the finish line.

The Colts have the eighth-best defense and third best offense in terms of yards per play. They advance to the Super Bowl 17 percent of the time, but win it just 6.59 percent.

The Wes Welker-less Patriots win it just 3.8 percent of the time, while the Cincinnati Bengals are the biggest underdogs of the AFC, winning the Super Bowl at just a 3.7 percent rate.

And it would take much more than a plea from Marvin Lewis to get the computer to change its mind.

WhatIfSports.com is a division of FOX Sports Interactive specializing in fantasy football simulation analysis and football sim games. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, we can be reached at BtB@whatifsports.com. Thanks!


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