NFL Playoff Predictions

If you follow the NFL at all, you’ve undoubtedly seen all the potential playoff scenarios somewhere by now.  This is just a rundown of how I see them playing out using my predictions and nfl-forecast.

In the AFC, the Pats are in the driver’s seat for the number 1 seed.  They get it as long as they win or both the Ravens and Steelers lose.  I put that at about 80%.  The Ravens are on the inside for the 2 seed.  They get it if they win or if the Steelers lose.  I have about a 53% chance of that happening, but that doesn’t take out their chances of the Pats winning.  If I assume that, it’s 65%.  Otherwise the Ravens get the 5 seed.  On the flip side, the Steelers get the 2 seed if they win and the Ravens lose, and they can get the 1 seed if the Pats also lose.  Assuming the Pats win, you just flip the Ravens’ numbers: the Steelers have a 35% chance to get the 2 seed and otherwise get the 5.  Since they all have something to play for, and presumably their opponents (the Bills, Browns, and Bengals) play roughly to form, these probabilities are likely to be accurate.

Moving to the Bengals, they are going to play to win because they can still get the 6 seed.  In fact, I like that to happen to the tune of about 70%.  They get there by beating the Ravens (tough, but not impossible, and they’re at home) or by having the Jets and one of the Broncos or Raiders lose.  As a quick note, the Texans have the 3 seed and can’t move anywhere else.  So let’s move to the 4 seed, which will be either those Broncos or Raiders.  The Broncos have a 80% chance of getting it since they can either win or the Raiders can lose.  Oakland is probably in the tougher position since the Chargers might be playing for Norv Turner’s job whereas the Chiefs have nothing to play for.  But, Haley also seems like the kind of guy who doesn’t like to roll over.  So I think the 80/20 split is probably about right.

The rest of the probability for the 6 seed (besides the Bengals) goes to the Raiders, Jets, and Titans in that order.  The Raiders get there if they win but the Broncos do as well, as well as the Bengals losing and either the Jets win or the Titans lose.  Obviously a lot going on there; I have it at under 12%.  But again that includes some chance of the Raiders getting the 4 seed.  If I assume the Broncos win, the Raiders have a 20% chance at the 6 seed behind the Bengals’ 65%.  The Jets make it if they win, the Bengals lose, the Titans lose, and either the Broncos or Raiders lose.  The Titans make it if they win and the Bengals lose as well as the Jets win and either the Broncos or Raiders lose or the Jets lose and both the Broncos and Raiders win.  Pretty complicated.  I give the Jets and Titans roughly equal chances of making the 6 seed, but both are under 10% regardless of if I give the Broncos the win or not.  I didn’t say specifically, but the Broncos cannot get a wild card at this point; they can only win the division or they’re out.

Let’s move to the NFC.  The Packers have clinched the 1 seed.  That becomes important for the Lions and Falcons later.  The 49ers have the inside edge at the 2 seed with a 80% chance.  They just need to win or have the Saints lose.  The flip side is that the Saints get the 2 seed about 20% of the time, if they win and the 49ers lose.  Since the Saints are hosting the Panthers and the 49ers are playing the Rams, it’s unlikely either team will lose.  The 4 seed will go to the winner of the Giants-Cowboys game, with the other team staying home.  The Giants are hosting, so they get the edge (I put the game at 60/40 Giants).

Finally, the 5 and 6 seed will go to the Lions and Falcons.  The Lions have to be ahead of the Falcons to get the 5 seed since they lost the head-to-head game.  The Falcons are hosting the Bucs, so they have a pretty good chance to win.  Thus the straight prediction is that the Falcons are a slight favorite to get the 5 seed since the Lions are playing the Packers in Green Bay.  On the other hand, the Lions obviously have some chance to win anyway, and the Falcons have some chance of losing anyway, and if they do the Lions would get the 5 seed.  But if the Packers rest some players, which I think they have a good reason to, the Lions become bigger favorites.  The Packers have nothing to play for, and they might not want to risk Rodgers against the Lions’ defensive line.  So I give the edge to the Lions to get the 5 seed, although it isn’t guaranteed.

So there you go.  I expect the AFC seeding to be Patriots, Ravens, Texans, Broncos, Steelers, and Bengals while the NFC seeding is Packers, 49ers, Saints, Giants, Lions, Falcons.  As a Lions fan I like this, because I would much rather see the Giants in the first round than the Saints.  But we’ll see how it turns out.  Should be a fun last weekend of games.

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