2018 NFL Playoff Picture: Cowboys win NFC East, Ravens miss postseason in latest projection

Three weeks ago, the Cowboys were sitting at 3-5 and Jason Garrett was on the hot seat. However, a lot has changed since then, including our 2018 playoff projection, which now includes the Cowboys for the first time all season. 

Before we get to that projection though, we have some bad news for several teams. Although we haven't seen any teams eliminated from playoff contention yet this year, that will likely change this week. The Raiders, Jaguars, Cardinals and 49ers could all be eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday if they lose. As bad as that sounds, Jon Gruden will probably view the season as a moral victory since he kept his team's playoff hopes alive until Week 13. 

Although we could see multiple teams eliminated from contention this week, that's not why we're here. We're here to project the 12 teams that are going to make the playoffs this year.  These playoff projections will be based on data from number-cruncher Stephen Oh of SportsLine.com. Basically, Oh plugged some numbers into his SportsLine computer this week and simulated the rest of the NFL season, and using those numbers, we're going to let you know the playoff chances for all 32 teams, plus the projected 12-team playoff field. 

Alright, let's get to this week's playoff projections. 

Note: Remember, this is a projection based on how we think the rest of the regular season will play out. If you want to see the current playoff standings, click here to see Will Brinson's thorough breakdown of what the playoff race looks like as we head into Week 13.

AFC Playoff Projection

Projected wins in parentheses

1. Kansas City Chiefs (12.7 wins): AFC West Champs

Taking a week off actually helped Kansas City in the eyes of the computer. The Chiefs' chances of winning the Super Bowl went up 1.5 percent despite the fact that they didn't even play in Week 12. According to SportsLine, the Chiefs have the best shot of any AFC team to win the Super Bowl at 18.67 percent, although the Patriots are right behind them with a 17.47 percent chance of winning it all. Chiefs remaining schedule: At Oakland, Baltimore, LA Chargers, at Seattle, Oakland.

2. New England Patriots (11.8): AFC East Champs

At 8-3, the Patriots don't really have any margin for error if they want to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs and that's because they have two teams breathing down their neck (Steelers, Texans). Of course, the good news for the Patriots is that they currently hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Texans, and they'll have a chance to earn the same tiebreaker over Pittsburgh when they play the Steelers in Week 15. By the way, the reason we're talking about the Patriots as the second seed is because the computer doesn't really see New England stealing away the top seed from Kansas City. Patriots remaining schedule: Minnesota, at Miami, at Pittsburgh, Buffalo, NY Jets. 

3. Houston Texans (10.9): AFC South Champs

The Texans are the hottest team in the AFC right now with eight straight wins and nothing impresses the computer like a long winning streak. According to SportsLine, the Texans have a 94.6 percent chance of getting into the postseason and a 78.6 percent chance of winning the AFC South. That second percentage is lower because the computer has been watching a lot of Colts film over the past few weeks and has clearly come away impressed. Indy is currently the computer's dark horse to win the division with the Colts being given a 17.6 percent chance to take home the AFC South title. Texans remaining schedule: Cleveland, Indianapolis, at NY Jets, at Philadelphia, Jacksonville

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (9.8): AFC North Champs

The Steelers upset loss to the Broncos in Week 12 didn't do much to hurt their chances of winning the division. Despite the loss, Pittsburgh is still being given an 86.1 percent chance of winning the AFC North. That's as close as you can get to being a lock without actually being a lock. One interesting note is that the computer is currently projecting the Steelers to host the Chargers in the wild-card round, which means this Sunday night's game (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC, stream on fuboTV, try for free) could be playoff preview. Steelers remaining schedule: LA Chargers, at Oakland, New England, at New Orleans, Cincinnati. 

5. Los Angeles Chargers (10.8): Wild Card

The Chargers haven't officially clinched the top wild-card spot in the AFC, but the computer really likes their chances. According to SportsLine, the Chargers have a 94 percent chance of getting the fifth seed in the AFC and ONLY the fifth seed. The Chargers chances of winning the AFC West are currently sitting at 9.3 percent, which means the computer has all but given the division to the Chiefs. Although the Chargers still have a game against the Chiefs this year, it likely won't help things, even if they win. If both teams finish 13-3 and Kansas City's only loss for the rest of the season was to the Chargers, the Chiefs would win the AFC West due to a better division record.  Chargers remaining schedule: At Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, at Kansas City, Baltimore, at Denver. 

6. Indianapolis Colts: (9.0) Wild Card

There might be six teams within one game of the the final playoff spot in the AFC, but the computer only sees this as a two-horse race between the Colts and the Ravens. The computer has clearly been impressed by Andrew Luck, because the Colts currently have a 46.1 percent chance of earning the sixth-seed, which is slightly better than the 41.3 percent chance being given to the Ravens. No other team in the AFC is even being given a 10 percent chance of earning the sixth and final postseason spot in the conference. Colts remaining schedule: At Jacksonville, at Houston, Dallas, NY Giants, at Tennessee.

Just missed: Ravens (8.7)

Here's a list of all the other AFC teams (their percentage chances of getting into the playoffs is listed next to them in parentheses): Titans (9.8 percent), Broncos (8.9 percent), Dolphins (4.3 percent), Bengals (4.0 percent), Browns (2.9 percent), Jaguars (0.1 percent), Jets (0.0 percent), Bills (0.0 percent), Raiders (0.0 percent). 

Fun Browns Note: The Browns playoff chances might not be good, but they saw the biggest leap of any team in the NFL this week. After beating the Bengals, their playoff chances jumped from 0.5 percent last week to 2.9 percent, which means their chances improved by nearly 600 percent! 

NFC Playoff Projection

1. Los Angeles Rams (13.7 wins): NFC West Champs

The Rams can become the first team in the NFL to clinch a division title this year and all they have to do is win in Detroit on Sunday. If that happens, the Rams will win the NFC West for the second year in a row, which is kind of a big deal, because they haven't won consecutive division titles since the 1970s. Rams remaining schedule: At Detroit, at Chicago, Philadelphia, at Arizona, San Francisco.

2. New Orleans Saints (13.6): NFC South Champs

The computer really likes the Saints chances to eventually land the top seed. Although the Rams are currently in the one-spot in the NFC, that projection could change in the very near future and that's because the Rams are only 0.1 wins ahead of the Saints. That 0.1 win is actually what's keeping the Rams in the top spot. When it comes to percentages, the Saints actually have a 61 percent chance of getting the top seed. The Saints are also being given the best chances of any team in the NFL to win the Super Bowl at 25.57 percent. As for the Rams, their chances of winning the Lombardi Trophy are sitting much lower at just 14.59 percent. Saints remaining schedule: At Dallas, at Tampa Bay, at Carolina, Pittsburgh, Carolina.

3. Chicago Bears: (10.7) NFC North Champs

Picking up consecutive wins over the Lions and Vikings didn't clinch the NFC North for the Bears, but don't tell that to the computer, which has basically written everyone else off. With those wins, the Bears now have a 85 percent chance of winning the division and a 95.8 percent chance of making the playoffs. Although the computer has basically eliminated the Packers from the NFC North race (0.8 percent), it's still giving the Vikings an outside chance of winning the division (14.1 percent). Bears remaining schedule: At NY Giants, LA Rams, Green Bay, at San Francisco, at Minnesota.

4. Dallas Cowboys (8.7): NFC East Champs

The Cowboys aren't just America's team, they're also the computer's team. Following their Thanksgiving Day win over the Redskins, SportsLine is now projecting that the Cowboys will win the NFC East. The Cowboys chances are sitting at 50.4 percent, which is slightly ahead of both the Redskins (30.1 percent) and the Eagles (19.5 percent). Even if the Cowboys don't win the division, they still have a 59.4 percent chance of getting into the postseason if you include their wild-card chances.  Cowboys remaining schedule: Saints, Eagles, at Colts, Buccaneers, at NY Giants.

5. Seattle Seahawks (9.2): Wild Card

The biggest winner of Week 12 was probably the Seattle Seahawks. Thanks to their win over Carolina, the Seahawks saw their playoff chances take a huge jump from 50.4 percent to 75.3 percent. A big reason the computer likes the Seahawks is because their remaining schedule includes two games against the 49ers and one game against the Cardinals. Seahawks remaining schedule: San Francisco, Minnesota, at San Francisco, Kansas City, Arizona.

6. Minnesota Vikings (8.3): Wild Card

For the past two weeks, this spot has belonged to the Panthers, but after two straight losses, the computer has jumped off of Carolina's bandwagon and now likes the Vikings. SportsLine is giving Minnesota a 61.3 percent chance of getting into the postseason, and for that playoff berth to happen, all they have to do is hold off the Redskins (41.4 percent of getting in the playoffs), Panthers (25.4 percent), and Eagles (21.8 percent). One dark horse to keep an eye on is the Packers, who have a 12.8 percent chance of sneaking in the postseason despite their 4-6-1 record. The Packers also have the easiest remaining schedule of any team in the NFC. Vikings remaining schedule: At New England, at Seattle, Miami, at Detroit, Chicago.

Just missed: Panthers (8.1), Redskins (8.0), Eagles (7.4)

Here's a list of all the other NFC teams (their percentage chances of getting into the playoffs is listed next to them in parentheses): Falcons (3.9 percent), Lions (1.6 percent), Buccaneers (0.3 percent), Giants (0.0 percent), 49ers (0.0 percent), Cardinals (0.0 percent). 

Wild-Card Round Projection

AFC

(6) Colts at (3) Texans

(5) Chargers at (4) Steelers

Byes: Chiefs, Patriots

NFC 

(6) Vikings at (3) Bears

(5) Seahawks at (4) Cowboys

Byes: Rams, Saints

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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