2018 NFL Playoff Projections: Steelers choke away AFC North, NFC sixth-seed up for grabs
Here are the 12 teams we are projecting to make the playoffs, plus every team's chances of getting in
Despite being eliminated from postseason contention, the Oakland Raiders were able to throw a wrench into the AFC playoff race on Sunday with a shocking 24-21 win over Pittsburgh, leaving the Steelers in some serious trouble.
With games against the Patriots and Saints over the next two weeks, the Steelers are now in prime position to choke away the AFC North, which is a shocking turn of events for a team that was 7-2-1 and had commanding control of the division after Week 11.
To find out if the Steelers will hang on to the division, let's get to this week's projection. As always, we'll be projecting the 12 teams that we expect to make the playoffs. To figure out who those 12 teams are, we had SportsLine.com's Stephen Oh crunch some numbers and give us some projections. Basically, Oh plugged some numbers into his SportsLine computer this week and simulated the rest of the NFL season, and using those numbers, we'll be projecting the 12-team playoff field.
Without further adieu, let's get to this week's 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,looks like as we head into Week 15.
AFC Playoff Projection
Projected wins in parentheses
1. Kansas City Chiefs (13.1 wins): AFC West Champs
With the Patriots shocking loss, the Chiefs now have a firm grasp on the the top seed in the AFC and they can clinch it as soon as this week if they beat the Chargers on Thursday and the Patriots lose to the Steelers. Even if New England doesn't lose, the Chiefs can still clinch a first-round bye with a win in Week 15. Chiefs remaining schedule: LA Chargers, at Seattle, Oakland.
2. New England Patriots (11.3): AFC East Champs
After losing on a miracle play in Miami, the computer is still projecting the Patriots to earn a first-round bye, which is big news for New England, because the Patriots have never made it to the Super Bowl under Bill Belichick when they've had to play in the wild-card round. Patriots remaining schedule: At Pittsburgh, Buffalo, NY Jets.
3. Houston Texans (10.7): AFC South Champs
The computer has some good news and some bad news for the Texans. The good news is that the Texans are still projected to win the AFC South, despite their loss to Indy on Sunday. The Texans are being given an 82.4 percent chance of winning the division, while the Titans (10.5 percent) and Colts (7.2 percent) chances are both under 11 percent. The bad news for the Texans is that the computer just hasn't been that impressed with them. Houston is ranked as the 12th best team in the NFL and is being given just a 2.97 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl. Texans remaining schedule: At NY Jets, at Philadelphia, Jacksonville.
4. Baltimore Ravens (9.0): AFC North Champs
Sometimes you win by losing and that's what the Ravens did on Sunday. The advantage for the Ravens is that they were expected to lose, unlike the Steelers, who were stunned in Oakland. Due to the Steelers loss, the computer is now torn over who will win the AFC North. As of right now, the Ravens are projected to steal it with a 9-7 record. However, when it comes to percentages, the computer actually favors the Steelers slightly. Pittsburgh is being given a 51.1 percent to chance to win the division while Baltimore's chances are sitting at 48.1 percent. The Browns are also in the race, and to find . Ravens remaining schedule: Tampa Bay, at Los Angeles Chargers, Cleveland
5. Los Angeles Chargers (11.5): Wild Card
The Chargers might have the second-best record in the AFC, but that's not going to help them in the playoff race. The problem for L.A. is that even if they beat the Chiefs on Thursday, they would still need Kansas City to lose ANOTHER game after that for the Chargers to have any shot at winning the division. Basically, even if the Chargers finish 13-3 or 12-4, it's starting to look like they're going to be playing their first game of the playoffs on the road. The Chargers can officially clinch the fifth-seed by winning just one more game this season. Chargers remaining schedule: At Kansas City, Baltimore, at Denver.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers: (8.5) Wild Card
The Steelers meltdown in Oakland might end up costing them the division, but the computer doesn't think it will cost Pittsburgh a playoff spot. According to SportsLine's projections, the Steelers are still in line to earn the final wild-card spot in the AFC. The Steelers have a 62.1 percent of getting into the playoffs, which is more than the Colts (29.6 percent) and Titans (29.1 percent) combined. After their miracle win on Sunday, the Dolphins are also a dark horse with a 17.9 percent chance of getting in. Although the Titans and Colts are projected to finish with more wins than Pittsburgh, the Steelers still have the advantage due to their tie in Week 1. Steelers remaining schedule: New England, at New Orleans, Cincinnati.
Just missed: Titans (8.8), Colts (8.6), Dolphins (8.5)
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): Broncos (2.9 percent), Browns (0.7 percent), Bengals (0.5 percent), Jaguars (0.0 percent -- Eliminated), Jets (0.0 percent -- Eliminated), Bills (0.0 percent -- Eliminated), Raiders (0.0 percent -- Eliminated).
NFC Playoff Projection
1. New Orleans Saints (13.2 wins): NFC South Champs
For the first time all season, the computer is projecting the Saints to take the top seed in the NFC. Although their projected win total of 13.2 is slightly lower than the Rams' total (13.4), the Saints hold the head-to-head tiebreak, which is why the computer likes them so much (If both teams finish 13-3, the Saints would get the top seed). According to SportsLine, the Saints have a 62 percent chance of getting the No. 1 seed in the NFC while the Rams' chances are sitting at just 32 percent. Saints remaining schedule: At Carolina, Pittsburgh, Carolina.
2. Los Angeles Rams (13.4): NFC West Champs
After getting dominated by the Bears in the arctic weather of Chicago, the Rams are getting some good news this week: The computer doesn't think they'll have to play in cold weather again. The computer is projecting the Rams as the second seed in the NFC, which means every playoff game for them would either be played in L.A. or a dome, assuming New Orleans clinches the top spot. Rams remaining schedule: Philadelphia, at Arizona, San Francisco.
3. Chicago Bears: (10.5) NFC North Champs
Although the Bears beat the Rams on Sunday, the computer isn't really giving Chicago any chance of earning a first-round bye. The computer is projecting that the Bears will finish at least two games behind the Rams, which means everyone in Chicago can start mentally preparing themselves for the Bears to host their first home playoff game since 2010. According to SportsLine's current projections, the Bears would play the Vikings in the wild-card round, which could make things interesting, because they'll also be playing the Vikings in their regular season finale. Bears remaining schedule: Green Bay, at San Francisco, at Minnesota.
4. Dallas Cowboys (9.7): NFC East Champs
The Cowboys win over the Eagles on Sunday didn't officially clinch the division for Dallas, but it did in the eyes of the computer. According to SportsLine, the Cowboys now have a 98 percent chance of winning the NFC East, which basically means that it would take an epic collapse for Dallas not to win the division. The Cowboys can officially clinch the division by winning any one of their final three games. Cowboys remaining schedule: At Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, at NY Giants.
5. Seattle Seahawks (9.9): Wild Card
The computer isn't supposed to have a favorite team, but it seems to really like the Seahawks. According to the computer's projections, the Seahawks actually have the third best chance of winning the Super Bowl out of all the teams in the NFC (Behind the Rams and Saints). This means the computer views Seattle as a bigger Super Bowl threat than both the Cowboys and Bears. The Seahawks can officially punch their ticket to the postseason with a win on Sunday against the 49ers. Seahawks remaining schedule: At San Francisco, Kansas City, Arizona.
6. Minnesota Vikings (7.8): Wild Card
The final playoff berth in the NFC seems to be a spot that no one wants to win. In Week 14, there were four teams within one game of this final wild-card spot and they ALL lost, with the Vikings, Redskins, Eagles and Panthers all going down. All the losing ended up helping the Vikings, and that's because their playoff chances actually went up from 63.2 percent last week to 65.1 percent this week. According to the computer, the only team that really has a shot to steal this final spot rom the Vikings is Philadelphia. SportsLine is giving the Eagles a 16.1 percent chance of making the playoffs. Vikings remaining schedule: Miami, at Detroit, Chicago.
Just missed: Eagles (7.5)
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): Panthers, (7.3 percent), Redskins (5.4 percent), Packers (4.6 percent), Lions (1.7 percent), Buccaneers (0.7 percent), Giants (0.6 percent), Falcons (0.0 percent), Cardinals (0.0 percent -- Eliminated), 49ers (0.0 percent -- Eliminated).
Wild-Card Round Projection
(6) Steelers at (3) Texans
(5) Chargers at (4) Ravens
Byes: Chiefs, Patriots
(6) Vikings at (3) Bears
(5) Seahawks at (4) Cowboys
Byes: Rams, Saints
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