With Week 9 upon us, that means we're officially in the second half of the NFL season, which means it's time to do one of our favorite things here at CBS Sports -- Figure out who's going to make the playoffs.
The beauty of the NFL playoff race right now is that all 32 teams are currently still alive, which is news that might actually come as a slight shock to both Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins fans. Although those two teams are winless, they're still mathematically alive, so in the immortal words of Lloyd Christmas, I'm telling you there's a chance that your team could still end up in playoffs, Bengals and Dolphins fans.
To help you figure out who's going to make the playoffs this year, we're going to be publishing a projection every week for the rest of the season. These projections will be based on data from number-cruncher Stephen Oh of SportsLine.com. Each week, Oh will plug some numbers into his SportsLine computer and simulate the rest of the NFL season, and using those numbers, we'll project the 12 teams we expect to make the playoffs.
Under Oh's current projections, fans in New England, San Francisco, and New Orleans can go ahead and book their playoff tickets because those three teams have a 99 percent chance of making the postseason. That doesn't mean they've clinched a spot, it just means that SportsLine doesn't really think it's mathematically possible for those three teams to miss the playoffs at this point.
The regular season's already half over, so let's get to the Midseason Awards. Brady Quinn and Ryan Wilson join Will Brinson on the Pick Six Podcast to break down the winners, handicap the MVP race and much more. Listen below and be sure to subscribe here for daily NFL goodness fired into your eardrums.
Below you'll find all 12 of our playoff projections with each team's expected win total. We'll also list whether or not we expect a team to make the playoffs as a wild-card or a division winner.
Alright, with all of that in mind, let's get to this week's playoff projections.
AFC Playoff Projection
|1. (AFC East champion)
|If you thought fans in New England loved the Patriots, just wait until you hear how much the computer loves them. According to SportsLine's numbers, not only do the Patriots have a 99% chance of making the playoffs, but they're also given the best chance of any team in the NFL to win the Super Bowl. Heading into Week 9, the Patriots Super Bowl odds are at 32.1%, which is more than 13% higher than the next two closest teams (The 49ers' chances are sitting at 19.1% while the Saints' chances are sitting at 18.8%).
|2. (AFC North champion)
|The race for the second seed in the AFC is wide open, and right now, the computer currently believes that the second first-round bye in the conference is going to go to the Ravens. The biggest factor working in Baltimore's favor right now is the fact that the Chiefs don't have Patrick Mahomes and the fact that the AFC South race is slowly turning into a dogfight, which could end with the division champion only having 10 wins.
|3. (AFC West champion)
|Patrick Mahomes might be on the sideline right now with an injury, but the computer doesn't think that's going to hurt Kansas City's chances of winning the AFC West. According to SportsLine, the Chiefs have an 83.2% chance of winning the division title, which basically makes them a lock for the postseason. Of course, that could change if Mahomes ends up missing more than two or three weeks. So far, Mahomes has missed only one game since injuring his knee in Week 7.
|4. (AFC South champion)
|Although the AFC South has been the most unpredictable division in football this year, nothing is unpredictable to our computer, which is picking the Colts to win the division title. According to SportsLine, the Colts have a 52.7% chance of winning the division, which is almost double the Texans' chances (27%). The computer also believes that the Jaguars could still win the division, although they're a long shot with just a 16.5% chance (And just in case you're wondering, the Titans have a 3.7% chance).
|5. (Wild Card 1)
|If the computer is right about the Bills, that means that Buffalo is soon going to be headed to its second playoff appearance in three years, which is a huge number for a team that made zero playoff appearances from 2000 to 2016. According to SportsLine, the Bills have a 70.9 percent chance of making the playoffs. To put that in perspective, the Jaguars are expected to finish as the first team out of the playoffs in the AFC and they have just a 37.9% chance of making the postseason.
|6. (Wild Card 2)
|The Texans aren't expected to win the AFC South this year, but the computer does believe that Houston will be heading to the playoffs anyway. According to SportsLine, the Texans have a 62.4% chance of getting to the postseason. Although the computer is expecting the Texans to land the sixth seed, it actually thinks Houston is a better team than Buffalo, and we know that because the Texans are given a better chance of getting to the Super Bowl than fifth-seeded Bills (4.46% to 2.65%).
Just missed: Steelers, Jaguars
Teams that haven't been officially eliminated from the playoff race, but the computer has basically given up on them: Jets, Bengals, Dolphins
NFC Playoff Projection
|1. (NFC West champion)
|There's a tug-of-war going on for the top seed in the NFC and right now, the computer believes the top spot is going to go to the 49ers. If that prediction holds, it would mark the first time since 1997 that the 49ers have been the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC. Of course, the Saints and 49ers actually play each other this year, which means we won't have to take the computer's word for who's going to get the top seed. The showdown between the Saints and 49ers will be coming in Week 14.
|2. (NFC South champion)
|The Saints might not be projected as the top seed in the NFC right now, but the computer does feel that New Orleans has the best chances of winning its division out of any team in the conference. With nine weeks left to play in the season, the Saints have a 97.6% percent chance of winning the NFC South while the 49ers' chances of winning their division sit at just 85%. The reason for that is mostly because the NFC West is a much tougher division than the NFC South this year.
|3. (NFC North champion)
|Although the Packers only have a one-game lead on the Vikings in the NFC North, the computer feels that the division race is basically over. According to SportsLine, the Packers have a 70.9% chance of winning the division, which is almost triple the chances that are being given to the Vikings (24.4%). For all the Lions and Bears fans out there, the computer thinks you should give up on the division and start looking to next year. The Lions chances of winning the division are 3.8% while the Bears chances are just 0.9%.
|4. (NFC East champion)
|At the halfway point of the season, it's pretty clear that the NFC East race is going to come down to a barroom brawl between the Cowboys and Eagles. Fortunately for Cowboys fans -- and Jason Garrett's job security -- the computer believes that Dallas is going to win the division title. According to SportsLine, the Cowboys have a 53% chance of winning the NFC East, which is slightly better than the Eagles, who have a 45.5% chance of winning the division. The Giants also have a pulse with a 1.5% chance of winning, but we can probably all agree that that's not going to happen.
|5. (Wild Card 1)
|According to the computer, the Vikings are the closest thing to a lock that there is in the NFC wild-card race. Right now, the Vikings chances of getting a wild card spot are sitting at 65.4%, which is a high number when you consider that no other wild card contender is even above 55%. Although the computer likes the Vikings chances of making the playoffs, it doesn't really like their chances of winning the Super Bowl. The Vikings are being given just a 2.4% chance of taking home the Lombardi Trophy, which isn't great news for my colleague Will Brinson, who predicted them to win it all before the season.
|6. (Wild Card 2)
|The computer almost exploded trying to figure out who would be getting the final Wild Card spot out of the NFC, and after hours of computations, it appears the Seahawks are in the best position to get the sixth and final seed in the conference. According to SportsLine, the Seahawks have a 54% chance of sneaking into the playoffs, which is just slightly better than the Eagles (47.9%) and Rams (47.6%). No other team in the NFC is even above 20 percent, which means the computer is expecting a dogfight between these three teams down the stretch.
Just missed: Rams, Eagles, Panthers, Lions
Wild-Card Round Projection
(6) Texans at (3) Chiefs
(5) Bills at (4) Colts
Byes: Patriots, Ravens
(6) Seahawks at (3) Packers
(5) Vikings at (4) Cowboys
Byes: Saints, 49ers