It took 11 weeks, but guess what guys, we've finally had our first team officially eliminated from the 2020 NFL playoff race. The honor of being the first team out this year belongs to the New York Jets, who were eliminated before the season even reached Week 12, marking the earliest the Jets have ever been knocked out in franchise history.
Although the Jets are out of the running, there are still 31 teams who are mathematically alive and those are the teams we're going to talk about in this week's playoff projections.
As always, the projections here are 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 the 31 teams who are still alive, plus the projected 14-team playoff field.
As for Jets fans, here's a mock draft you can read to pass the time. For everyone else, let's get to the projections. Wait, I do have one quick note for Jaguars fans, you might want to go ahead and read that mock too, because there's a good chance you're going to be the next team eliminated. The Jags will be officially out of the playoff race if they lose to Cleveland on Sunday.
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, be sure to click here.
With that in mind, let's get to the projections.
AFC Playoff Projection
|1. (AFC North Champion)|
|The Steelers are the 17th team in NFL history to start the season with a 10-0 record and of the previous 16 teams, six of them went on to win the Super Bowl. The only reason that's being mentioned is because the computer loves the Steelers chances of winning the Super Bowl. Out of all the teams in the NFL, Pittsburgh currently has a 21.89% chance of winning the Lombardi Trophy, which is the highest in the AFC and second-highest in the league, behind only the Saints (22.44%).|
|2. (AFC West Champion)|
|The Chiefs didn't officially clinch the division by beating the Raiders on Sunday, but they might as well have. According to the computer, the Chiefs now have a 97.2% chance of winning the AFC West. This is usually the part where I'd tell Chiefs fans that it's safe to start saving for playoff tickets, but I'm not actually sure if anyone is going to be allowed to attend the playoffs this year. |
|3. (AFC South Champion)|
|The Colts currently have a 79.9% chance of making the playoffs, which is a solid number, but it's also the lowest percentage being given to any current division leader in the AFC and second-lowest in the NFL (ahead of only the Eagles). The problem for the Colts (and the Titans) is that the loser of Sunday's game is going to fall to 7-4, which could drop them all the way down to the ninth spot in the current playoff standings, depending how the other games shake out on Sunday. Basically, the Colts probably shouldn't be getting any playoff banners made yet even though I know they love making banners. |
|4. (AFC East Champion)|
|For the past three weeks, the Bills were being projected to finish as the third seed, but after the Colts and Titans both pulled off big wins on Sunday (while the Bills were on a bye), the computer now likes those two teams slightly better, which is why Buffalo has fallen from the third-seed to the fourth spot. Although the Bills are being projected here, they're not even a lock to win the division yet. The computer is giving them a 75.7% chance of winning the division while the Dolphins are lurking behind with a 21.7% chance of taking home the AFC East crown. However, they do have a 91% chance of making the playoffs, which is the third highest in the AFC (behind Steelers and Chiefs). |
|5. Wild Card 1|
|After watching the Titans beat the Ravens on Sunday, the computer now feels like Tennessee is going to end up as the top wild card out of the AFC. That being said, the Titans could still very much end up winning the division. Going into Sunday's game with the Colts, the Titans have a 44% chance of taking home the AFC South crown and that percentage will only shoot up if they can pull off the upset in Indy. |
|6. Wild Card 2|
|The Ravens have now lost three of the their past four games, but don't tell that to the computer, who refuses to give up on Baltimore. Despite their current tailspin, the Ravens are still being given a 73.4% chance of making the playoffs. The computer feels like there's a large gap between Baltimore and the three teams fighting for the seventh-seed. |
|7. Wild Card 3|
|The computer will never admit this, but it doesn't have any idea who's going to get the final wild card spot out of the AFC. As things currently stand, there are three teams duking it out here. The Browns are the frontrunners with a 56.1% chance of making the playoffs, the Dolphins are next at 53.8% and the Raiders are bringing up the rear with just a 51.2% chance of making it. Despite the fact that they have the lowest percentage, the Raiders do have a head-to-head win over Cleveland and they still have a game against the Dolphins and Las Vegas could really help itself in the tiebreaker department if they can beat Miami.|
First team out: Dolphins (53.8% chance of getting into the playoffs)
Note: The first team out could end up making the playoffs. The NFL has approved a proposal that will expand the playoffs to 16 teams, but that will only happen if COVID-19 causes the cancellation of multiple regular season games that have a bearing on who might make the playoffs.
Here's a list of the playoff chances for all the other AFC teams (their percentage chances of getting into the playoffs is listed next to them in parentheses): Raiders (51.2%), Patriots (5.8%), Broncos (0.8%), Chargers (0.2%), Texans (0.2%), Bengals (0.0%), Jaguars (0.0%).
Officially eliminated: Jets.
Note II: The Bengals and Jaguars haven't been eliminated from playoff contention, but they have a zero percent chance of making it because the computer hates them. Actually, the computer doesn't love or hate, it has no feelings, it just doesn't think there's a mathematical chance for either team to make it.
NFC Playoff Projection
|1. (NFC South Champion)|
|The computer was so impressed by the fact that the Saints won without Drew Brees that New Orleans is now being viewed as the Super Bowl favorite. For the past three weeks, the Saints had the second-best chance of winning the Super Bowl, but now, the computer is giving them a 22.44% chance, which is the best in the NFL. To put that in perspective, no other team in the NFC is even being given a 10% chance. |
|2. (NFC West Champion)|
|After knocking off two contenders in two straight weeks, the computer has decided to handsomely reward the Rams by projecting them as the No. 2 seed in the NFC. The way the computer sees it, the battle for the NFC West crown is going to be a two-horse race between the Rams and the Seahawks. Los Angeles is being given a 51.9% chance of winning the division while Seattle's chances are sitting at 39.8%. As for the Cardinals, the computer has basically written off their chances of taking home the division title, giving them just an 8.2% chance. |
|3. (NFC North Champion)|
|Although the Packers lost on Sunday, their chances of winning the division didn't take a hit and that's because the Lions and Vikings also lost. As for the Bears, even though they didn't play, they still have no idea who their quarterback is going to be in Week 12, which is one reason why the computer doesn't view them as a threat to win the NFC North. The Packers have an 86.2% chance of winning the division, which means they're basically a lock to be hosting a playoff game at Lambeau Field in January. |
|4. (NFC East Champion)|
|The NFC East race is so crazy that it won't be surprising at all if the computer completely malfunctions while trying to figure it out. As things stand, the Eagles are currently projected to win the division, but they are far from a lock. Heading into Week 12, Philly is being given a 36.9% chance of taking home the NFC East crown, followed by the Cowboys (26.4%), Giants (24.2%) and Washington (12.5%). I'm starting to think that maybe we should just give the NFC East's playoff berth to someone else. |
|5. Wild Card 1|
|The Seahawks will be traveling to Philadelphia in Week 12, which is kind of ironic, because that's also where the computer thinks they'll be traveling for the wild-card round of the playoffs. With the Rams taking control of the NFC West, the computer is now projecting the Seahawks as the second place team in the division and the fifth-seed in the NFC. Of course, the biggest advantage of being the fifth seed is that you get to play the NFC East winner, which is almost like getting a bye.|
|6. Wild Card 2|
|Although the computer likes the Buccaneers, it definitely doesn't love them, especially after their ugly loss to the Rams on Monday night. With Tampa Bay at 7-4, the computer is basically giving them a zero percent chance of winning the NFC South (Technically, it's a 5.6% chance, but you get the point). The upside for the Buccaneers is that the computer is projecting them to play the Packers in the opening round of the playoffs, which is one team that Tampa Bay absolutely destroyed this year.|
|7. Wild Card 3|
|When it comes to projecting the Cardinals, the computer doesn't even really have to try anymore. This is the third straight week that Arizona has been projected into the NFC's final wild-card spot. The Cardinals currently have a 68.8% chance of making the postseason, which is more than 30% higher than their next closest competitor. Basically, the computer feels like the NFC's playoff spots are locked up, it's now just a matter of how the seeding plays out.|
First team out: Bears (37.5% chance of getting into the playoffs)
Note: The first team out could end up making the playoffs. The NFL has approved a proposal that will expand the playoffs to 16 teams, but that will only happen if COVID-19 causes the cancellation of multiple regular season games over the final eight weeks of the season.
Here's a list of the playoff chances for all the other NFC teams (their percentage chances of getting into the playoffs is listed next to them in parentheses): Cowboys (26.4%), Giants (24.2%), Washington (12.5%), Vikings (11.3%), 49ers (5.8%), Lions (3.5%), Panthers (0.9%), Falcons (0.3%)
Note II: The Giants, Cowboys and Washington have a higher percentage than several other teams because the computer believes they have a better shot of winning the NFC East than most other NFC teams have of earning a wild-card berth.
Wild-card round projection
(7) Browns at (2) Chiefs
(6) Ravens at (3) Colts
(5) Titans at (4) Bills
Bye: Steelers (Pittsburgh would host Miami in the wild-card round of a 16-team playoff)
(7) Cardinals at (2) Rams
(6) Buccaneers at (3) Packers
(5) Seahawks at (4) Eagles
Bye: Saints (New Orleans would host Chicago in in wild-card round of a 16-team playoff)