Due to the fact that the NFL expanded the playoffs to 14 teams this year, it's almost impossible to get eliminated early. With five weeks to play in the regular season, 30 of the league's 32 teams are still mathematically alive to make the playoffs.
Of course, if 30 teams are still alive, that means two teams have been officially eliminated and those two teams are the Jets and Jaguars, which I'm guessing is a surprise to no one. On the other hand, the Chiefs can become the first team to officially clinch a playoff berth this year with a win over the Broncos on Sunday night. The Steelers can then join them on Monday with a win over Washington. In the NFC, the Saints can clinch a playoff spot with a win and a Bears loss.
With that in mind, let's get to this week's projections. These usually come out on Wednesday, but we had to delay things this week to accommodate the Ravens-Steelers game, so you're welcome Ravens and Steelers.
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 30 teams who are still alive, plus the projected 14-team playoff field.
As for Jets and Jaguars fans, here's a mock draft you can read to pass the time. For everyone else, let's get to the 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, be sure to click here.
With that in mind, let's get to the projections.
AFC Playoff Projection
|1. (AFC North Champion)|
|After watching the Steelers win a Wednesday game, the computer seems to like them even more now. For one, the Steelers now have a 99.9% chance of winning the division, which means the computer is has all but crowned them as the division champion. The Steelers also have a 21.52% chance of winning the Super Bowl, which is the highest in the AFC and second-highest in the NFL (Saints have a 25.46% chance).|
|2. (AFC West Champion)|
|The Chiefs picked a bad year to be good. The computer is projecting them to finish 14-2 and in any other season prior to 2020, that would have been good enough to get a bye, but this year, the No. 2 seed isn't going to be getting a bye, which means if the Chiefs finish in this slot, they're going to be forced to play on Wild-Card Weekend. The computer has the Chiefs finishing one game behind the Steelers, who are being projected to finish 15-1. |
|3. (AFC South Champion)|
|If you're wondering how big it was for the Titans to beat the Colts on Sunday, just consider this, the computer now basically views Tennessee as a a near-lock to win the AFC South. Before Week 12, the Titans had just a 44% chance to win the division, but those odds have now skyrocketed to 90% following Tennessee's win over Indy. The best news for Titans fans it that the team's weird streak of four straight 9-7 finishes is expected to end as the computer is projecting Tennessee to get to 11 wins. |
|4. (AFC East Champion)|
|According to the computer, the AFC East is the only division in the AFC that's even still remotely up for grabs. Heading into Week 13, the Bills are being given a 78% chance of winning the division, which is a high number, but it's not that great when you consider that the other three division leaders are all at 90% or higher. The problem for the Bills: Not only are the Dolphins being given an outside chance to win the division (19.4%), but the Patriots are also being given a 2.6% chance to steal the division crown. |
|5. Wild Card 1|
|If you're a Browns fan, the computer has some good news for you: It really likes Cleveland's chances of ending its 18-year playoff drought. The Browns are currently being given a 72.3% chance of making the playoffs, which is the highest percentage in the AFC for a team that's not currently leading its division. The best part of the computer's projection is that if this week's projection holds, the Browns and Bills would play in the Wild-Card round, meaning one of these two teams would get to win their first playoff game this century. |
|6. Wild Card 2|
|After losing to the Titans in Week 12, the computer doesn't think Indianapolis has a realistic shot of winning the division crown anymore. Heading into Week 13, the Colts chances of winning the division title are sitting at just 10%. The Colts shouldn't get too comfortable in this wild card slot either, because the computer doesn't love Indy's shot of landing the fifth-seed. Both the Dolphins and Ravens are right behind Indy and if the Colts slip up over the next few weeks, they could find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to the postseason. |
|7. Wild Card 3|
|If you believe the computer, the final wild card spot in the AFC is going to be a dog fight between the Dolphins and Ravens. As things currently stand, the Dolphins have a 66% chance of making the postseason while the Ravens are right behind them at 63.7%. One thing you'll notice here is that the computer has completely given up on the Raiders, who are being given just a 29.7% chance of making the playoffs.|
First team out: Ravens (63.7% 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 (29.2%), Patriots (9.4%), Texans (0.4%), Broncos (0.2%), Chargers (0.0%), Bengals (0.0%).
Officially eliminated: Jets, Jaguars.
Note II: The Bengals and Chargers 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)|
|For the second straight week, the Saints won a game without Drew Brees and for the second straight week, the computer rewarded them handsomely for that. The Saints chances of winning the Super Bowl have shot up to 25.46%, which is an absurd number when you consider that no other team in the NFC is even being given a 7% chance of winning the Lombardi Trophy. |
|2. (NFC West Champion)|
|A big reason the Seahawks are being projected as the second-seed in the NFC is because the computer loves their schedule. Over the next three weeks, the Seahawks get to play the Giants, Jets and Washington, which are three games they should win. Although the Seahawks haven't quite wrapped up the division in the eyes of the computer, they are being given a 68.8% chance of winning the NFC West, which is more than double the chances being given to the Rams (29.4%). |
|3. (NFC North Champion)|
|After beating the Bears in Week 12, the Packers are basically viewed as a lock to win the NFC North as the computer is now giving them a 97.2% chance of winning the division. The biggest problem right now for Green Bay is the fact that the computer is projecting the Packers to play the Buccaneers in the Wild-Card round, a team that beat them 38-10 earlier this season. |
|4. (NFC East Champion)|
|It took three weeks, but the computer has finally given up on the Eagles. For the first time since the projections started this year, the computer has moved a team besides Philadelphia into the top spot in the NFC East. Although the Giants are in this spot now, their hold on first place could be tenuous and that's because there's a chance that Daniel Jones could miss a game or two with a hamstring injury. If Jones misses any serious time, that could open the door for one of the three other teams to win the division. As things currently stand, the computer is giving the Giants a 42.7% chance of winning the NFC East followed by Washington (26.6%), the Eagles (20.2%) and the Cowboys (10.5%).|
|5. Wild Card 1|
|Despite their surprising loss to the 49ers in Week 12, the computer still thinks the Rams are a lock to make the playoffs. The Rams currently have a 94.6% chance of getting into the postseason, which is the highest percentage being given to any team that's not currently in first place their division.|
|6. Wild Card 2|
|After watching the Buccaneers lose two straight games, the computer hasn't quite given up on them, but they're no longer a total lock to make the playoffs. With several teams lurking behind them, including Minnesota and San Francisco, Tampa Bay is now being given just a 72.7% chance of making the postseason. The Buccaneers probably don't need to panic yet, but that might change if they lose their next game, which will come in Week 14 against the Vikings.|
|7. Wild Card 3|
|After a disastrous November where the Cardinals went 1-3, the computer doesn't seem too confident in Arizona anymore. The reason the Cards are still in this spot though is because the computer is projecting them to finish the season 9-7. If they do that, then one of the three teams at 5-6 would have to go 4-1 down the stretch and the computer doesn't see that happening. The Cardinals currently have a 59.8% chance of making the playoffs.|
First team out: Bears (30.1% 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): Washington (26.6%), Eagles (20.2%), Vikings (19.6%), 49ers (16%), Cowboys (10.5%), Lions (2%), Falcons (1.5%), Panthers (0.1%)
Note II: The Eagles, 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) Dolphins at (2) Chiefs
(6) Colts at (3) Titans
(5) Browns at (4) Bills
Bye: Steelers (Pittsburgh would host Baltimore in the wild-card round of a 16-team playoff)
(7) Cardinals at (2) Seahawks
(6) Buccaneers at (3) Packers
(5) Rams at (4) Giants
Bye: Saints (New Orleans would host Chicago in in wild-card round of a 16-team playoff)