Don't be surprised if the NFL playoff race gets a little crazy down the stretch and that's because with just three weeks left to play, there are still nine spots up for grabs.
Heading into Week 15, there have been a total of four teams that have punched their postseason ticket. The Steelers and Packers became the latest teams to clinch a spot and they'll be joining the Chiefs and Saints, who clinched back in Week 13.
Since you're probably wondering who else is going to make the playoffs and where everyone's going to be seeded, that's where our projections come in. 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 26 teams who are still alive, plus the projected 14-team playoff field.
If your team has already been eliminated from playoff contention -- I'm looking at you Jets, Jaguars Bengals, Falcons, Texans and Chargers fans -- here's a mock draft you can read to pass the time. Spoiler alert: That mock draft has three quarterbacks going with the top six picks.
Anyway, 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 West Champion)|
|Only one team in the AFC will be getting a bye this year and the Chiefs can probably go ahead and start planning for their week off, because the computer is expecting them to get the bye. The Chiefs are being projected to finish with a 14-2 record, which will put them a full game ahead of the Steelers, who are being projected to finish 13-3. The Chiefs are also the favorite to take home the Lombardi Trophy as they're being given a 25.06% of winning the Super Bowl, which is kind of crazy when you consider that no other team in the NFL is even being given a 20% chance. |
|2. (AFC North Champion)|
|The Steelers season is slowly starting to unravel and unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the computer thinks that things could get slightly worse before they get better. Not only is the computer projecting the Steelers to lose one more game, but it's also projecting that Pittsburgh will have to face Baltimore in the wild-card round. The only good news for the Steelers is that the computer is giving them a 100% chance of winning the division after Cleveland's loss on Monday. |
|3. (AFC East Champion)|
|The Bills didn't officially clinch a playoff spot with their win over the Steelers, but they did in the eyes of the computer. The only question that remains now is which seed the Bills are going to end up with and if the computer's right, they're going to be battling it out with the AFC South winner for the third overall seed. As you can see here, the Bills are obviously going to win that battle. |
|4. (AFC South Champion)|
|In the eyes of the computer, the AFC South is the only division in the AFC that's still up for grabs, and right now, the Titans are definitely the frontrunner. The computer is giving the Titans a 61.9% chance of winning the division, which is more than 20% better than the Colts, who are sitting at 38.1%. The biggest thing working in the Titans' favor is their divisional record. Right now, they're a game up on the Colts in the divisional tiebreaker and as long Tennessee beats Houston in Week 17, they would be guaranteed to win that all-important tiebreaker.|
|5. Wild Card 1|
|The Browns were in this spot last week, but after their loss to Baltimore on Monday, the door has now opened for the Colts to get the five seed. That being said, this might not be a seed the Colts want and that's because it would match them up with the Titans for the third time this season. Although the two teams split their season series, the Titans won the most recent game 45-26. |
|6. Wild Card 2|
|Although the Browns dropped a spot in our projection this week, the good news is that they didn't drop all the way out. The computer is giving the Browns an 82.9% of making the playoffs and a big reason for that is because Cleveland gets to face the Giants and Jets over the next two weeks. If they just win those two games, that would potentially allow them to lock up a playoff spot before Week 17, when they have to play the Steelers. |
|7. Wild Card 3|
|Thanks to their miraculous win over the Browns on Monday, the Ravens are now in the driver's seat for third and final wild-card spot in the AFC. After the win, their playoff chances shot up from 57% to nearly 80% and their Super Bowl odds even took a jump up to 3.94%, which is higher than both the Titans and the Browns. The biggest loser over the weekend was the Dolphins, who saw their playoff chances drop below 50%.|
First team out: Dolphins (45.3% 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 (12.3%), Patriots (2.5%), Broncos (0.0%).
Officially eliminated: Jets, Jaguars, Chargers, Bengals, Texans.
Note II: The Broncos 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 North Champion)|
|The loss by the Saints was Green Bay's gain and that's because the Packers are now projected to finish as the top seed in the NFC, which means they'd be the only NFC team getting a bye this year. The computer is projecting both teams to finish 12-4, but the Packers would get the top seed thanks to their head-to-head win over New Orleans back in Week 3. |
|2. (NFC South Champion)|
|The Saints might not be the projected top seed right now, but the computer does like their chances of winning the Super Bowl. According to SportsLine, the Saints have an 18.8% chance of winning it all, which is well ahead of the Packers, who are being given a 10.75% chance by the computer. Those two teams along with the Chiefs are the only three teams in the NFL being given a chance higher than 8%. |
|3. (NFC West Champion)|
|The Rams can clinch a playoff berth on Sunday with a win over the Jets, so we can probably just go ahead and punch their ticket. Not only is the computer expecting the Rams to win that game, but it's also expecting L.A. to win the division. According to SportsLine, the Rams 65% chance of winning the division, which is well ahead of the Seahawks, who are being given a 35% chance.|
|4. (NFC East Champion)|
|We're lucky the computer hasn't malfunctioned trying to figure out the NFC East, because for the third time in four weeks, the computer has a new team winning the division. Not only is Washington the new favorite, but they have a 67.4% chance of winning the division, which is the highest the computer has projected for any NFC East team this year. The Giants (21.4%) and Eagles (11.2%) are also hanging around, but the computer doesn't like their chances. |
|5. Wild Card 1|
|If the Seahawks like their hotel when they travel to Washington this week, they might want to go ahead and book it for early January and that's because the computer is projecting that Seattle and Washington will be meeting again in the wild-card round. The Seahawks are projected to finish 11-5, which will put them one game ahead of Tampa Bay for the fifth seed.|
|6. Wild Card 2|
|The computer basically views the top six slots in the NFC as all but clinched. Every team in the top six has a 95% chance or higher of getting to the postseason, including the Buccaneers, who are being given a 96.2% chance of making it. On the other hand, the Bucs shouldn't start to fantasize about winning the NFC South, because it's not going to happen: The computer is giving them just a 1% chance.|
|7. Wild Card 3|
|The computer only sees one wild-card spot up for grabs in the NFC and that's the final slot. Right now, the Cardinals are comfortably ahead of their closest competitors as the computer is giving them a 57% chance of making the postseason. In the eyes of the computer, the only other teams that really have a chance of stealing this spot are the Bears and Vikings. However, those two teams have to play each other this week, which means the Cardinals will likely only have to battle the winner of that game for NFC's final spot.|
First team out: Bears (21.4% 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): Giants (21.4%), Vikings (16.7%), Eagles (11.2%), 49ers (6%), Lions (1.7%), Cowboys (1.3%), Panthers (0.0%).
Officially eliminated: Falcons.
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) Ravens at (2) Steelers
(6) Browns at (3) Bills
(5) Colts at (4) Titans
Bye: Chiefs (Kansas City would host MIami in the wild-card round of a 16-team playoff)
(7) Cardinals at (2) Saints
(6) Buccaneers at (3) Rams
(5) Seahawks at (4) Washington
Bye: Packers (Green Bay would host Chicago in in wild-card round of a 16-team playoff)