The NFL's decision to expand the playoffs to 14 teams this year is already paying dividends for the league and that's because with two weeks left to play in the season, there are still 21 teams alive in the playoff race. To put that in perspective, there were only 17 teams still in contention at this time last year.
Although some teams might seem to be in good shape heading down the stretch, if we learned one thing from Week 15, it's that we can't take anything for granted. Not only did the Jets knock off the Rams, but we also saw the Bengals upset the Steelers.
Since you're probably wondering who's 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, Broncos, Patriots, Lions, Panthers, 49ers 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 five 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)|
|Thanks to Kansas City's win over the Saints in Week 15, the computer now views the Chiefs as the HEAVY favorite to win the Super Bowl. The Chiefs are currently being given a 29.1% to take home the Lombardi Trophy, which is a ridiculously high number when you consider that no other team in the NFL is even above 16% and no other team in the AFC is above 8%. |
|2. (AFC East Champion)|
|If there's one team in the AFC that's been able to take advantage of the Steelers' free fall, it's the Buffalo Bills. Over the past three weeks, the Bills have picked up three games on Pittsburgh and now that they've passed them in the standings for the two-seed, the computer doesn't see the Bills giving up their hold the two-spot n the AFC. |
|3. (AFC North Champion)|
|Although Pittsburgh's season seems to be completely falling apart, if there's one piece of good news for the Steelers, it's that they've already clinched a playoff berth. Even if the Steelers lose out, which is looking more and more possible by the day, they'll still end up in the playoffs. However, the division title is no longer a lock. Thanks to their loss to the Bengals, the Steelers are now being given an 82.6% chance of winning the AFC North while the Browns still have some hope at 17.4%. |
|4. (AFC South Champion)|
|With the Titans and Colts both tied at 10-4, it might feel like the AFC South is up for grabs, but the computer doesn't see things that way. According to the computer the Titans have a 60.3% chance of winning the division while the Colts' chances are sitting at 39.7%. Right now, the Titans are a game up on the Colts in the divisional tiebreaker and as long as Tennessee beats Houston in Week 17, it would be guaranteed to win that all-important tiebreaker.|
|5. Wild Card 1|
|Based on the way the computer is projecting things, it might not matter who wins the AFC South and that's because the computer currently has the second place team in the AFC South landing in this spot, which means the computer is projecting that the Colts and Titans are going to play each other in the wild-card round. Being the home team in that game probably wouldn't even be much of an advantage and that's because the teams split their season series with both teams winning on the road. |
|6. Wild Card 2|
|The Browns are on the cusp of their first playoff berth since 2002 and they could clinch it as soon as this week if a few things go their way. All they need to do is beat the Jets and then hope that either the Ravens, Dolphins or Colts lose (They only need one of those teams to lose, not all of them). The Browns have a 92.4% chance of making the playoffs, which means the computer is feeling very good about their chances. |
|7. Wild Card 3|
|I have some bad news for Dolphins fans: The computer doesn't like your team. The Dolphins are being given just a 44% chance of making the playoffs while the Ravens are more than 30% higher at 76.5%. The biggest reason the computer likes Baltimore over Miami is because of the schedule. The Ravens have the easiest remaining schedule of any team in the NFL (Giants, Bengals) while the Dolphins have the sixth-most difficult (Raiders, Bills).|
First team out: Dolphins (44% 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 (0.2%).
Officially eliminated: Jets, Jaguars, Chargers, Bengals, Texans, Broncos, Patriots.
NFC Playoff Projection
|1. (NFC North Champion)|
|The computer might be projecting the Packers to earn the NFC's top seed, but in a twist, the computer does not think the Packers are the NFC's best hope at winning the Super Bowl. Right now, the Packers are being given a 12.16% chance of taking home the Lombardi Trophy while the Saints are actually higher at 15.45%. |
|2. (NFC South Champion)|
|Although the Saints are currently being projected to get the second seed, they currently have a very tenuous lead over the Seahawks. The only reason the Saints are being projected ahead of Seattle right now is because the computer likes the fact that the Saints have the conference tiebreaker. With two games left to play for each team, the Saints are 8-2 in NFC play while the Seahawks are 7-3. |
|3. (NFC West Champion)|
|Based on this projection, you can probably tell who the computer will be picking when the Seahawks play the Rams on Sunday. Seattle is currently being given a 71.5% chance of winning the division while the Rams chances are sitting at just 28.5%. The Seahawks can actually clinch the NFC West title this week with a win over Los Angeles. |
|4. (NFC East Champion)|
|After eight confusing weeks, the computer is finally starting to feel good about its choice NFC East race. With just two games left to play, Washington is being given a 69.9% chance of winning the division, which is a huge number when you consider that the Giants (16.3%), Eagles (9.4%) and Cowboys (4.5%) are all below 20%. Washington could actually clinch this week with a win and a Giants loss. |
|5. Wild Card 1|
|It hasn't always been pretty, but the Buccaneers are now at 9-5 after their 17-point comeback win over the Falcons in Week 15. Thanks to that win, the computer is giving the Bucs a 96.4% chance of making the postseason. To seal the deal, all Tampa Bay has to do is beat the Lions on Saturday.|
|6. Wild Card 2|
|Apparently, the computer is feeling nice this week, because it's decided not to punish the Rams for their embarrassing loss to the Jets. The Rams have a 99.9% chance of making the playoffs and like the Buccaneers, they can get in with a win on Sunday. Even if they don't win, the Rams will also get in if the Bears lose (over the Jaguars) or if the Cardinals WIN (against the 49ers).|
|7. Wild Card 3|
|The NFC playoff field isn't quite set in the eyes of the computer, but it's getting pretty close. At 8-6, the Cardinals are being given a 66.6% chance of making the playoffs and the only team with a realistic shot of catching them would be the Bears, who are being given a 35.6% chance. The Cards can actually clinch a spot this weekend with a win and a Bears loss.|
First team out: Bears (35.6% 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 (16.3%), Eagles (9.4%), Cowboys (4.5%), Vikings (1.5%).
Officially eliminated: Falcons, Lions, Panthers, 49ers.
Note II: The Eagles, Cowboys and Giants are still alive because they all still have a shot of winning the NFC East.
Wild-card round projection
(7) Ravens at (2) Bills
(6) Browns at (3) Steelers
(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) Rams at (3) Seahawks
(5) Buccaneers at (4) Washington
Bye: Packers (Green Bay would host Chicago in in wild-card round of a 16-team playoff)