With nine weeks of the NFL season in the books, that means we're exactly halfway through the year, which makes right now the perfect time to start talking about 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 total shock to some Lions fans. Although the Lions currently have zero wins, they're still mathematically alive, which is why everyone in Detroit should love math right now.
One reason every team is still alive is because of playoff expansion. The 2021 season will mark the second year of the 14-team playoff era. From 1990 to 2019, there were only 12 teams, but the NFL added two extra playoff slots starting with the 2020 season.
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 14 teams we expect to make the playoffs.
With that in mind, let's get to the projections.
AFC Playoff Projection
|1. (AFC South Champion)|
|The computer really likes it when you beat the best teams in the NFL and the Titans have done that for four straight weeks with wins over the Bills, Chiefs, Colts and Rams. Right now, the Titans have a 98.1% chance of winning their division, which means the computer basically views them as a lock. That's the highest chance any team has of winning its division heading into Week 10 (The Packers are the next highest at 93.8%)|
|2. (AFC East Champion)|
|The Bills might not be projected to get the top seed in the AFC, but the computer still seems to like them the most in this conference. According to SportsLine, the Bills have a 15.71% chance of winning the Super Bowl this year, which isn't just the highest number in the AFC, but it's also the highest in the NFL, which means the computer views the Bills as the current Super Bowl favorite. |
|3. (AFC North Champion)|
|The computer isn't sure if the Ravens are going to win the AFC North -- they only have a 57% chance of winning the division -- but the computer does feel like Baltimore is a lock for the playoffs. The Ravens currently have an 88.3% chance of getting in, which makes them one of just three teams in the AFC that has above a 75% chance of making it. |
|4. (AFC West Champion)|
|If you're wondering who's going to come out of the AFC West, the computer's projection is that it's going to be the Chargers. Even though all four teams are separated by just a half game in the standings, the Chargers are the overwhelming favorite. L.A. is being given a 49.2% chance of winning the division, which is way ahead of the, Chiefs (18.7%), Raiders (17.8%) and Broncos (14.3%). |
|5. Wild Card 1|
|The Steelers started 1-3, but the computer lives in a "what have you done for me lately" world, which is why the Steelers are in the fifth spot. Thanks to four wins in a row, the computer is currently giving the Steelers a 52.8% chance of making the playoffs. |
|6. Wild Card 2.|
|After missing the playoffs last season for the first time in more than a decade, the computer believes that the Patriots will be returning to the postseason this year. According to SportsLine, the Patriots have a 51.7% of making the playoffs, which makes them one of two wild card contenders -- along with the Steelers -- that are being given above a 50% chance. |
|7. Wild Card 3.|
|The computer currently has the Raiders pegged into the final wild-card spot, but that might not last for long, because it is projecting that the battle for the seventh spot will turn into total chaos down the stretch. Although the Raiders have a 48% chance of making the playoffs, that's only slightly better than the Chiefs, Colts and Browns, who all have a 40% chance or greater of making it.|
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): Chiefs (45.7%), Colts (41%), Browns (40.8%), Broncos (34.3%), Bengals (28.1%), Dolphins (0.4%), Jaguars (0.1%), Jets (0.0%), Texans (0.0%).
Note: The Jets and Texans 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 West Champion)|
|The Cardinals have the best record in the NFL right now and although they're basically a lock to make the playoffs, the computer doesn't view them as the Super Bowl favorite. The Cards are being given a a 14.4% chance of winning it all, which is slightly behind the Bills and slightly ahead of both the Rams (11.3%) and Buccaneers (10.9%). |
|2. (NFC South Champion)|
|The Buccaneers bye week couldn't have gone any better and that's because they took one step closer to clinching the NFC South without even taking a snap. According to the computer, the Buccaneers now have an 81.9% chance of winning the division, which means Tom Brady might actually get to play a home wild-card game this year, which he didn't get to do in 2020. |
|3. (NFC North Champion)|
|Aaron Rodgers picked a good week to be out with COVID. Despite the Packers loss, the computer still views Green Bay as a lock to win the NFC North and that's mostly because the Vikings and Bears also lost in Week 9. The Packers have a 93.8% chance of winning their division, which is the highest chance being given to any current division leader in the NFC. |
|4. (NFC East Champion)|
|Although the Cowboys fell flat on their face on Sunday, the computer decided not to punish them for it. Despite the loss, the Cowboys still have a 95.6% chance of making the playoffs and a 93.1% chance of winning the division. Basically, the computer likes the Cowboys chances of hosting their first playoff game in three years. |
|5. Wild Card 1|
|The Rams are so good this year that the computer is actually giving them the second best chance to make the playoffs out of any team in the NFL. Right now, the Rams have a 99.7% chance of getting in, which is an impressive number for a team that's not even in first place in its own division.|
|6. Wild Card 2|
|Although the Saints lost Jameis Winston for the season, the computer doesn't think it's going to cost them a playoff spot. According to SportsLine, the Saints have a 73% chance of making the postseason, which is a wildly high number when you consider that no team below them is even being given a 30% chance.|
|7. Wild Card 3|
|The computer almost malfunctioned trying to figure out who's going to get the final seed in the NFC. Right now, the Vikings are being given the edge, but just barely. Minnesota's playoff chances are sitting at just 29.5% and although that's extremely low, it's still higher than the other contenders for this spot, including the Seahawks (24.8%), 49ers (23.9%) and Falcons (21.9%).|
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): Seahawks (24.8%), 49ers (23.9%), Falcons (21.9%), Eagles (16.7%), Panthers (6.9%), Giants (5.3%), Washington (2.1%), Bears (1.1%), Lions (0%).
Wild-card round projection
(7) Patriots at (2) Bills
(6) Raiders at (3) Ravens
(5) Steelers at (4) Chargers
(7) Vikings at (2) Buccaneers
(6) Saints at (3) Packers
(5) Rams at (4) Cowboys