With 14 teams now getting into the NFL playoffs, it's almost impossible to get eliminated from contention before the calendar hits December. This year is definitely proof of that.
Despite a record of 0-10-1, the Detroit Lions are STILL ALIVE in the playoff race. That is not a typo. If the Lions have roughly 437 things go their way between now and the end of the season, they could sneak in the postseason as a wild-card. On the other hand, they could become the first team to be eliminated from playoff contention this week and that will happen if they lose Sunday to the Vikings.
For now, though, every team is still mathematically alive, which brings us to to this week's playoff projections. The projections here are based on data from number-cruncher Stephen Oh of SportsLine.com. Oh plugged some numbers into his SportsLine computer this week and then simulated the rest of the NFL season, and using those numbers, we were able to figure out the playoff chances for all 32 teams. We also projected the 14-team playoff field.
With that in mind, let's get to this week's playoff projections. Actually, before we do that, here's a mock draft that fans of the Jaguars, Jets, Texans and Lions might want to read. Although those four teams haven't been technically eliminated yet, the computer is basically giving them a 0% chance of making the playoffs, so a mock draft might be more exciting to read than this projection if you're a fan of one of those four teams. Jets fans should definitely click over because your team currently has two of the first five picks.
Anyway, for everyone else, let's get to the projection.
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. For a breakdown of the current playoff picture, be sure to click here. SportsLine simulates every game leading up to the playoffs 10,000 times, and you can see the model's picks both straight up and against the spread here.
With that in mind, let's get to the projections:
AFC Playoff Projection
|1. (AFC North Champion)|
|The computer likes the Ravens, but it still isn't convinced that Baltimore is going to win the AFC North. Following their 16-10 win over the Browns on Sunday, the Ravens are being given a 63.3 chance of taking home the division crown. Although that doesn't make them a lock, it is more than double the next closest team. (The Bengals are being given a 30.3% chance.)|
|2. (AFC East Champion)|
|With the Bills being projected to win the division, you can probably guess who the computer is predicting to win this week when Buffalo hosts New England. According to SportsLine, the Bills currently have a 54.1% chance of winning the AFC East, which is just ahead of the Patriots, who are being given a 45.9% chance. Of course, those percentages will be changing in a big way after Monday night's showdown, no matter who wins. |
|3. (AFC South Champion)|
|Despite the fact that the Titans are dealing with a lot of injuries right now, the computer still thinks Tennessee is going to get to 11 wins on the season to nab the third seed in the AFC. One big reason why the computer likes them so much is because the Titans have the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL. Their remaining opponents have a winning percentage of just .366, which is a huge advantage when you consider that next easiest schedule in the NFL isn't even under .400. |
|4. (AFC West Champion)|
|The Chiefs didn't even play in Week 12, but they still took a huge jump in our rankings. Thanks to the Chargers' loss to Denver, the Chiefs are now being projected as the winner in the AFC West. According to SportsLine, Kansas City has a 58% chance of winning the division, which is more than double the chance being given to the Chargers (26.9%). |
|5. Wild Card 1|
|Although the Patriots aren't being projected to win the AFC East right now, the computer is fully convinced that New England is going to make the playoffs. According to SportsLine, the Patriots have a 99.9% chance of getting in the postseason, which is the highest number in the AFC and tied for the highest in the NFL. Basically, the Patriots have clinched a playoff spot in the eyes of the computer even though they haven't technically clinched a playoff spot. |
|6. Wild Card 2|
|The Bengals haven't been to the playoffs since 2015, but the computer is starting to feel like this might be the year where the drought finally ends. According to SportsLine, the Bengals have a 63.4% chance of making the playoffs, which is notable because no team below them is even being given a 50% chance of getting in. Basically, the computer really likes the Bengals and Patriots' chances of earning two of the three wild-card spots in the AFC with the third one being completely up for grabs. |
|7. Wild Card 3|
|The computer almost malfunctioned trying to figure out who's going to get the final wild card spot in the AFC. According to SportsLine, the race is down to the Colts and the Chargers with Los Angeles just barely getting in the playoffs over Indianapolis, and we mean barely. The computer is giving the Chargers a 49.1% chance of making the playoffs while the Colts are just slightly behind at 47.9%.|
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): Colts (47.9%), Broncos (22.1%), Raiders (21.3%), Steelers (15.1%), Browns (11.2%), Dolphins (1.7%), Jaguars (0.0%), Jets (0.0%), Texans (0.0%).
Note: The Jets, Jaguars and Texans haven't been eliminated from playoff contention, but they have a 0% 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 any of those teams to make it.
NFC Playoff Projection
|1. (NFC West Champion)|
|With Kyler Murray expected to be returning to the lineup soon, the computer now loves the Arizona Cardinals. Not only are the Cardinals projected to get the top seed, but they're also the favorite to win the Super Bowl in the eyes of the computer. (To put this in perspective, they currently have the fifth-best odds in Vegas.) According to SportsLine, the Cards have a 15.1% chance of winning it all, which is well ahead of the Buccaneers (12.01%) and Packers (11.64%), who are the next two teams on the list. |
|2. (NFC North Champion)|
|The computer doesn't think the Packers will land the top seed in the NFC, but it does think that the NFC North race is basically over. According to SportsLine, the Packers have a 98.2% chance of winning the division, which is the highest chance being given to any team that currently has a division lead. The Packers also have a 99.9% chance of making the playoffs, which is the computer's way of saying, "Welcome to the postseason, Green Bay."|
|3. (NFC South Champion)|
|During his final 15 years in New England, Tom Brady only played in the wild-card round twice, which is something he's likely going to match in just two seasons with the Buccaneers. The computer currently has the Buccaneers projected as the third seed, which means they'll be hosting a game on wild-card weekend and interestingly enough, they're projected to play the same 49ers team that Tom Brady wanted to sign with before settling on the Buccaneers in 2020. |
|4. (NFC East Champion)|
|Despite an ugly November that saw the Cowboys go just 1-3, the computer is still on their bandwagon. According to SportsLine, the Cowboys currently have a 78.2% chance of winning the NFC East and an 89.3% chance of making the playoffs. The computer basically feels that it would take an epic collapse for Dallas to miss the postseason this year and the Cowboys never collapse, right?|
|5. Wild Card 1|
|The Rams had a worse record than the Detroit Lions in November, but the computer doesn't seem to care because it's still viewing L.A. as a lock to make the playoffs. According to SportsLine, the Rams have a 91.8% chance of earning a wild-card spot. The reason the computer likes the Rams chances so much is because even if they go just 3-3 down the stretch, that will likely be enough to get them in.|
|6. Wild Card 2|
|The 49ers and Vikings were two of the NFC's top wild card contenders going into Week 12, and thanks to San Francisco's win over Minnesota, their playoff chances just shot up. Before the win, the 49ers had a 55.8% chance of getting in, but that has jumped up to 78.5% this week. If the 49ers beat the Falcons in Week 15, that would give them head-to-head wins over three teams that are within a half game of the final wild card spot in the NFC (Minnesota, Atlanta, Philadelphia).|
|7. Wild Card 3|
|The computer feels pretty confident that the Rams and 49ers are going to make the playoffs, but it doesn't seem to have any idea who's going to get the final wild card spot in the NFC. Right now, the Saints are being projected to earn the spot, but just barely. New Orleans has a 35.8% chance of getting in while Minnesota is sitting right behind them with a 34% chance. The Eagles and Washington are also still alive in the eyes of the computer.|
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): Vikings (34.0%), Eagles (27.8%), Washington (22.2%), Falcons (6.4%), Giants (5.0%), Panthers (2.2%), Seahawks (0.7%), Bears (0.8%), Lions (0%).
Wild-card round projection
(7) Chargers at (2) Bills
(6) Bengals at (3) Titans
(5) Patriots at (4) Chiefs
(7) Saints at (2) Packers
(6) 49ers at (3) Buccaneers
(5) Rams at (4) Cowboys