With only three weeks left in the regular season, the playoff picture is still a jumbled mess. So far, only TWO teams have officially clinched a playoff berth, which means 12 of the NFL's 14 playoff spots are available.
Thanks to the Titans' comeback win over the 49ers on Thursday night, the Cowboys clinched a postseason berth. They join the Green Bay Packers, who punched their ticket into the playoffs by clinching the NFC North. On the other hand, only five teams have been eliminated, which means 27 teams are still alive, which ties an NFL record for the most teams in contention this late in the season.
With the NFL playoff race as confusing as ever, we're here to help you make sense of all the chaos and we're going to do that by projecting the 14 teams that are going to make the playoffs. The projections are based on data from number-cruncher Stephen Oh of SportsLine.com. Oh plugged some numbers into his SportsLine computer and simulated the rest of the NFL season, and using those numbers, not only were we able to figure out the playoff chances for every team, but we're also going to project the entire 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 Texans, Jets, Lions, Jaguars and Bears fans might want to read. Those five teams have officially been eliminated and if you're a fan of one of those five teams, a mock draft will probably be much more exciting to read than this projection.
As 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.
AFC Playoff Projection
|1. AFC West Champion|
|After a wild Week 15, not only are the Chiefs projected to finish with the top seed in the AFC, but the computer also views them as the favorite to win the Super Bowl. According to SportsLine, the Chiefs have a 19.14% chance of winning it all, which is slightly higher than the next closest team (the Packers are at 15.79%) and way higher than the next closest AFC team (The Patriots are at 9.69%). |
|2. AFC East Champion|
|Despite losing to the Colts, the computer is still pretty confident that the Patriots are going to end the season as the champions of the AFC East. With just three weeks left to play, the Patriots have a 77.7% chance of winning the division while Buffalo's chances sit at just 22.1%. Based on those percentages, you can probably guess who the computer has winning the Bills-Patriots game this week. |
|3. AFC South Champion|
|The Titans ended their free fall with a comeback win against the 49ers, all but locking up the AFC South. The Titans now have an 96.4% chance of winning the division while the Colts are well behind them at 13.6%. A loss on Christmas by the Colts in Arizona wraps up the division for the Titans. |
|4. AFC North Champion|
|After three straight losses by the Ravens, the computer finally seems convinced that Baltimore might not win the AFC North anymore. According to SportsLine, the Bengals have a 46% chance of winning the division, which makes them the new favorites. However, the Bengals shouldn't get too comfortable because the Ravens (28.9% chance to win the division), Steelers (15.9%) and Browns (9.2%) are all lurking. Of all the divisions in the NFL, this is the only one where the computer feels that all four teams actually have a chance of winning it. |
|5. Wild Card 1|
|After starting the season 1-4, it didn't look like the Colts had a shot at making the playoffs, but after beating the Patriots in Week 15, the computer thinks everyone in Indianapolis should go ahead and book their playoff tickets. According to SportsLine, the Colts have an 82.7% chance of making the postseason. |
|6. Wild Card 2|
|Thanks to their win over the Panthers, the computer now views the Bills as a near lock to make the playoffs. According to SportsLine, the Bills have an 84.7% chance of getting into the postseason. It appears that not even three losses in their past five games will be keeping the Bills out of the playoffs.|
|7. Wild Card 3|
|The computer thinks the race for the final playoff spot in the AFC is down to three teams: the Chargers, Bengals and Ravens. Unfortunately for the AFC North teams, the computer likes the Chargers to take earn the final wild card spot in the AFC. According to SportsLine, the Chargers have a 65.6% chance of making the playoffs while the Bengals are sitting at just 56.7% with the Ravens trailing right behind them (48.5%).|
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): Ravens (48.5%), Steelers (27.7%), Raiders (14.7%), Browns (10.4%), Dolphins (6.4%), Broncos (5.8%), Jaguars (ELIMINATED), Jets (ELIMINATED), Texans (ELIMINATED).
NFC Playoff Projection
|1. NFC North Champion|
|It seems that the rest of the NFC is going to find out just how cold the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field is in January and that's because the computer is projecting the Packers to handily win the top seed in the conference. Although the Packers currently hold the tiebreaker over nearly every top NFC contender, the computer doesn't think tiebreakers are even going to come into play because it has the Packers winning the top seed in the NFC by a full game. |
|2. NFC South Champion|
|According to the computer, there are only two real Super Bowl contenders in the NFC and the Buccaneers are one of them. The Buccaneers currently have a 9.39% chance of winning the Super Bowl, which is the second-highest number in the NFC, trailing only the Packers (16.55%). |
|3. NFC East Champion|
|Although the Cowboys currently are in a four-way tie for the second-best record in the NFC, the computer isn't giving them much of a chance of winning the NFC title this year. According to SportsLine, the Cowboys have a 8.62% chance of representing the NFC in the Super Bowl, which is below FOUR other teams: Packers (31.93%), Buccaneers (18.6%), Cardinals (16.50%) and Rams (14.97%). |
|4. NFC West Champion|
|After a wild Week 15 that saw the Cardinals lose to the Lions, the computer is now projecting the Rams to WIN THE NFC West. According to SportsLine, the Rams have a 52.1% of winning the division, which is just slightly ahead of the Cardinals, who have a 46.5% chance of taking home the division crown. Although the 49ers can still technically win the division, the computer is giving them just a 1.5% chance of making that happen.|
|5. Wild Card 1|
|For the second straight season, the Cardinals are in the midst of a post-bye collapse. Now that Arizona has lost two straight games, the computer doesn't think the Cards are going to win the division anymore. However, the computer is pretty confident that the Cardinals are going to make the playoffs. According to SportsLine, the Cards have a 99.9% chance of getting in and if that happens, it would end the NFC's longest postseason drought (Arizona hasn't made the playoffs since 2015).|
|6. Wild Card 2|
|The race for the seventh spot might be a jumbled mess, but fortunately for the 49ers, they're not a part of that race. The computer thinks that San Francisco is likely going to earn the sixth-seed in the NFC and it also believes that the 49ers are a near lock to make the postseason. According to SportsLine, the 49ers have an 81.6% chance of making the playoffs despite their bitter loss to the Titans.|
|7. Wild Card 3|
|If the computer malfunctions before the end of the season, it's going to be trying to figure out who's getting the final wild-card spot in the NFC and right now, the race is down the Eagles and Saints, who both pulled off big wins in Week 15. According to the computer, the Eagles have a 41.3% of getting in, which barely puts them ahead of the Saints, who have a 38.3% chance.|
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): Saints (38.3%), Vikings (21%), Washington (8.7%), Falcons (0.8%), Seahawks (0.0%), Giants (0.0%), Panthers (0.0%), Bears (ELIMINATED), Lions (ELIMINATED).
Wild card round projection
(7) Chargers at (2) Patriots
(6) Bills at (3) Titans
(5) Colts at (4) Bengals
(7) Eagles at (2) Buccaneers
(6) 49ers at (3) Cowboys
(5) Cardinals at (4) Rams