It took 16 weeks, but the NFL playoff picture is finally starting to clear up. Well, at least in the NFC, where five of the seven playoff spots have been clinched before Week 17.
In the AFC, the only team that can sleep soundly right now is the Chiefs, and that's because they're the only team that has clinched a playoff berth, which means there are still six spots up for grabs in the conference. And the crazy part is that there are 13 teams fighting for those spots.
With the AFC still up for grabs, 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 Jets, Texans, Jaguars, Lions, Bears, Seahawks, Giants and Panthers fans might want to read. Those eight teams have officially been eliminated, and if you're a fan of one of those eight teams, a mock draft will probably be much more exciting to read than this playoff 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|
|According to the computer, there's only one AFC team that feels like a true threat to win the Super Bowl and that team is the Chiefs. The Chiefs currently have a 19.15% chance of taking home the Lombardi Trophy, which is pretty crazy when you consider that no other team in the AFC even has a 10% chance. (The Bills are the next highest at 9.04%.) |
|2. AFC South Champion|
|The Titans did themselves a huge favor by beating the 49ers in Week 16. Thanks to the win, the computer views them as a virtual lock to claim the AFC South crown. According to SportsLine, the Titans have a 92.9% chance of winning the division and a 98.9% chance of making the playoffs, so the only way they won't be playing two weeks from now is if we see a historical choke. |
|3. AFC East Champion|
|Thanks to their win over the Patriots, the computer is now pretty confident that the Bills will be winning the AFC East title, and that's mainly because they close the season with the Falcons and Jets. According to SportsLine, the Bills have a 74.3% chance of winning the division. However, the computer doesn't think the Bills will earn the all-important No. 2 seed. (The best thing about the second seed is that it guarantees you two home games as long as you win in the wild-card round). |
|4. AFC North Champion|
|It took two weeks of craziness, but the computer is finally starting to feel confident about who's going to win the AFC North. According to SportsLine, the Bengals have a 77.8% chance of winning the division. However, that doesn't mean something crazy can't happen. The computer is also still giving the Browns (8.9%), Ravens (7.4%) and Steelers (5.9%) a chance to win the division. |
|5. Wild Card 1|
|The Colts haven't officially clinched a playoff berth yet, but they might as well have in the eyes of the computer. After beating Arizona in Week 16, the Colts now have a 93.9% chance of making the playoffs and that includes the fact that they won't have Carson Wentz this week against the Raiders. Since Jonathan Taylor powers Indy's offense, the Colts playoff chance didn't take much of a hit after Wentz got placed on the COVID list Tuesday. |
|6. Wild Card 2|
|Not only is the computer projecting that the Patriots won't win the AFC East, but it's also projecting that they're going to finish the season as the sixth seed, which is a huge drop for a team that was sitting in the AFC's top spot just two weeks ago.|
|7. Wild Card 3|
|If the computer malfunctions before the end of the season, it's going to be because it's trying to figure out who's going to get the final wild-card spot in the AFC. Right now, the race is down to the Chargers, Raiders, Ravens and Dolphins. According to the computer, the Chargers have a 31.4% of getting in, which makes them the slight favorite, but the Ravens (26.6%), Raiders (24.3%) and Dolphins (19%) are all within striking distance. |
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 (26.6%), Raiders (24.3%), Dolphins (19%), Steelers (17.1%), Browns (9%), Broncos (0%), Jaguars (ELIMINATED), Jets (ELIMINATED), Texans (ELIMINATED).
NFC Playoff Projection
|1. NFC North Champion|
|With games left against the Vikings and Lions, the computer feels like the Packers are a lock to win the top seed in the NFC, which means the path to Super Bowl LVI is likely going to go through the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Also, the Packers have a 32.54% chance of winning the NFC title, while no other team in the conference is even above 20%. |
|2. NFC South Champion|
|With all their injuries, the Buccaneers' Super Bowl chances have taken a big hit. Although they're projected to finish with the second seed, they only have the third-best chance to win the Super Bowl out of the NFC (9.64%), trailing the Packers (16.58%) and Rams (10.04%). |
|3. NFC West Champion|
|Three weeks ago, it didn't look like the Rams had a chance to win the NFC West, but now, the computer is pretty much convinced that it's going to happen. According to SportsLine, the Rams have an 85.4% chance of winning the division while the Cardinals are hanging on by a thread with a 14.6% chance of winning it. |
|4. NFC East Champion|
|Dallas is likely going to finish with one of the best records in the NFL, but unfortunately for the Cowboys, they're stuck in a loaded conference, which is why the computer is projecting them to get the fourth seed. The computer isn't that high on the Cowboys, as they have a lower chance of winning the Super Bowl (4.63%) than teams like the Colts (7.02%), Cardinals (6.14%) and Titans (4.79%)|
|5. Wild Card 1|
|For the second straight year, the Cardinals are in the middle of a late-season collapse, but fortunately for the Cards, it won't cost them a playoff berth this year and that's because they've already clinched a spot. Arizona is playing the Cowboys this week, which is kind of ironic because that's who the computer is projecting them to play in the wild-card round of the playoffs this year.|
|6. Wild Card 2|
|Although the 49ers have gotten a lot of bad news over the past week -- they lost to the Titans and their QB is injured -- the computer still views San Francisco as a lock for the playoffs. According to SportsLine, the 49ers have an 86.7% chance of getting in, which means they'd have to have a total meltdown over the final two weeks to miss the playoffs.|
|7. Wild Card 3|
|After the Saints' loss on Monday night, the computer basically feels like the NFC playoff race has been wrapped up. According to SportsLine, the Eagles have a 71.7% chance of grabbing the final wild-card spot, which is well ahead of the Saints (28%) and Vikings (9.8%), who are the only two teams that even remotely pose a threat to Philadelphia.|
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 (28%), Vikings (9.8%), Washington (1.9%), Falcons (1.9%), Seahawks (ELIMINATED), Giants (ELIMINATED), Panthers (ELIMINATED), Bears (ELIMINATED), Lions (ELIMINATED).
Wild card round projection
(7) Chargers at (2) Titans
(6) Patriots (3) Bills
(5) Colts at (4) Bengals
(7) Eagles at (2) Buccaneers
(6) 49ers at (3) Rams
(5) Cardinals at (4) Cowboys