The National Football League is barreling towards the halfway point, which means only one thing – it is time to start looking ahead to the playoff picture. Six weeks are in the books, two weeks left until the true halfway point of the 2016-17 season.
As the old saying goes, “If the season ended today..” (with a little help from the New York Times and their fantastic playoff simulator)
1 – New England Patriots (9-2) – The Patriots are in the playoffs, there is no way they close out the season 0-5. Any mixture of a 2-3 record gets them in. We’ll likely be seeing New England in the AFC Championship Game in a few months.
Key Matchups: Week 14 vs. BAL, Week 15 vs. DEN
NYT’s Current Playoff Simulator: 98% change of making playoffs
2 – Oakland Raiders (9-2) – Oakland has already done their heavy lifting. Even projecting losses against Buffalo, Kansas City and Denver (for the hell of it obviously), the Raiders still have 99% chance of making the playoffs. Pop the cork on the champagne bottle, boys..the drought is over.
Key Matchups: Week 14 vs. KC, Week 17 vs. DEN
NYT’s Current Playoff Simulator: 93% chance of making playoffs
3 – Baltimore Ravens (6-5) – Baltimore right now is the football equivalent of those violin players on the deck of the sinking Titanic. They are by no stretch the best team in the AFC North and the predictions don’t lie (rip ms. cleo). With projected losses to New England and Pittsburgh, Baltimore needs to defeat Miami to have any shot. With a Miami win, Baltimore’s playoff chances stand at 74%. With a Miami loss, the playoff chances dip to 20%.
Key Matchups: Week 14 vs. NE, Week 16 vs. PIT
NYT’s Current Playoff Simulator: 47% chance of making playoffs
4 – Houston Texans (6-5) – Houston has benefitted from a very weak division this season, and that will continue through the remainder of the season. If Houston loses to Green Bay and Tennessee (both likely), wins over Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Cincinnati put Houston at a 94% chance for the playoffs. Brock Osweiler will screw it up somehow.
Key Matchups: Week 14 vs. IND, Week 15 vs. JAX, Week 17 vs. TEN
NYT’s Current Playoff Simulator: 63% chance of making playoffs
5 – Kansas City Chiefs (8-3) – Another team that hard work pays off for. Kansas City could afford to drop games to Atlanta, Oakland and Denver in the final weeks while still boasting an 88% chance at the playoffs. Pretty gnarly how a bank shot in overtime to avoid a tie changes so much in the grand scheme of things.
Key Matchups: Week 14 vs. OAK, Week 16 vs. DEN
NYT’s Current Playoff Simulator: 86% chance of making playoffs
6 – Miami Dolphins (7-4) – Miami’s road to the postseason is a very clear one – defeat Baltimore in Week 13 and defeat Buffalo in Week 16. Without other games factored in, a Week 13 loss drops playoff percentages from 82% to 49%. A Week 16 loss to Buffalo drops playoff percentages from 82% to 46%. Both games dropped (with no other games factored in) means no playoffs, obviously, but you’re damn right that we looked. Week 13 and 16 losses drop Baltimore from 82% to 9%.
Key Matchups: Week 13 vs. BAL, Week 16 vs. BUF, Week 17 vs. NE
NYT’s Current Playoff Simulator: 38% chance of making playoffs
In The Hunt:
Denver Broncos (7-4) – Judging on matchups here, that Week 16 matchup with Kansas City will 100% be the season for the Broncos. A victory gives Denver a 62% chance at the playoffs with a loss to OAK in Week 17 and a greater than 99% chance with a Week 17 win vs. OAK.
If Denver drops that Week 16 matchup, that Oakland matchup becomes huge. A Week 16 loss and Week 17 win puts Denver at a 63% chance. A Week 16 and 17 loss pushes Denver down to 6%.
These are all based off a Week 15 loss to New England. So many variables right now..aren’t playoff scenarios the best?
Key Matchups: Week 15 vs. NE, Week 16 vs. KC, Week 17 vs. OAK
NYT’s Current Playoff Simulator: 49% chance of making playoffs
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) – Crazy to think this late in the season, but the Pittsburgh Steelers will likely win the NFC North. Even if Pittsburgh loses to both the NY Giants and Buffalo, the Steelers can complete the AFC North sweep in the final three weeks to claim an 82% chance of making the playoffs. On the flipside, how embarrassing would it be to lose to Cleveland in Week 17 to cost yourself a playoff berth?
Key Matchups: Week 13 vs. NYG, Week 14 vs. BUF, Week 15 vs. CIN, Week 16 vs. BAL
NYT’s Current Playoff Simulator: 57% chance of making playoffs
Buffalo Bills (6-5) – The Buffalo Bills can afford to lose one more game all season, if they want to control their potential playoff destiny. Buffalo absolutely needs to defeat the Oakland Raiders this weekend for any chance at a Wild Card berth. Buffalo can drop their game against Pittsburgh but win out against Cleveland, Miami and the NY Jets to carry a cool 69% chance of making the playoffs.
On the flipside, if Buffalo loses to Oakland but beats Pittsburgh, playoff chances fall down to 43%. No doubt about it, this weekend is the season for the Buffalo Bills.
Key Matchups: Week 13 vs. OAK, Week 14 vs. PIT, Week 16 vs. MIA
NYT’s Current Playoff Simulator: 23% chance of making playoffs
1 – Dallas Cowboys (10-1) – Dallas has rode their rookie tandem to the postseason, which seems absolutely incredible but we’ve all known how close the Cowboys have been to putting it all together. Going 0-5 ensures a 77% chance of being one of the two Wild Card teams – Dallas will be OK, they can cruise to the playoffs.
Key Matchups: None
NYT’s Current Playoff Simulator: Greater than 99% chance of making playoffs
2 – Seattle Seahawks (7-3-1) – With the Cardinals taking a dump and the Rams remaining the Rams, things have sort of been smooth sailing for the Seahawks so far. If Seattle defeats Carolina in Week 13 and San Francisco in Week 17, the Seahawks playoff chances sit at greater than 99%. So, the sandwiched matchups of Green Bay, Los Angeles and Arizona will only matter for seeding it appears. Seattle is another team that can sit back and take their foot off the gas a little, if they deem that necessary.
Key Matchups: Week 14 vs. GB
NYT’s Current Playoff Simulator: 97% chance of making playoffs
3 – Detroit Lions (7-4) – Detroit’s schedule is bottom heavy, in their quest to clinch the NFC North. If Detroit drops Week 13’s matchup against the New Orleans Saints and defeats the Bears in Week 14, the Lions’ playoff chances sit at a comfortable 75%. Work would need to be done, but Detroit would have the inside line to the playoffs. If Detroit dispatches both New Orleans and Chicago in consecutive weeks, they look to have a 68% chance at the playoffs if they lose out (0-3 vs. NYG / DAL / GB)
Key Matchups: Week 15 vs. NY Giants, Week 16 vs. DAL, Week 17 vs. GB
NYT’s Current Playoff Simulator: 74% chance of making playoffs
4 – Atlanta Falcons (7-4) – Things seem to look positive for Atlanta in the NFC South, as their season wraps with a few gifts inside. Atlanta is scheduled to face Los Angeles and San Francisco in back-to-back weeks. If Atlanta can pull out on top in both matchups, the Falcons have a 96% chance at making the playoffs, after 15 weeks. Despite tough matchups with Kansas City, Carolina and New Orleans looming, Atlanta can almost guarantee themselves a playoff berth if they win 3 of their final 5 games.
Key Matchups: Week 13 vs. KC, Week 16 vs. CAR, Week 17 vs. NO
NYT’s Current Playoff Simulator: 84% chance of making playoffs
5 – New York Giants (8-3) – Despite their torrid start in the shadows of Dallas’ incredible run, the Giants still have a little work to do with a tough remaining schedule. New York is scheduled to face 4 potential playoff teams in the final 5 weeks. If the Giants win 2 of 5 (Week 13 vs. PIT and Week 16 vs. PHI), there is a 95% chance that New York is back in the playoffs.
Key Matchups: Week 13 vs. PIT, Week 14 vs. DAL, Week 15 vs. DET, Week 17 vs. WSH
NYT’s Current Playoff Simulator: 77% chance of making playoffs
6 – Washington Redskins (6-4-1) – With how Washington has played this season, it should be no surprise that they are contending for a playoff berth. Washington has a handful of winnable matchups in the final 5 games, including games against Arizona, Philadelphia, Carolina and Chicago. If predictions go as expected, Washington looks to go at least 3-2 in those 5 games (with losses to CAR in Week 15 and NYG in Week 17). With those predictions, Washington would have a 77% chance to make the playoffs. Not bad.
Key Matchups: Week 13 vs. ARI, Week 14 vs. PHI, Week 16 vs. CHI, Week 17 vs. NYG
NYT’s Current Playoff Simulator: 45% chance of making playoffs
In The Hunt:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) – Out of nowhere, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are having a respectable season. A game out of the NFC South and the NFC Wild Card, the Buccaneers have a lot to play for in these final 5 games. Looking at the schedule, Tampa has a tough road to overcome. Games against SD, NO (x2), DAL and CAR have that climb to the playoffs looking like Mount Everest but anything is possible. Time to put up or shut up, Tampa. If the Buccaneers can sweep the matchup with New Orleans and grab one against San Diego, their playoff chances sit at 58%. If Tampa somehow manages to go 4-1 in their final 5, the playoff chances increase to 98%. Get loud, Buccaneers.
Key Matchups: Week 13 vs. SD, Weeks 14 and 16 vs. NO, Week 17 vs. CAR
NYT’s Current Playoff Simulator: 28% chance of making playoffs
Minnesota Vikings (6-5) – Minnesota played themselves into a corner this season, mostly thankful to an abhorrent amount of injuries on both sides of the ball. It appears that the Vikings will need to rally around themselves for a 4-1 record in their final 5 games. The one built in loss is Dallas in Week 13, so Minnesota will need to beat Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Green Bay and Chicago for a 96% chance of making the playoffs. If Minnesota drops a second game, they would want it to be either Jacksonville or Indianapolis (41-43% chance) because a division loss at this point (31-38% chance) would be devastating to playoff hopes.
Key Matchups: Week 14 vs. JAX, Week 15 vs. IND, Week 16 vs. GB, Week 17 vs. CHI
NYT’s Current Playoff Simulator: 41% chance of making playoffs