Just a few weeks ago, the Dolphins were in the midst of a wild-card quagmire involving six teams. But thanks to a three-game winning streak, they've separated themselves from the muck (along with Baltimore). And although Miami is technically on the outside looking in at the moment, our simulations say their schedule is likely to propel them ahead of Baltimore for the No. 6 seed. Whereas the Dolphins' remaining opponents (Buffalo and the New York Jets) average minus-13.9 percent weighted DVOA (third-easiest), the Ravens' opponents (New England and Cincinnati) average 17.9 percent weighted DVOA (fourth-toughest).
You may notice that Baltimore's and Miami's total playoff odds add up to greater than 100 percent. That's mainly due to the Ravens' 17 percent chance of winning the AFC North. According to our model, the Ravens are underdogs in both of their remaining matchups, with this week's game against New England presenting slightly less of a threat (42 percent win probability) than their Week 17 game at Cincinnati (31 percent).
No. 1 Seattle Seahawks Current record: 12-2 | Weighted DVOA: 38.4 percent
Projected wins: 13.6
Total playoff odds: 100.0 percent | Weekly change: +0.0 percent
Unlike in the AFC, there's no hazy picture of the No. 1 seed. Seattle is currently a 98.1 percent favorite to earn home-field advantage. The only way they don't is if they lose both of their remaining games and the 49ers win both of theirs. Given the Seahawks' upcoming opponents (Arizona and St. Louis) and that the games will be played in Seattle, there's only a 2.4 percent chance that they will have to do any scoreboard-watching whatsoever.
No. 2 New Orleans Saints Current record: 10-4 | Weighted DVOA: 15.6 percent
Projected wins: 11.1
Total playoff odds: 97.7 percent | Weekly change: -1.8 percent
Considering that New Orleans is coming off of an upset loss to the Rams and now have to face the Panthers in Carolina this weekend, it's surprising to see the Saints as our current favorites for the No. 2 seed (50.7 percent chance). This boils down to one thing: The Saints beat the Panthers two weeks ago, so New Orleans is in a position to clinch a first-round bye this weekend; Carolina is not. To put it another way using our simulations, even if New Orleans loses at Carolina, there's still a 20 percent chance that Week 17 results fall the Saints' way (i.e., a win and a Panthers loss). If the Panthers lose to New Orleans, though, Carolina's chances are literally zero percent.
No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles Current record: 8-6 | Weighted DVOA: 11.5 percent
Projected wins: 9.1
Total playoff odds: 70.3 percent | Weekly change: +3.2 percent
The only thing standing in the way of the Week 17 all-or-nothing battle we've been predicting for six weeks is if the Eagles beat the Bears in Philadelphia and the Cowboys lose in Washington. Based on our model, the statistical probability of that happening is 32 percent. Unfortunately, the metaphysical probability -- as dictated by the football gods -- is zero percent, so get your popcorn ready.