No. 4 Chicago Bears Current record: 8-6 | Weighted DVOA: 9.1 percent
Projected wins: 9.1
Total playoff odds: 61.1 percent | Weekly change: +34.8 percent
According to current playoff scenarios, the Bears clinch the NFC North this week with a win and a Packers loss and a Lions loss. Unfortunately for Bears fans, given the statistical matchups, our model says that there's only a 6 percent chance this scenario comes to fruition. Of course, the likelihood of a kicker making a 61-yard field goal is just about as low ...
No. 5 San Francisco 49ers Current record: 10-4 | Weighted DVOA: 25.1 percent
Projected wins: 11.3
Total playoff odds: 97.8 percent | Weekly change: +6.8 percent
There's only one scenario where San Francisco doesn't make the playoffs: The 49ers lose both of their remaining games, and the Cardinals win both of theirs. That only happened in 2.2 percent of our simulations, mainly because the 49ers are a 95 percent favorite to beat the 4-10 Atlanta Falcons at home this week. Meanwhile, thanks to the Rams upsetting the Saints this past Sunday, San Francisco is now a 71 percent favorite for the No. 5 seed in the NFC, which is quite the turn of events considering their chances of doing so were only 26 percent after losing at New Orleans in Week 11.
No. 6 Carolina Panthers Current record: 10-4 | Weighted DVOA: 25.0 percent
Projected wins: 11.3
Total playoff odds: 92.9 percent | Weekly change: -1.0 percent
The Panthers are in a slightly worse situation than the 49ers when it comes to their total playoff odds because they lose both of their remaining games in 7.1 percent of our simulations, as opposed to the 2.2 percent just mentioned for San Francisco. Nevertheless, that's still a highly unlikely result, and the Panthers can all but assure themselves of the No. 2 seed with a win at home against the Saints this week. (They're a 64 percent favorite, according to our projection model.) Although beating the Saints wouldn't officially clinch the NFC South title, because the Saints hold an edge in division record if they both finish 11-5, Carolina gets to play the Falcons (27th-ranked weighted DVOA) in Week 17, while New Orleans hosts the Buccaneers (16th). Those matchups translate to the following: If Carolina wins this week, it will be a 4-to-1 favorite in the division heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
Since we've already discussed Dallas, Detroit and Green Bay ad infinitum, and this likely will be Arizona's final appearance in the column this season, here's some fun with probability: What are the chances the Cardinals are eliminated from playoff contention this weekend?
Well, that happens if they lose or if both San Francisco and Carolina win. According to our model, there's an 82 percent chance the Cardinals lose at Seattle, and a 61 percent chance that both the 49ers and Panthers win their games. Therefore, the probability that one or the other of those things happens is 0.82 + 0.61 - (0.82 x 0.61), which equals .931 (or 93.1 percent). In other words, there's only a 6.9 percent chance Arizona survives this weekend.