Playoff odds: Green Bay's shot

Flynn

With the crazy NFC North results this past weekend, Football Outsiders' playoff odds in that division have changed considerably from a week ago. Detroit's loss on Monday night was devastating, as they went from a 2-to-1 favorite to a 4-to-1 underdog. It's easy to quip, "Lions will be Lions," but that would be unfair, considering the sheer improbability of a successful 61-yard field goal, let alone a game winner in the final minute of regulation. For all intents and purposes, that leaves the Bears and Packers as the main contenders for NFC North supremacy, and the two teams play each other in Chicago on the final weekend of the regular season.

The health of Aaron Rodgers makes a huge difference here. As an experiment, we ran separate batches of 50,000 simulations: One batch used Green Bay's weighted DVOA as it stands right now (minus-9.6 percent) to simulate Rodgers remaining out for the final two games; the other batch used Green Bay's weighted DVOA at the time of Rodgers' injury (11.9 percent) to simulate him returning for the final two games. In the scenario where Rodgers doesn't come back, Chicago's probability of winning the NFC North is 61 percent, and Green Bay's is only 19 percent. In the scenario where he comes back this week, however, Chicago is only a 51 percent favorite, and Green Bay's chances jump to 32 percent.

In short, ownership of the NFC North division title shifts 23 percentage points based simply on whether Rodgers plays again this season.

Here is the rest of the updated NFL playoff picture. You can find the full playoff odds report, including the odds of each team winning each of the six seeds, on FootballOutsiders.com.

AFC playoff projections

No. 1 Denver Broncos

Current record: 11-3 | Weighted DVOA: 26.1 percent
Projected wins: 12.4
Total playoff odds: 100.0 percent | Weekly change: 0.0 percent

On the heels of a massive upset loss -- they were an 86 percent favorite -- Denver's probability of earning the No. 1 seed dropped from 76 percent to 63 percent. Wait, what? The Patriots and Bengals also lost, so how did the Broncos' chances drop 13 percent? The answer is that all three of these losses allowed the Chiefs, who played themselves out of contention in late November, to re-enter the picture in mid-December (more on that shortly). But don't fret, Broncos fans. With remaining games coming against two of the worst three teams in the NFL (Oakland and Houston, according to weighted DVOA), our projection model says there's only a 15 percent chance Denver loses either game.

No. 2 New England Patriots

Current record: 10-4 | Weighted DVOA: 21.0 percent
Projected wins: 11.3
Total playoff odds: 99.3 percent | Weekly change: -0.6 percent

Let's be honest, Patriots fans. New England has been in the No. 2 slot since we debuted this column, and closer to No. 3 than No. 1 all along. With that in mind -- and this may be cold comfort, considering the opportunity squandered on Sunday in Miami -- the Patriots' loss wasn't all that bad because the Bengals also lost, so New England's chances for the No. 2 seed actually increased from 43 percent to 46 percent. To boot, the Patriots have a 74 percent chance of sweeping their last two games, which is only slightly lower than the Bengals' 81 percent. And when it comes to the AFC East, New England is still an overwhelming favorite: They're a 97 percent favorite to win the division.

No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals

Current record: 9-5 | Weighted DVOA: 14.8 percent
Projected wins: 10.6
Total playoff odds: 93.8 percent | Weekly change: -5.6 percent

One of the biggest stories coming out of Week 15 is that the Bengals suddenly find themselves in a dogfight for the AFC North. Just last week, Cincinnati was a 97 percent favorite; now it's an 83 percent favorite. The good news is that both of the Bengals' remaining games are at home, including against the Ravens in Week 17. Even better news is that, with Cincinnati hosting Minnesota (1 p.m. ET) this week and Baltimore hosting New England (4:25 p.m. ET), our projection model says there's a 55 percent chance the Bengals will have clinched the division by 8 p.m. ET Sunday.

No. 4 Indianapolis Colts

Current record: 9-5 | Weighted DVOA: -4.8 percent
Projected wins: 9.9
Total playoff odds: 100.0 percent | Weekly change: +0.0 percent

Although they currently have the same record as Cincinnati, the Colts are virtually locked into the No. 4 seed (84.1 percent chance) because they lose a head-to-head tiebreaker and have a much tougher remaining schedule. According to our projection model, Indianapolis is a 19-to-1 underdog at Kansas City this weekend, while Cincinnati is a 19-to-1 favorite at home against Minnesota. Put those two odds together, and there's a 90 percent likelihood that the Colts will have nothing to play for in Week 17.

No. 5 Kansas City Chiefs

Current record: 11-3 | Weighted DVOA: 21.8 percent
Projected wins: 12.3
Total playoff odds: 100.0 percent | Weekly change: +0.0 percent

After Week 13, the Chiefs' likelihood of earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs was a mere 2 percent; it's now 24 percent. Although that means Kansas City's still a 3-to-1 underdog, it nevertheless makes them Denver's No. 1 contender and twice as likely as New England to overtake the Broncos for the top spot. Both Kansas City and Denver are better than 90 percent favorites this weekend, so the battle for home field will likely come down to a pair of West Coast games in Week 17. The Chiefs will need to win as a slight favorite in San Diego (53 percent) and hope the Broncos lose as a huge favorite in Oakland (93 percent).

No. 6 Miami Dolphins

Current record: 8-6 | Weighted DVOA: -0.8 percent
Projected wins: 9.1
Total playoff odds: 62.1 percent | Weekly change: +9.2 percent

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).

In the hunt

Baltimore Ravens | 8-6 | Total playoff odds: 41.0 percent

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).


NFC playoff projections

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.

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.

In the hunt

Dallas Cowboys | 7-7 | Total playoff odds: 29.3 percent
Detroit Lions | 7-7 | Total playoff odds: 19.9 percent
Green Bay Packers | 7-6-1 | Total playoff odds: 19.0 percent
Arizona Cardinals | 9-5 | Total playoff odds: 11.6 percent

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.

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