Another crazy weekend in the NFL last week, as wins by both the Broncos and Giants resulted in huge swings in the playoff probabilities. As always, these numbers come courtesy of Chris Cox at NFL-forecast.com and are generated with the help of his NFL-Forecast software app, which uses the win probabilities generated by the team efficiency model to simulate the NFL season 5,000 times. And if you don't buy the game probabilities from Advanced NFL Stats, you can tweak them as much as you like to generate your own playoff projections. I encourage everyone to download the app and test out your own scenarios.
While the Cowboys' overall probability dropped by 30 points following their loss to the Giants, chances are that their ultimate playoff fate won't be decided until the teams meet again in Week 17. For the Giants to clinch the division before then, they'd have to win both of their games and Dallas would have to lose to Philadelphia (14% probability). For Dallas to clinch before then, they'd have to win their next two games while the Giants lose both of theirs (5% probability). In total, there is a four in five chance that the NFC East will be decided the final week of the season. Mark your calendars.
Elsewhere in the NFC, Green Bay has the #1 seed all but locked up, and the eventual winner of the East will almost surely get the #4 seed, leaving San Francisco and New Orleans to fight over which team gets the #2 seed and the accompanying first-round bye.
The outcome of that race is no small deal. Especially for a weaker team like the 49ers, the fewer games you play means the greater chance that randomness will let you sneak past a stronger opponent. If they enter the playoffs as the #2 seed, for example, the 49ers would have a 34% probability of making it to the NFC Championship game. That isn't very high, considering all they would need to do is win one game at home, but as the #3 seed, this probability drops to just 9%. Which brings us to this week's high leverage games...
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