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NFL Analysis: Playoff Chances Heading into Week 11

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Welcome to this week's edition of playoff probabilities, now featuring new and improved probability tables. 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.

Regular readers of Advanced NFL Stats will know that we've had the Texans as the AFC team most likely to earn a playoff berth for several weeks now. But with starting quarterback Matt Schaub's injury, it's difficult to say where things stand in the AFC. Schaub has been a big part of Houston's success this year. His EPA ranks 5th among quarterbacks and his 6.9 AYPA is second only to Aaron Rodgers. Schaub's prognosis remains uncertain, but it's almost sure he will miss the next few games and very possible that he will be out for the season.

While losing your starting quarterback generally won't help your team's playoff chances (see the Colts, Indianapolis), even if we assume that the loss of Schaub severely reduces Houston's effectiveness, there are two primary reasons that this won't necessarily signal the death knell for the Texans' playoff hopes:

  1. Houston has a fairly substantial cushion in the South—a two-game lead over the Titans, who they've already beaten on the road, and a 3-0 division record.

  2. Houston's remaining schedule is among the easiest in the league, with games against Jacksonville, Carolina, and Indianapolis. Overall, the average GWP of their remaining opponents (after adjusting for home-field advantage) is just .405.

Our model doesn't account for catastrophic injuries, but as a quick and dirty fix, let's assume that losing Schaub drops the Texans from their astronomical .83 GWP to the league average. (This is just for illustrative purposes—personally, I think this assumption underestimates the Texans' strength, but I'll leave it to others to debate the precise ramifications of Schaub's absence.) And now we turn to another trusty heat map:
 


As the above shows, even if we assume that a Leinart-helmed Houston is a league-average team, the Texans still have a 73% probability to finish with a better record than Tennessee. In addition, Houston's edge in tiebreakers over the Titans means that a tie result will almost always tip in Houston's favor, giving them a probability of better than 85% to win the South and earn their first ever postseason berth.

High-Leverage Game of the Week

Cincinnati at Baltimore | Sunday, November 20 | 1:00 pm
 

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Playoff Prob.BAL WinCIN Win CIN2560 BAL9064


This week, one game clearly stands above the rest in terms of potential leverage, and yet again it features two teams from the AFC North. The model has the Ravens heavily favored to win this matchup, with a game-win probability of .72, but the Ravens have been the definition of inconsistency over the past four weeks. On the one hand, they beat the Steelers on the road. On the other, they lost to Jacksonville and Seattle and just barely eked past Arizona.

A Baltimore win wouldn't do much to help the Ravens catch up to Pittsburgh—the model would still have the Steelers as a 62% favorite to win the North. What it would do is give Baltimore a definite edge in an AFC wild card field that is just as crowded as it was last week, resulting in an 86% probability of a wild card spot given that the Ravens don't win the division.

This game is even more important for the Bengals, who see a swing of 35 percentage points dependent on the outcome. A loss here would reduce their probability of winning the North to only 1%, severely hampering Cincinnati's chances at a playoff berth. A win, however, would put them back in the hunt, giving them an 8% likelihood of winning the North, and, failing that, a 56% chance of getting a wild card spot.

News & Notes

  • The Packers continue to close in on an undefeated season. Their biggest hurdles are coming up in Weeks 12 and 13, with games on the road against the Lions and the Giants. If they can get past those two (and win this week), the model estimates they have a 35% chance at an undefeated season.
  • It's official—for the first time since 2001, the Colts will not be participating in the postseason. My condolences.

Some changes to announce: The division tables now include a column listing each team's current record as well as their average projected number of wins. Also, in the overall playoff probabilities column, ">99" and "<1" will be used to indicate probabilities that are, respectively, very large but less than 100% or very small but non-zero. Let me know if you guys think this clutters up the tables too much—the last thing I want is a mob of angry ANS readers outside my door with torches and pitchforks.

The probabilities below are the result of simulating the season 50,000 times using the game-win probabilities from the team efficiency model. They may not add up to 100 (in percent form) due to rounding. Enjoy.
 

AFC EASTTeamRecWins1st2nd3rd4th NE6-311.2871120 NYJ5-48.9453421 BUF5-48.7936532 MIA2-74.400396AFC NORTHTeamRecWins1st2nd3rd4th PIT7-311.8673030 BAL6-310.53052181 CIN6-39.0318754 CLE3-65.400495AFC SOUTHTeamRecWins1st2nd3rd4th HOU7-312.299100 TEN5-48.7184150 JAC3-66.3015850 IND0-101.1000>99AFC WESTTeamRecWins1st2nd3rd4th OAK5-49.0751861 SD4-57.21649297 DEN4-56.78294617 KC4-55.2141975NFC EASTTeamRecWins1st2nd3rd4th DAL5-49.9583481 NYG6-39.63948112 PHI3-67.03166517 WAS3-65.7021781NFC NORTHTeamRecWins1st2nd3rd4th GB9-014.197310 CHI6-310.2151480 DET6-39.8247510 MIN2-74.4000>99NFC SOUTHTeamRecWins1st2nd3rd4th NO7-311.296400 ATL5-48.5483111 TB4-55.7095634 CAR2-74.9033364NFC WESTTeamRecWins1st2nd3rd4th SF8-112.2>99000 SEA3-65.90463123 ARI3-65.80354124 STL2-75.00192853



AFC Percent Probability Playoff SeedingTeam1st2nd3rd4th5th6thTotal HOU532916200>99 PIT183413127498 NE17214533696 BAL101081371683 OAK016670177 CIN1110131935 NYJ013172435 BUF026151327 TEN000071422 SD000150117 DEN0007019 KC0001001 JAC0000011 CLE000000<1 MIA000000<1 IND0000000



NFC Percent Probability Playoff SeedingTeam1st2nd3rd4th5th6thTotal GB81151031>99 SF175817800>99 NO11543370197 CHI0000463480 DAL0923263970 DET1100382868 NYG03142251155 ATL002351423 PHI0003015 SEA0000011 WAS0000001 ARI0000001 TB000000<1 STL000000<1 CAR000000<1 MIN000000<1