Yesterday, I posted a summary of the AFC playoff race. Today I turn my attention to the NFC. As a reminder, my approach is to tentatively declare Cowboys, Vikings, Saints, and Cardinals as division champs so that I can focus on the wild card races. The NFC East, and to a lesser extent the NFC West, are still up for grabs, but this assumption greatly simplifies the analysis.
Green Bay Packers. Overall, the Packers have a 77% chance of making the playoffs. They have games remaining against the Ravens, Bears, Steelers, Seahawks, and Cardinals. If they can get to 11 or 12 wins, they will almost certainly get a playoff spot. They can afford to lose 2 more games and still be very competitive for the wild card at 10-6. If both of those losses happen outside the conference, they have a better than 99% chance of making the playoffs. If they lose one conference game and one out-of-conference game, their odds drop to 96%. If both losses happen in the conference, their odds are about 90%. Three losses to finish 9-7 would drop their odds to 55%.
Philadelphia Eagles. Overall, the Eagles have a 73% chance of making the playoffs. They have games remaining against the Falcons, Giants, Niners, Broncos, and Cowboys. That is a tough slate of games. If the Eagles can manage to win 11 or 12 games they are in for all intents and purposes. Two more losses would drop them to 10-6. If one of those losses is to Denver (an out-of-conference opponent), they will have a better than 96% chance of making the playoffs. The worst case scenario would be to lose both of their remaining games to division rivals (Dallas and NY), which would drop their playoff odds to 74%. Finishing with three more losses at 9-7 would drop their playoff odds to 31%.
New York Giants. Overall, the Giants currently have a 52% chance of making the playoffs. They have remaining games against the Cowboys, Eagles, Redskins, Panthers, and Vikings. Winning out gets them to 11 wins and a near certain playoff birth. The Giants can probably afford to lose one more game. Even if they lose their remaining game to the Eagles, and win the rest, they still have a 90% chance of making the playoffs. Dropping two games to finish 9-7 gives them about a 46% chance of making the playoffs.
Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons currently have a 14% chance of making the playoffs. Winning their remaining games against the Eagles, Saints, Jets, Bills, and Bucs would give them 11 wins and a 99% chance of making the playoffs. However, dropping a single game to the Eagles would only give them a 46% chance to make the playoffs. A single loss to the Saints would give them better odds at 75%. Dropping both their next two games and then finishing 9-7 would only leave them a 4% chance of making the playoffs. They really need to win this weekend against the Eagles.
Intermission. There are several scenarios where an 11 win team could miss the playoffs in the NFC. Any of these teams is vulnerable to that happening. However, these occurrences are extremely rare among the thousands and thousands of simulations I ran for this analysis. If it starts looking more likely to happen, Ill break down the tiebreakers.
San Francisco 49ers. Overall, the 49ers have a 17% chance of making the playoffs. If they finish 10-6 by winning all of their remaining games (Seahawks, Cardinals, Eagles, Lions, and Rams) they have a better than 99% of making the playoffs either as division champion or a wildcard. Losing one game will drop their record to 9-7, but their playoff odds remain fairly decent since they still have chances to win the division with this record. If they lose a game to the Cards, their odds drop to 54%. A single loss to the Eagles gives them a 66% chance of making the playoffs. And a loss to any other team gives them a 75% of making the playoffs. If we consider the case where San Francisco finishes 9-7 while Arizona wins the division, the 49ers chance for a wild card slot drops to around 44%, comparable to most of the other teams in the wild card race..
Chicago Bears. The Bears only have a 0.3% chance of making the playoffs. If they run the table to finish 9-7, their odds of making the playoffs are only 12%.
Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks only have a 0.3% chance of making the playoffs. If they win the rest of their games to finish 9-7, they have a 7% chance of winning the division and a 13% chance of a wild card.
Carolina Panthers. The Panthers only have a 0.2% chance of making the playoffs. If they win the rest of their games, they have a 45% chance of making the playoffs. Going up against the Pats, Vikings, Giants, and Saints doesnt look promising.
Washington, Detroit, Tampa, and St.Louis are mathematically eliminated from making the playoffs.