2018 NFL Playoff Projection: Cowboys roll to NFC East title, Broncos threatening for wild-card spot
It took 13 weeks, but we now have NFL teams officially being eliminated from the playoff race.
The first two teams to go down this year were the Raiders and 49ers, who were both officially knocked out after losing on Sunday, which means that everyone in the Bay Area can now start paying attention to the NFL Draft. As a matter of fact, we won’t be offended at all if Raiders and 49ers fans just instead of this story.
For everyone else, we have this week’s playoff projections.
Although there are still 30 teams that are still mathematically alive, only 12 of those teams will be playing in January. To find out who those 12 teams will be, we had SportsLine.com’s Stephen Oh crunch some numbers and give us some projections. Basically, Oh plugged some numbers into his SportsLine computer this week and simulated the rest of the NFL season, and using those numbers, we’re going to project the 12-team playoff field.
Without further adieu, let’s get to this week’s projections.
Note: Remember, this is a projection based on how we think the rest of the regular season will play out. If you want to see the current playoff standings,looks like as we head into Week 14.
AFC Playoff Projection
Projected wins in parentheses
1. Kansas City Chiefs (12.7 wins): AFC West Champs
Even without Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs are still being projected to take home the top seed in the AFC. Of course, just because they’re expected to get the top seed doesn’t mean the computer likes them the most. SportsLine is actually giving the Patriots a better chance to be the AFC’s Super Bowl team with New England being given a 36 percent chance to get through the AFC title game versus a 32 percent chance for Kansas City. Chiefs remaining schedule: Baltimore, LA Chargers, at Seattle, Oakland.
2. New England Patriots (12.0): AFC East Champs
The computer has some good news and some bad news for New England. The good news is that its projecting a 3-1 record for the Patriots over their final four games of the season. The bad news is that the computer doesn’t think three wins will be enough to overtake Kansas City for the top seed in the AFC and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. The computer is giving the Patriots a 100 percent chance of winning the AFC East, which isn’t too surprising at all, considering that they can officially clinch the division with a win over Miami on Sunday. Patriots remaining schedule: At Miami, at Pittsburgh, Buffalo, NY Jets.
3. Houston Texans (11.3): AFC South Champs
The Texans might have the longest winning streak in the NFL right now, but the computer still doesn’t seem to be convinced that they’re any good. According to SportsLine’s power rankings, the Texans are just the 12th best team in the NFL. The good news for the Texans is that being the 12th best team in the NFL is good enough for a playoff spot when you play in the AFC South. The computer basically views the Texans as a lock for the postseason, giving them a 97.8 percent chance to get in the playoffs and a 92.8 percent of winning the division. Texans remaining schedule: Indianapolis, at NY Jets, at Philadelphia, Jacksonville.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (9.3): AFC North Champs
With the Steelers losing to the Chargers on Sunday, the computer doesn’t view Pittsburgh as a lock to win the AFC North anymore. According to SportsLine, the Steelers chances of winning the division are just 62.5 percent, which is down big time from last week, when that number was 86.1 percent. The computer is now giving the Ravens a 37.1 percent chance of winning the division. Both the Ravens and Steelers are being projected to win roughly nine games, which would benefit Pittsburgh since they’re 9-6-1 record would be slightly better than Baltimore’s 9-7 record. Steelers remaining schedule: At Oakland, New England, at New Orleans, Cincinnati.
5. Los Angeles Chargers (11.2): Wild Card
The Chargers upset win over the Steelers means that L.A. is basically a lock to make the playoffs. The computer has their chances at 98.6 percent, and they can clinch a spot this week if they win and several things go in their favor. The bigger news for the Chargers is that computer now views them as a dark horse to win the AFC West. The Chargers chances of winning the division are sitting at 12.8 percent and that could go way up if Kansas City stumbles against Baltimore this week. Chargers remaining schedule: Cincinnati, at Kansas City, Baltimore, at Denver.
6. Baltimore Ravens: (9.4) Wild Card
The computer seems to love Lamar Jackson and the revamped Ravens offense. With just four weeks left to play in the season, the Ravens have a 69.3 percent chance of getting into the playoffs, which is notable, because the sixth spot in the AFC has been total chaos over the past few weeks. Since this projection started at the beginning of November, this is the first time a team in the sixth spot has been given above a 50 percent chance to make the postseason. The computer views the Broncos as Baltimore’s biggest threat and that’s mainly because Denver has the sixth-easiest remaining schedule in the NFL. The Broncos are being given 15.5 percent chance of making the playoffs, while the Colts (15.1 percent) and Titans (12.3 percent) are right behind them. Ravens remaining schedule: At Kansas City, Tampa Bay, at Los Angeles Chargers, Cleveland
Just missed: Broncos (8.5), Titans (8.3), Colts (8.2)
Here’s a list of all the other AFC teams (their percentage chances of getting into the playoffs is listed next to them in parentheses): Dolphins (7.5 percent), Bengals (0.6 percent), Browns (0.4 percent), Jaguars (0.1 percent), Jets (0.0 percent), Bills (0.0 percent), Raiders (0.0 percent — Eliminated).
NFC Playoff Projection
1. Los Angeles Rams (14.0 wins): NFC West Champs
The computer will get to save some processing power, and that’s because it doesn’t really have to project the Rams chances of getting in the postseason anymore now that L.A. has clinched the NFC West. The one thing that the computer does have to project is where the Rams will finish in the NFC. The good news for the Rams is that SportsLine is currently projecting them to earn home-field advantage in the NFC with an final regular season record of 14-2. Although they can’t clinch the top seed this week, the Rams can clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Bears. Rams remaining schedule: At Chicago, Philadelphia, at Arizona, San Francisco.
2. New Orleans Saints (12.9): NFC South Champs
The Saints might have slipped up in Week 13, but the computer isn’t going to hold it against them. The computer is still giving the Saints a better chance (22.74 percent) than the Rams (18.02 percent) of winning the Super Bowl. The only real fallout from the Saints loss to Dallas is that their chances of getting home-field advantage in the NFC went down. The Saints can officially clinch the NFC South on Sunday with a win over Tampa. Saints remaining schedule: At Tampa Bay, at Carolina, Pittsburgh, Carolina.
3. Chicago Bears: (9.8) NFC North Champs
Although they got shocked by the Giants on Sunday, the computer still loves the Bears. According to SportsLine, Chicago has a 92.8 percent chance of getting into the postseason, which is as close as you can get to being a lock without actually being a lock. One thing the loss did do is open the division race back up. The computer is giving the Bears a 76.7 percent chance to win the NFC North, but also views the Vikings as a dark horse (23.2 percent chance to win the division). Bears remaining schedule: LA Rams, Green Bay, at San Francisco, at Minnesota.
4. Dallas Cowboys (9.4): NFC East Champs
The Cowboys aren’t just America’s team, they’re also the computer’s team. Not only is SportsLine giving Dallas a 72.9 percent chance to win the division, but the Cowboys also have an 84.2 percent chance of getting in the playoffs. Their showdown with the Eagles this week could end up deciding the NFC East title. As things stand now, the Eagles have a 17.1 percent chance of winning the division and 24.5 percent chance of getting in the playoffs, but both those numbers could double if they pull off an upset in Big D this weekend. Cowboys remaining schedule: Philadelphia, at Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, at NY Giants.
5. Seattle Seahawks (9.5): Wild Card
The Seahawks haven’t come close to clinching a playoff berth yet, but the computer has basically already punched their ticket to the postseason. According to SportsLine, the Seahawks have a 90.2 percent chance of getting in. The computer also views them as the third best team in the NFC behind only the Saints and Rams. Seahawks remaining schedule: Minnesota, at San Francisco, Kansas City, Arizona.
6. Minnesota Vikings (8.2): Wild Card
Sometimes, you win by losing, and that’s exactly what happened to the Vikings in Week 13. Despite their loss to the Patriots, the Vikings playoff chances actually went up this week from 61.3 to 63.2 percent. The reason that happened is because multiple wild-card contenders — like Carolina, Washington, Green Bay, and Atlanta — all lost over the weekend. Although the Vikings are firmly entrenched in the sixth spot, the computer isn’t counting out the Redskins (25.6 percent), Eagles (24.5 percent) or Panthers (14.2 percent), who all have above a 10 percent chance of stealing the NFC’s final playoff spot. Vikings remaining schedule: At Seattle, Miami, at Detroit, Chicago.
Just missed: Eagles (7.7) Panthers (7.6), Redskins (7.6)
Here’s a list of all the other NFC teams (their percentage chances of getting into the playoffs is listed next to them in parentheses): Packers (2.8 percent), Falcons (1.0 percent), Buccaneers (1.0 percent), Lions (.3 percent), Giants (0.1 percent), Cardinals (0.0 percent), 49ers (0.0 percent — Eliminated).
Wild-Card Round Projection
(6) Ravens at (3) Texans
(5) Chargers at (4) Steelers
Byes: Chiefs, Patriots
(6) Vikings at (3) Bears
(5) Seahawks at (4) Cowboys
Byes: Rams, Saints