A crash course in NFL Playoff scenarios

A crash course in NFL Playoff scenarios.

After a crazy week, let's put context around the different playoff scenarios. All likelihoods discussed are based on 50,000 simulations of Week 17 and our playoff probabilities.


The Redskins are locked into the four seed – the only one of 12 seeds from either conference figured out.

For the one seed, Carolina needs a win or a Cardinals loss to lock up the top seed. The chances of that happening are 81%. Arizona has a 19% chance of getting the one seed. The team that does not get the one seed from that scenario will have the two seed.

Green Bay and Minnesota are playing for the NFC North title. There is a 53% chance that the Packers win, giving the Packers a 53% chance at the three seed and 47% chance Green Bay gets the fifth seed and travels to take on Washington next week.

Minnesota is 47% likely to get the three seed. The fifth and sixth seeds if Minnesota loses at Green Bay will be determined by the Cardinals/Seahawks game. There is a 17% chance Minnesota gets the six seed and we see a Vikings at Packers rematch next week.

That leaves an 83% chance that Seattle gets the six seed.

If the Packers travel to Washington we would project that game as a pick'em and Green Bay to be a 3.5 point underdog hosting Seattle. Based on likelihood to get out of the wild card round with a win, it is in the Packers best interest to lose Sunday.

That leaves us with most likely seeds: 1) Carolina, 2) Arizona, 3) Green Bay, 4) Washington, 5) Minnesota, and 6) Seattle


The AFC is a little more open with eight teams alive and no team locked into a seed .

We'll start with the AFC South… To get in, Indianapolis needs the nine following things to happen: Colts win, Texans lose and the Ravens, Falcons, Bills, Broncos, Dolphins, Raiders and Steelers all win. The likelihood of that happening assuming Andrew Luck does not start is less than half a percent. In 50,000 simulations, that happened 37 times. With a healthy Andrew Luck, that jumps all the way up to 46 times in 50,000 times.

For the one seed, New England needs a win or a Denver loss to lock up home-field advantage. The chances of that happening are (also) 81%.

Denver and Kansas City are vying for the AFC West title. The Broncos are 81% likely to win AFC West by beating San Diego or Kansas City losing to Oakland. The Broncos currently have a 19% chance at the one seed, a 54% chance at the two seed, an 8% chance at the three seed and a 19% chance at the five seed.

Cincinnati is likely to get the three seed. The Bengals are 73% likely to get the three seed and 27% likely to end up with a first round bye and the two seed.

The Jets get the six seed if they win or the Steelers lose. The chances of that happening are 66.4%, which leaves 33.6% for the Steelers to make it in.

Then the most likely AFC seeds are: 1) Patriots 2) Broncos 3) Bengals 4) Texans 5) Chiefs 6) Jets

The most likely current Super Bowl is Arizona winning by 4 points over the Patriots. The Cardinals are 29% likely to win it all, followed by the Patriots at 18%, Panthers at 14%, Broncos and Seahawks at 8%, the Bengals at 6% and the Chiefs at 5%

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