Sunday, October 27, 2013

NFL Playoff Seed Probabilities

Because it's never too soon to start talking playoffs.

The latest version of my NFL ranking table features some odd looking multi-colored bar graphs, taking the place of the monochrome Projected Wins bar graph. These new graphs represents each team's projected playoff seed probabilities, from #16 on the left to #1 on the right. The red bars are for seeds 16-7 (out of the playoffs) and the blue bars are for seeds 6-1 (wildcard and division winners). Mouseover the bar graph for the actual probabilities.

The probabilities are based on simulating the remainder of the season 10,000 times (see the Projected Wins post for more details). I then apply the NFL playoff seeding rules and various tiebreakers. As a reminder, the top 4 seeds belong to the four division winners, with the remaining two playoff seeds going to the two non-division winners with the best record. For a fully armed and operational NFL simulation tool, check out nfl-forecast.com.

This is virtually identical to a feature I added to my NBA rankings in February of this year. After the regular season was finished, I also set the probabilities in motion, something I plan on on doing for the NFL as well, once week 17 is complete. Some observations:


The AFC and NFC West

Denver:
Kansas City:
The Broncos' and Chiefs' seed probabilities have a hillbilly-grin look about them. What these graphs are telling us is that the #1 and #5 seeds in the AFC are most likely going to come out of the AFC West. The Broncos are the clear favorite over the Chiefs, despite being a game behind in the standings (their GPF is higher by a good 7 points, which counts for a lot with half the season to go).

We have a nearly identical situation in the NFC West with the Seahawks and 49ers (with the Packers splitting the vote somewhat):

Seattle:
San Francisco:
Green Bay:


Outlook is Cloudy

With more than half the season to be played, there is still a significant spread in the seed distributions, save for one team:

Jacksonville:
The Jaguars can rest easy. In the words of Mose Alison:
You know I used to be troubled, but I finally saw the light
Now I don't worry 'bout a thing, 'cause I know nothing's gonna be alright