Biggest NFL Playoff Odds Movers: Week 8
The Atlanta Falcons have been in this position before.
After taking down the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, the Falcons’ playoff odds moved to 87.5%, marking a 13.9% increase, the biggest gain of the week.
After eight games last year, the Falcons playoff odds stood at 87.1% despite a loss in Week 8. An Atlanta playoff berth seemed probable then, as it does now. In fact, in this exact space last year, I wrote that “it would ...take a disaster for Atlanta to miss the playoffs.”
As we know, a disaster is exactly what happened as Atlanta lost six of its next eight games and did miss the postseason.
The Falcons' record is a game worse this year than it was at this point last year, but it seems very hard to see this bit of history repeating itself. Despite a worse record at the season’s halfway point, it is very easy to make the case the 2016 Falcons are in a better position than their 2015 counterparts.
Through eight games last year, Atlanta rated as a just slightly above average team, per our nERD power ratings. This year, they are 4th in the league in nERD. The Falcons are simply better this year than they were last year.
The other main difference is while the Falcons had to contend with a strong Carolina Panthers team last year, they appear to have significantly less competition for the division this season. The Panthers are the next best team in the division in nERD, ranking 14th, but they are just 2-5. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who are tied for second place with a 3-4 record) rank 19th and 27th, respectively, in nERD.
So, while their playoff odds through eight weeks look very similar to last year, a 2016 collapse seems even less likely.
Here’s more on the week’s biggest playoff odds movers.
Atlanta Falcons (5-3)
Playoff Odds Movement: +13.9%
Week 8 Result: Beat Green Bay, 33-32
Playoff Odds Before Week 8: 73.6%
Playoff Odds After Week 8: 87.5%
Despite wins by the Panthers and Saints, the Falcons were still Week 8’s biggest winner.
The odds swung thanks to getting a win against a good team and the fact that Atlanta got separation from Tampa Bay, which lost to the Oakland Raiders. The Buccaneers have a head-to-head win over the Falcons, so Tampa Bay falling further behind in the division race is tremendously beneficial for Atlanta.
As for what’s next, the Falcons travel to Tampa Bay for a Thursday night game, before a rough three-game stretch with a road game at the Philadelphia Eagles and home games with the Arizona Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs. After that, though, things get considerably easier, as the Falcons finish the year at the 28th-ranked, per nERD, Los Angeles Rams, home against the 30th-ranked San Francisco 49ers, at the Panthers, and at home against New Orleans.
Kansas City Chiefs (5-2)
Playoff Odds Movement: +12.8%
Week 8 Result: Beat Indianapolis, 30-14
Playoff Odds Before Week 8: 57.2%
Playoff Odds After Week 8: 70.0%
The Chiefs embarrassed the Indianapolis Colts and saw their playoff odds jump up as a result.
Kansas City is 12th in nERD and trails Oakland and the Denver Broncos by a half game in the AFC West. While both teams won on Sunday, two main wild card contenders in the conference were not as fortunate.
Oakland Raiders (6-2)
Playoff Odds Movement: +10.9%
Week 8 Result: Beat Tampa Bay, 30-24
Playoff Odds Before Week 8: 43.2%
Playoff Odds After Week 8: 54.1%
The good news for the Raiders is that they picked up another exciting win and improved their playoff odds in the process. If the season ended today, Oakland would be the No. 5 seed in the AFC.
The bad news for them is, despite being tied for the second-best record in the AFC, the Raiders are still roughly just a coin toss to make the playoffs. The simple reason is that they might not actually be a very good team.
The Raiders have outscored their opponents by just 12 total points and have played a below-average schedule, according to Pro Football Reference. For this reason, Oakland rates as a below average team itself, coming in at 20th in nERD with a -1.56 rating.
Oakland is 6-0 in one-score games this season, but a team’s record in close games simply isn’t predictive of their performance in future one-score games. Truly good teams are not the ones that frequently find themselves in tight games, but rather ones that bludgeon their opponents.
If there is a team that is most likely to duplicate the 2015 Falcons’ finish to the season, it isn’t the 2016 Falcons; it’s the Raiders.
Buffalo Bills (4-4)
Playoff Odds Movement: -18.2%
Week 8 Result: Lost to New England, 41-25
Playoff Odds Before Week 8: 50.2%
Playoff Odds After Week 8: 32.0%
After Week 6, Buffalo had a 76.5% chance to make the playoffs. Two weeks and two appearances in these articles later, the Bills' odds are less than 1-in-3.
Aside from its loss at home to the New England Patriots, the Bills saw Oakland, Kansas City and Tennessee all win. This slides Buffalo down to the No. 8 spot in the AFC, falling behind the Titans because of an inferior conference record.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)
Playoff Odds Movement: -16.6%
Week 8 Result: Lost to Oakland, 30-24
Playoff Odds Before Week 8: 25.2%
Playoff Odds After Week 8: 8.6%
Tampa Bay’s hopes for a postseason berth are on thin ice and that might be an understatement.
Their loss to Oakland, coupled with the Falcons’ win, puts the Buccaneers in a 1.5-game hole in the NFC South. As for a potential wild card berth, Tampa Bay is in 12th place in the NFC, rendering this unlikely as well.
They had a chance to seriously improve their position as the Cardinals, Detroit Lions, and Eagles lost while Washington tied. The Bucs could have used the win given their upcoming schedule. Tampa Bay has four games left against teams in the nERD top 10, and they also must play No. 12 Kansas City and No. 14 Carolina. It’s a tall task, and our playoff odds reflect this.
Arizona Cardinals (3-4-1)
Playoff Odds: -9.9%
Week 8 Result: Lost to Carolina, 30-20
Playoff Odds Before Week 8: 40.9%
Playoff Odds After Week 8: 31.0%
Speaking of missed opportunities, the Cardinals also failed to move up in the crowded field of NFC wild card contenders, and they could not take advantage of the Seattle Seahawks' loss to New Orleans.
Arizona is eighth in the league in nERD, but the Cardinals have a serious amount of ground to make up. In the division, the Seahawks have a 1.5-game lead and will also host the the remaining game between the two teams. This leaves the Cardinals with a 21.3% chance to win the division, but the NFC West remains their most likely path to the playoffs.Nine teams in the NFC have more wins than Arizona, and among the wild card contenders, six have a better conference record than the Cardinals’ 2-2-1 mark.