Biggest NFL Playoff Odds Movers: Week 14
It was a big week in the “somebody has to win the AFC South” sweepstakes.
The Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts entered the weekend with identical records and first place on the line, but Houston emerged with an upset win. The victory vaulted them into first place with a 7-6 record, while also giving them a sweep in their season series against the Colts for the first time in franchise history.
The result essentially stuck a fork in Indianapolis, as the Colts saw the weekend’s biggest drop in playoff odds -- they now have just a 3.1% chance of making the playoffs, according to our numbers. This isn’t much of a surprise.
The bigger surprise is Houston did not have the AFC South’s biggest gain in this department.
That honor belongs to the Tennessee Titans, who defeated the Denver Broncos and saw their odds of making the postseason rise to 36.3% (a 14.7% increase). The only team who saw their chances increase more than that was the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Texans, whose odds rose by 11.6%, remain the favorites in the division, with a 62.9% chance of making the playoffs.
Here’s more on the week’s biggest playoff odds movers.
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)
Playoff Odds Movement: +23.3%
Week 14 Result: Def. Buffalo, 27-20
Playoff Odds Before Week 14: 55.6%
Playoff Odds After Week 14: 78.9%
The Ravens have a head-to-head win over the Steelers, making their rematch in two weeks potentially critical, but for now, things are looking good for Pittsburgh.
The Steelers seem to be the better team -- they are 13th in our nERD power rankings while Baltimore is 19th -- and have an easier remaining schedule. They will travel to Cincinnati (18th-ranked in nERD) for next Sunday’s game, before hosting the Ravens and winless Browns.
Baltimore will host Philadelphia (20th-ranked in nERD) next week, followed by that rematch against Pittsburgh before playing the Bengals.
Tennessee Titans (7-6)
Playoff Odds Movement: +14.7%
Week 14 Result: Def. Denver, 13-10
Playoff Odds Before Week 14: 21.6%
Playoff Odds After Week 14: 36.3%
The AFC South now looks like a two-team race. While the Titans certainly seem like the better team of this duo, Houston still has the inside track to win the division.
Tennessee has the edge in point differential (plus-15 to minus-45), but Houston has a head-to-head win over the Titans. The Texans are also assured of finishing the season with a better record against AFC South competition, as they are 4-0 against the division; the Titans are 1-3.
So, the Titans must finish with a better record than Houston to win the division since the tiebreaker won't help them.
The Titans will presumably be the favorite in their regular-season finale, but Houston seems to have an easier schedule leading into that matchup.
The AFC South has not always featured the best football this season, but it may at least treat us to an interesting finish.
Miami Dolphins (8-5)
Playoff Odds Movement: +11.7%
Week 14 Result: Def. Arizona, 26-23
Playoff Odds Before Week 14: 12.8%
Playoff Odds After Week 14: 24.5%
If you only take a quick glance at the standings, the Miami Dolphins and Broncos seem to be in a dogfight for the final playoff spot in the AFC -- both are 8-5 on the season and have identical conference records.
A closer look, though, reveals things might not be so close.
The Broncos do have a very difficult upcoming schedule, as they close out the year with the Patriots, Chiefs and Oakland Raiders. Miami must also deal with the Patriots, but only after getting easier matchups against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.
This would suggest Miami has the edge, but not according to nERD -- the Broncos are the fourth-best team (4.92 nERD) and the Dolphins are ranked 25th (-2.51 nERD). We also must take Ryan Tannehill's injury into consideration. The quarterback has been diagnosed with ACL and MCL sprains in his left knee and will reportedly miss multiple games.
Week 14 results were good for the Dolphins, but they still have a ton of work to do.
Indianapolis Colts (6-7)
Playoff Odds Movement: -25.0%
Week 14 Result: Lost to Houston, 22-17
Playoff Odds Before Week 14: 28.1%
Playoff Odds After Week 14: 3.1%
Week 14 was likely the final chapter of the Colts’ disappointing season, rendering the final three weeks a meaningless epilogue.
In theory, Indianapolis is only a game behind Houston and Tennessee, but the road to the playoffs is almost impossibly narrow.
The Texans swept the season series versus the Colts, and even if all three teams tied for first place (rendering this season sweep moot), Houston would still win the division because of their superior division record.
The Colts, 26th in nERD, will be underdogs in their next two games, at the Minnesota Vikings and Oakland before hosting Jacksonville. Unless the Colts win all three, Houston will need to win just one of their remaining three games to eliminate Indianapolis.
Baltimore Ravens (7-6)
Playoff Odds Movement: -18.2%
Week 14 Result: Lost to New England, 30-23
Playoff Odds Before Week 14: 51.4%
Playoff Odds After Week 14: 33.2%
Baltimore is 4-0 against AFC North competition and has a win in the bank against the first-place Steelers, but poor results elsewhere leaves the Ravens with their work cut out for them.
Even if they beat the Eagles this Sunday and earn the season sweep against the Steelers, it still may not be enough. If Pittsburgh wins their other two games, Baltimore would need to win out to make the playoffs.
Pittsburgh could secure the division with a win in Week 15 and another one against the Ravens the following week. On the other hand, Baltimore could do the same if they win in each of the next two weeks and the Steelers stumble.
Denver Broncos (8-5)
Playoff Odds Movement: -15.2%
Week 14 Result: Lost to Tennessee, 13-10
Playoff Odds Before Week 14: 79.1%
Playoff Odds After Week 14: 63.9%
Denver is the favorite to take the AFC's sixth seed, but as mentioned earlier, this is almost solely due to the fact that Miami is a far inferior team.
Their playoff odds would be greater if not for their daunting remaining schedule. The Broncos are currently home underdogs against the Patriots, and could be underdogs again on the road in Kansas City in Week 16. They should be favored against Oakland in the regular season finale, but that game won't be easy.
Having the Dolphins in their way lowers Denver's margin of error, but they'll still need to beat at least one, and possibly two, good teams to get the edge.