Biggest NFL Playoff Odds Movers: Week 7
Sunday was a good day for three of the NFL’s biggest surprise teams.
The Rams, Saints, and Jaguars were all afterthoughts at the start of the season but have now put themselves in striking distances for playoff berths. The three clubs -- who were already on solid ground coming into the week -- saw the league's biggest increases in their playoff odds in Week 7.
New Orleans and Jacksonville are now also the favorites to win their respective divisions, while Los Angeles is just a few percentage points behind Seattle in the NFC West.
Los Angeles Rams (5-2)
Playoff Odds Movement: +22.2%
Week 7 Result: Def. Arizona, 33-0
Playoff Odds Before Week 7: 53.2%
Playoff Odds After Week 7: 75.4%
The Rams have already exceeded last year’s win total and are more likely than not to reach the postseason for the first time since 2004.
Their schedule actually gets a lot harder going forward, as after a trip to New York to face the Giants in a 1:00 PM. Eastern game, five of their next six contests will be against teams in the top-12 in our power rankings.
Still, the Rams look to be up to the challenge, as they are sixth themselves and have the league’s best point differential. Jared Goff has improved exponentially after struggling mightily in his rookie season, as Los Angeles ranks fifth in both opponent-adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) per play and per drop back. (NEP is our in-house efficiency metric, which you can read more about in our glossary.)
New Orleans Saints (4-2)
Playoff Odds Movement: +20.9%
Week 7 Result: Def. Green Bay, 26-17
Playoff Odds Before Week 7: 55.9%
Playoff Odds After Week 7: 76.8%
The Saints started the season 0-2, allowed a combined 65 points in these games, and saw their playoff odds fall to 8.7%.
In their four games since, they allowed 68 points and outscored opponents by 64, the second-highest point differential over this span -- despite the fact that 22 teams played five games.
Over this span, New Orleans has allowed just 4.7 yards per play and just a 36.2% Success Rate. (Success Rate measures the percentage of plays that yield positive NEP; the league average is about 43%.) Granted, three of the opposing offenses they faced in this span ranked 22nd or worse in offensive NEP -- Carolina at 22, Detroit at 27, and Miami dead last -- and the other was a Green Bay team without Aaron Rodgers.
Given the strength of New Orleans’ offense, the Saints will not need their defense to be the reincarnation of the ‘85 Bears. Not being the 2016 Saints should be good enough.
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-3)
Playoff Odds Movement: +12.4%
Week 7 Result: Def. Indianapolis, 27-0
Playoff Odds Before Week 7: 60.6%
Playoff Odds After Week 7: 73.0%
The top team in our power rankings took another step towards its first playoff berth since 2007, a year in which the Jaguars finished in the top-10 in both total offense and total defense.
It would have seemed implausible at the start of the year, but Jacksonville has been similarly balanced. The fact that the Jaguars have the top-ranked defense in NEP is not a total surprise -- they were tied for third in yards allowed per play in 2016 -- but that their offense ranks eighth is downright shocking.
Jacksonville is tied for third in NEP per rush, thanks in large part to rookie Leonard Fournette’s fine start to the season, and is ninth in passing efficiency.
Blake Bortles still isn’t completing a high percentage of his passes (58.7%, putting him on track to finish below 60% for the fourth straight year) and still has a below average interception rate. The difference from previous seasons is he is making plays down the field, averaging 12.2 yards per completion to rank fifth in the league.
It remains to be seen whether Bortles can keep this up, but the combination of an elite pass defense and forgiving schedule (the Jaguars play each of the bottom four teams in our power rankings and just three teams with an above-average rating) has Jacksonville in very good shape.
Carolina Panthers (4-3)
Playoff Odds Movement: -23.4%
Week 7 Result: Lost to Chicago, 17-3
Playoff Odds Before Week 7: 58.3%
Playoff Odds After Week 7: 34.9%
After a very nice start to the season, the Panthers have been trending in the opposite direction. A 4-1 start that saw their playoff odds exceed 65%, but they have now lost two straight and are currently more likely than not to miss the playoffs.
The four wins they already have banked are keeping their playoff hopes alive, as Carolina has not really looked the part of a winning team. The Panthers have been outscored overall this season and rank 18th in our power rankings.
Cincinnati Bengals (2-4)
Playoff Odds Movement: -15.5%
Week 7 Result: Lost to Pittsburgh, 29-14
Playoff Odds Before Week 7: 25.3%
Playoff Odds After Week 7: 9.8%
The Bengals are now one of ten teams to have playoff odds below 10%. They are in third place in the AFC North with a 1-2 record against division foes and also have seven teams between themselves and the six-seed in the AFC.
Washington Redskins (3-3)
Playoff Odds Movement: -13.4%
Week 7 Result: Lost to Philadelphia, 34-24
Playoff Odds Before Week 7: 39.2%
Playoff Odds After Week 7: 25.8%
Washington was denied a chance to pick up a primetime division win and fell into third place in the NFC East as a result.
Their playoff odds were hurt by the loss and Cowboys win -- which increased Dallas’ playoff odds by 8.7% -- while the fellow wild card contending Seahawks also won.
The Redskins are now looking up at two teams in the NFC East and are behind four teams that are also looking to grab the conference’s final wild card spot.