Biggest NFL Playoff Odds Movers: Week 9

Add one more item to the list of reasons why quarterback Deshaun Watson's injury stinks.

Had the Texans quarterback remained healthy, we could have been in store for a three-way race for the AFC South crown, with Tennessee and Jacksonville gunning to deny the Texans a third straight title. Heading into last weekend, this division was the only one in the league with three teams in the top 16 in terms of playoff odds.

While the division has been a laughingstock in recent years, this could have been a truly fun race between two exciting young quarterbacks and the team our model rates as the league’s best.

This was not to be, as Watson’s injury put Houston’s offense in the hands of Tom Savage, who could not even lead his team past the putrid Colts. Perhaps the outcome would have been the same, but it is hard to imagine Watson only completing 19-of-44 passes for 219 yards against the league’s worst defense.

The loss, coupled with wins for the Jaguars and Titans, saw Houston’s odds fall 21.1%. Jacksonville is the favorite, with a Rob Gronkowski-approved 69.0% chance to win the division and 89.6% chance to make the playoffs.

Tennessee saw the biggest gain in playoff odds, though, by defeating Baltimore, giving them a head-to-head win against a team that could be wild card competitor if the Titans do not win the South.


Tennessee Titans (5-3)

Playoff Odds Movement: +23.0%

Week 9 Result: Def. Baltimore, 23-20

Playoff Odds Before Week 9: 29.7%

Playoff Odds After Week 9: 52.7%

Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3)

Playoff Odds Movement: +16.1%

Week 9 Result: Def. Cincinnati, 23-7

Playoff Odds Before Week 9: 73.5%

Playoff Odds After Week 9: 89.6%

With identical 5-3 records, Tennessee has a head-to-head win over Jacksonville, so why are the Jaguars' playoff odds so much higher?

The simple answer is our model sees Jacksonville as the superior team, which is why Tennessee’s divisional odds are only 25.1%. As mentioned, the Jaguars are the top team in our power rankings, while Tennessee is 22nd.

Jacksonville has the league’s third-highest average scoring margin (+11.1), while Tennessee has been outscored against the league’s second-easiest schedule, per Pro-Football-Reference.

The Titans also have the more difficult remaining schedule of the two teams. Both have games remaining against the Colts, Texans, 49ers and Cardinals, but Tennessee also has to play all three of our top-ranked teams. Jacksonville only has one game remaining against teams ranked better than 16th.

TEN Opponent nERD Rank JAX Opponent nERD Rank
Cincinnati (H) 24 Chargers (H) 16
Pittsburgh (A) 2 Browns (A) 30
Rams (H) 3 Seattle (H) 7
Jacksonville (H) 1 Tennessee (A) 22

Tennessee is still more likely than not to make the playoffs, since the door to a wild card berth could be pretty wide open -- Jacksonville and Buffalo are the only other teams in that mix with more than four wins. The teams on the outside looking in, like the Jets, Raiders and Dolphins, have a record that is not indicative of their quality (these three teams are ranked 24th, 27th and 29th, respectively).

Baltimore is 18th but Tennessee is 1.5 games better than them in the standings and has had that head-to-head win.

Detroit Lions (4-4)

Playoff Odds Movement: +18.7%

Week 9 Result: Def. Green Bay, 30-17

Playoff Odds Before Week 9: 14.1%

Playoff Odds After Week 9: 32.8%

The Lions’ win over the Packers on Monday Night Football probably kept their season alive, as Detroit’s playoff odds were under 15% before that game.

A loss to the Packers would have left them three games behind Minnesota and two games behind Green Bay. It also would have left them two games out of a wild card berth with six teams between them and the sixth seed.

Detroit still has their work cut out for them, as they are in now in the thick of the wild card hunt (their division odds stand at 22.1%). They are currently ninth in the NFC playoff picture and in contention with Dallas and Seattle (both are 5-3, as well as four other 4-4 teams for the conference’s final playoff berth.

Detroit has a higher nERD than four of these teams, trailing Seattle (7th) and Washington (9th), but ahead of Green Bay (14th), Dallas (17th), Atlanta (21st) and Arizona (28th).

The one-game gap between Dallas/Seattle and the Lions makes things difficult for them, but they have a forgiving schedule in their favor. They play as many teams in the bottom seven in nERD (Cleveland, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay) as those with a positive rating (Minnesota, Green Bay and Baltimore; they also play the 19th-rated Bears twice).


Green Bay Packers (4-4)

Playoff Odds Movement: -25.9%

Week 9 Result: Lost to Detroit, 30-17

Playoff Odds Before Week 9: 42.3%

Playoff Odds After Week 9: 16.4%

The Packers are in rough shape and it is not just because Brett Hundley has looked terrible.

Among the aforementioned glut of teams vying for the final playoff NFC spot, Green Bay is second-to-last thanks to its 3-4 conference record.

Half of the Packers’ remaining games come against teams in the top 12, while only two will be against teams in the bottom third. If Hundley continues his current level of play (58.8% completion percentage, 4.3 net yards per pass), it is hard to imagine the Packers being all that competitive since their defense has also looked poor, ranking 25th per our metrics.

Buffalo Bills (5-3)

Playoff Odds Movement: -24.2%

Week 9 Result: Lost to the Jets, 34-21

Playoff Odds Before Week 9: 75.9%

Playoff Odds After Week 9: 51.7%

After being upset by the Jets, Buffalo’s postseason chances took a major hit. They still have healthy 51.7% playoff odds, but as noted in Tuesday’s power rankings article, they are probably not as good as their record says.

Buffalo has struggled to move the ball for much of the season and has relied on unsustainable turnover rates on both sides of the ball. If their turnover rate regresses like they tend to do, we seem to be left with a pretty mediocre team.

However, the Bills do have some things going in their favor. They already have five wins in the bank and would make the playoffs as the sixth seed if the season ended today. Also, the teams looking up at them for this spot are relatively weak, as mentioned earlier.

Their loss to the Jets was still a bad one, though, as it denied Buffalo a chance to reach nine wins while only needing victories over the Colts and Dolphins. This could be significant because outside of a game against Indianapolis and home-and-home with the Dolphins, their remaining schedule is very difficult.

It features two games against the Patriots, trips to Kansas City and San Diego, and a home game this Sunday against the Saints.

Houston Texans (3-5)

Playoff Odds Movement: -21.1%

Week 9 Result: Lost to Indianapolis, 20-14

Playoff Odds Before Week 9: 38.7%

Playoff Odds After Week 9: 17.6%

Houston’s once-promising season is now in dire shape, as it is in the hands of Tom Savage.

The Texans’ home loss, coupled with wins from Jacksonville and Tennessee, dealt a massive blow to their playoff chances -- their odds of winning the AFC South now stand under 6%. It is frankly hard to see things getting much better, as Savage has not remotely looked the part of an NFL quarterback.

In 149 career pass attempts, Savage has a 55.0% completion percentage, an average of 5.8 yards per pass, and a 9.1% sack rate.