Biggest NFL Playoff Odds Movers: Week 15
After Week 5, it seemed certain that the Kansas City Chiefs would make the playoffs, as their postseason odds stood above 90%. The Chiefs went on to lose six of their next seven games, but after a big win on Saturday, they are right back where they were in early October.
Kansas City smacked around the Chargers last Saturday and its 30-13 win improved its playoff odds to 94.4%. The win also gave the Chiefs a season sweep over Los Angeles, meaning for KC to miss the playoffs, they'd need to lose both of their remaining games and the Chargers would have to win both of theirs.
Kansas City Chiefs (8-6)
Playoff Odds Movement: +39.8%
Week 15 Result: Def. Los Angeles Chargers, 30-13
Playoff Odds Before Week 15: 54.6%
Playoff Odds After Week 15: 94.4%
The Chiefs reversed their dramatic drop in playoff odds almost instantly over the weekend, whereas Kansas City's Week 14 victory over the Raiders only increased their playoff odds by 6.8%.
The Chiefs' postseason odds actually hit their high point in Week 6, when they hit 97.0% despite suffering their first loss of the season. The 0.3% increase came because of Denver’s surprising loss to the Giants, at a time when the Broncos looked to be Kansas City’s primary challenger for the division (seems like ages ago, right?).
Eventually the losing did catch up to the Chiefs, and their playoff odds fell below 50% for the first time since the start of the season after Week 13.
Their losing streak coincided with a midseason surge from the Chargers, but Los Angeles' dismal start combined with a strong one from Kansas City left them with little margin for error. It’s why the Chiefs stand where they are and the Chargers have a ton of work still to do (more on them later).
Atlanta Falcons (9-5)
Playoff Odds Movement: +21.9%
Week 15 Result: Def. Tampa Bay, 24-21
Playoff Odds Before Week 15: 51.9%
Playoff Odds After Week 15: 73.8%
Since suffering through a three-game losing streak in October, the Falcons have been in a precarious position as far as the playoffs are concerned. Atlanta had just a 21.7% chance to make the playoffs at the end of October and saw its odds fall under 10% the following week.
With the odds literally against them, the reigning NFC Champions have navigated their way through this rough stretch, winning five of their last six games. If the season ended today, they would be in the playoffs as the number-6 seed, as one game separates them from the Lions, Seahawks and Cowboys.
Since Atlanta has a head-to-head win over all three of these teams, the Falcons will need just one win in their final two games to clinch a playoff berth. They have their road game against New Orleans this Sunday before closing out the season at home against the Panthers.
Buffalo Bills (8-6)
Playoff Odds Movement: +14.4%
Week 15 Result: Def. Miami, 24-16
Playoff Odds Before Week 15: 24.9%
Playoff Odds After Week 15: 39.3%
Buffalo is the lowest ranked team in our power rankings that still has a realistic shot at playing in January, as the Bills are just 27th in our nERD ratings (Miami, which is ranked 30th, still has a 3.4% chance of making the playoffs).
They are currently the number-6 seed in the AFC by the slimmest of margins, edging Baltimore thanks to a superior strength of victory rating. Our numbers say that the Ravens still have a much greater chance of making the playoffs, giving them an 83.8% shot at doing so.
The Bills travel to Foxboro on Christmas Eve to face a Patriots team that is still trying to lock up home field advantage throughout the playoffs. A win there is very unlikely, meaning Buffalo's trip to Miami in Week 17 could leave them with everything to play for (there is a scenario where they still sneak into the playoff at 8-8, but it is pretty unlikely).
Baltimore finishes the season with home games against the lowly Colts and the Bengals, so the Ravens' chances of going 10-6 are substantially better than Buffalo’s (even if we set aside the fact that Baltimore, ninth in our power rankings, is a considerably better team).
If Baltimore is 10-6 and Buffalo is 9-7 (two conceivable scenarios), the Bills’ fate would be tied to that of the Titans, who are also 8-6 and finish the year against the Rams and Jaguars. In this scenario, a Titans win over Jacksonville in Week 17 would eliminate Buffalo, as the Titans would either be 10-6 or 9-7 -- even if they are 9-7, they would have an 8-4 conference record, compared to the 7-5 AFC mark Buffalo would have.
There are a ton of other permutations and scenarios, but they all suggest that Buffalo still needs a lot to go right in the final two weeks.
Seattle Seahawks (8-6)
Playoff Odds Movement: -41.2%
Week 15 Result: Lost to the Los Angeles Rams, 42-7
Playoff Odds Before Week 15: 63.3%
Playoff Odds After Week 15: 22.1%
The Seahawks’ worst home loss in 20 years leaves them in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Seattle actually still has a narrow chance of winning the division, but will need to win out and hope the Rams lose out -- we only give this a 2.8% chance of happening.
To even make the playoffs as a wild card, Seattle would need to win their remaining games against the Cowboys and Cardinals and get help in terms of losses (plural) from some combination of the other NFC contenders.
Los Angeles Chargers (7-7)
Playoff Odds Movement: -38.3%
Week 15 Result: Lost to Kansas City, 30-13
Playoff Odds Before Week 15: 61.2%
Playoff Odds After Week 15: 22.9%
The Chargers currently look like they will be the best team this season to miss the playoffs, as they rank seventh in our power rankings. Their midseason run hit a wall Saturday night and one loss or one Chiefs win would eliminate Los Angeles from a division title.
They will also need to win out and get help to win a wild card berth. As is the case with the Bills, there are too many different scenarios to list them all here, but the overall picture is not a good one for the Chargers.
Tennessee Titans (8-6)
Playoff Odds Movement: -21.3%
Week 15 Result: Lost to San Francisco, 25-23
Playoff Odds Before Week 15: 77.3%
Playoff Odds After Week 15: 56.0%
Tennessee is still in decent shape thanks to the eight wins and seven conference victories it has in the bag, but the Titans made life a lot harder for themselves thanks to their two-game skid against the bottom of the NFC West.
After Week 13, Tennessee’s playoff odds stood at 92.1%, but losses to the Cardinals and 49ers have put their fate into question. The Titans do not technically control their own destiny, but 10-6 should get them into the playoffs (unless Baltimore and Buffalo both win out and Jacksonville beats the 49ers on Sunday).
Tennessee actually wins the AFC South if they beat the Rams and Jaguars and Jacksonville loses to San Francisco. The Titans would also be in pretty good shape even if they lose to the Rams but beat the Jaguars. They would only miss the playoffs in this event if both Baltimore and Buffalo win out, thanks to earning a superior conference record.
If the Titans finish 9-7 but lose to the Jaguars instead, things get somewhat dicier, as they would need to be in a head-to-head tie with a 9-7 Baltimore team or have both Baltimore and Buffalo lose out. They would lose the tiebreakers with a 9-7 Buffalo team and in the event of a three-way tie.