Biggest NFL Playoff Odds Movers: Week 16

The Ravens all but secured a playoff spot with a win on Saturday. Who were the weekend's other big movers?

With one week left in the regular season, the playoff picture has become clear.

In Week 16, four teams (Carolina, Kansas City, New Orleans and the Rams) secured playoff berths, bringing the total number of teams that have already clinched to nine. Four more teams were eliminated from contention, upping the total number of teams mathematically eliminated to 17.

This leaves six teams with everything to play for this Sunday.

Team Playoff Odds
Baltimore Ravens 95.9%
Atlanta Falcons 71.0%
Los Angeles Chargers 41.8%
Tennessee Titans 41.7%
Seattle Seahawks 29.0%
Buffalo Bills 20.5%

The Chargers saw their playoff odds increase by 18.9% over the weekend, making them the biggest gainers of Week 16. Still, they have a ton of work to do, as the door to a division title slammed shut in their face and they will need a win and help to earn a wild card berth.

Buffalo lost in New England and saw its odds decrease by 18.8%, the biggest decline of the week and one that puts them in a precarious spot.


Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)
Playoff Odds Movement: +18.9%
Week 16 Result: Def. New York Jets, 14-7
Playoff Odds Before Week 16: 22.9%
Playoff Odds After Week 16: 41.8%

The Chargers’ odds gain was driven by their win over the Jets, as well as losses from both the Bills and Titans. Even if they beat the Raiders this week though, their conference record would only be 6-6, which would be problematic in a series of tie-breaking scenarios.

In fact, if Tennessee beats the Jaguars (who are locked into the No. 3 seed), Los Angeles is eliminated -- regardless of what happens in the other games.

If the Chargers win and the Titans lose, a Buffalo loss to the Dolphins would assure the Chargers a postseason berth. If instead the Bills win in this scenario, Baltimore’s game against the Bengals becomes relevant.

A Ravens’ win would put them at 10-6 and give them the No. 5 seed, while 9-7 Los Angeles and Buffalo would be tied for No. 6. Since the Chargers have a head-to-head win over the Bills (the Nathan Peterman game!), Los Angeles would make the playoffs. If instead Baltimore loses, the three teams would be tied at 9-7 and head-to-head wins do not factor into threeway ties unless one team has beaten the other two. In this event, Los Angeles would be eliminated because of its inferior conference record.

In summation:

Chargers make the playoffs with:

-A win, Titans loss and Bills loss


-A win, Titans loss, and Ravens win

Chargers are eliminated with:

-A loss


-A Titans win


-A Bills win and a Ravens loss

Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
Playoff Odds Movement: +12.1%
Week 16 Result: Def. Indianapolis, 23-16
Playoff Odds Before Week 16: 83.8%
Playoff Odds After Week 16: 95.9%

The Ravens put themselves in excellent shape with a win over the weekend, and are almost assured of a playoff berth.

Baltimore makes the playoffs with a win or a loss from either Buffalo or Tennessee. The Ravens would only miss the playoffs if none of these three things happen, meaning Baltimore loses, Buffalo wins and Tennessee wins.

In this unlikely scenario, Tennessee would jump into the No. 5 seed thanks to its superior conference record and Buffalo would break the tie over Baltimore thanks to a better strength of victory rating. Our algorithm gives this only a 4.1% chance of happening, so things are looking pretty good for Baltimore.

Carolina Panthers (11-4)
Playoff Odds Movement: +8.4%
Week 16 Result: Def. Tampa Bay, 22-19
Playoff Odds Before Week 16: 91.6%
Playoff Odds After Week 16: 100%

Carolina clinched a playoff berth on Sunday, but will now turn its eyes to a bigger prize on New Year's Eve: the NFC South title.

New Orleans, which is also 11-4, swept the season series, so the Panthers’ needs are pretty straightforward: they need to both defeat the Falcons in Atlanta and have New Orleans lose in Tampa Bay. Our numbers say there is only an 11.4% chance of both happening.

In an added bit of intrigue, the Panthers can still also theoretically get a first-round bye, in the event they win, and New Orleans, the Rams and Vikings all lose.


Buffalo Bills (8-7)
Playoff Odds Movement: -18.8%
Week 16 Result: Lost to New England, 37-16
Playoff Odds Before Week 16: 39.3%
Playoff Odds After Week 16: 20.5%

The last time the Bills made the playoffs, they had a mobile quarterback, a Star Wars film was the highest grossing movie of the year and Time Warner was in the process of being acquired in a massive corporate merger.

That might sound familiar...until you realize Doug Flutie was the quarterback, "The Phantom Menace" was the Star Wars movie and America Online was the company buying Time Warner.

Unless the Bills get lucky with events elsewhere breaking their way, 1999 will remain the most recent season they've made the playoffs. Their simplest path to the postseason this weekend involves a win over the Dolphins and a Baltimore loss to the Bengals (Buffalo beats the Ravens in tiebreakers due to its strength of victory rating).

But if Baltimore wins, the Bills would need both Los Angeles and Tennessee to lose (Buffalo would lose two-way ties with both teams since Los Angeles beat Buffalo head-to-head and Tennessee has a better conference record; in a three-way tie, Tennessee would eliminate both Los Angeles and Buffalo thanks to its conference record).

Tennessee Titans (8-7)
Playoff Odds Movement: -14.3%
Week 16 Result: Lost to Los Angeles Rams, 27-23
Playoff Odds Before Week 16: 56.0%
Playoff Odds After Week 16: 41.7%

For the Titans it's simple: win and they are in. They don’t need help and don’t need to scoreboard watch. They just need to beat a Jacksonville team that has little to play for beyond momentum.

If they lose, they would need both the Chargers and Bills to lose. A win from either team in this event would eliminate Tennessee.

Detroit Lions (8-7)
Playoff Odds Movement: -14.0%
Week 16 Result: Lost to Cincinnati, 26-17
Playoff Odds Before Week 16: 14.0%
Playoff Odds After Week 16: 0.0%

Detroit's playoff odds sunk to zero after an upset loss in Cincinnati. There is frankly not much more that needs to be said about the Lions, but this does offer an opportunity to discuss the NFC wild card picture, something we haven't mentioned yet.

The No. 6 seed in the conference is still up for grabs and it will be either Atlanta or Seattle. Since both teams are 9-6 and Atlanta won the head-to-head meeting in November, the Falcons make the playoffs with either a win over Panthers or a Seahawks loss to the Cardinals.

Seattle needs to both win and have the Falcons lose.