Biggest NFL Playoff Odds Movers: Week 4
With three weeks of the NFL season in the books, some surprising teams are surging to the top of the playoff projections, while some talent-rich rosters are taking a plunge.
The NFL season is certainly a marathon, but it is never too early to get on the right track. Let’s see which teams are soaring above expectations while others need to turn their seasons around. Here are the biggest playoff odds movers following Week 3, according to our models.
Buffalo Bills (3-0)
Playoff Odds Movement: +18.2%
Week 3 Playoff Odds: 57.2%
Week 4 Playoff Odds: 75.4%
In a stunning turn of events, Josh Allen has led the Buffalo Bills to a 3-0 start. The second-year quarterback is averaging 250 passing yards a game, a number that he didn’t hit once as a rookie. While Allen’s arm deserves some credit, the Bills defense is playing like a top-tier unit. They are allowing a sixth-ranked 0.06 Adjusted Defensive Net Expected Points per play.
It also helps that they play in the AFC East with the tanking Miami Dolphins and the stagnant New York Jets. Our metrics have both of those teams below a 3 percent chance at making the playoffs. The Bills will have to contend with the New England Patriots if they want to take down the division title, but a Wild Card appearance seems like a more likely scenario.
Houston Texans (2-1)
Playoff Odds Movement: +16.9%
Week 3 Playoff Odds: 45.3%
Week 4 Playoff Odds: 62.2%
Deshaun Watson is officially insane. After struggling at home in Week 2 in a tough divisional bout, Watson went on the road and posted 0.62 Passing NEP per drop back against the Los Angeles Chargers, which was second-best to only Matt Ryan.
Deshaun Watson takes an absolute beating week after week and just keeps balling. Legend.
— Jim Rome (@jimrome) September 22, 2019
The Texans’ pass rush finally sprung to life as well. The unit totaled five sacks on Philip Rivers, two of which were courtesy of J.J. Watt. With no other team in the AFC South standing out through the first three weeks, Houston seems like the best chance to capture the division and make the playoffs.
Carolina Panthers (1-2)
Playoff Odds Movement: +13%
Week 3 Playoff Odds: 11.9%
Week 4 Playoff Odds: 24.9%
Maybe “analytics Twitter” got it wrong, but Kyle Allen is proving that quarterbacks, not running backs, don’t really matter. The undrafted gunslinger led the Carolina Panthers to 38 points, the most they've scored in a road matchup since 2016. His victory should be slightly discounted, as it was against an Arizona Cardinals defense that rank 25th in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play.
It was recently revealed that Cam Newton's foot issue could be a Linsfranc injury. According to Rotoworld, this could keep the former MVP quarterback out through the Carolina's Week 7 bye. If Allen can repeat his Week 3 performance of 0.58 Passing NEP per drop back, the Panthers' playoff odds might continue to rise without Newton.
Los Angeles Chargers (1-2)
Playoff Odds Movement: -23.3%
Week 3 Playoff Odds: 60.5%
Week 4 Playoff Odds: 37.2%
While Houston got a massive boost to their playoff odds following Sunday, the Chargers were on the losing end of the spectrum. Their home loss to the Texans plummeted their playoff odds all the way down to 37.2 percent. This was the biggest negative shift of the weekend, as they’ll likely be hoping for a Wild Card spot with the 3-0 Kansas City Chiefs leading the AFC West.
Pass blocking is one of their main deficiencies, as Football Outsiders has them ranked at 23rd in adjusted sack rate following Sunday's five sack outing. The 37-year-old Rivers is not the most mobile quarterback, so keeping him upright should be paramount for the team. Even with a struggling offensive line, the Chargers' offense still ranks seventh in Adjusted NEP per play.
Derwin James on IR, Melvin Gordon not reporting, Russell Okung on NFI, Hunter Henry out 4-6 weeks, Mike Williams with a troublesome knee. Chargers can't catch a break right now.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 11, 2019
Another issue is the lack of safety Derwin James. Without him, the Chargers' secondary ranks 27th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. If he can return from injured reserve in the second half of the season, the Chargers would have a chance at sneaking into the playoffs.
Philadelphia Eagles (1-2)
Playoff Odds Movement: -17%
Week 3 Playoff Odds: 45.3%
Week 4 Playoff Odds: 28.3%
Eagles skills players today: 7 drops, 3 offensive pass interferences, 2 fumbles. Unreal.
— CEO of Trey Burke Hive (@trillbrodude) September 22, 2019
After a Week 1 offensive surge, the Philadelphia Eagles sat at a 67.4 percent chance at a playoff berth in Week 2. Their drop since is largely due to depleted passing game assets, as both Alshon Jeffrey and DeSean Jackson were deemed inactive in their Week 3 tilt with the Detroit Lions. Without his top two receivers, Carson Wentz averaged a putrid -0.07 Passing NEP per drop back. The Cowboys also seem to be running away with the NFC South, as they now grade out as the second-best team according to our nERD metric
Seattle Seahawks (2-1)
Playoff Odds Movement: -13%
Week 3 Playoff Odds: 49.7%
Week 4 Playoff Odds: 36.7%
While two fluky defensive/special teams scores tipped this matchup early, the New Orleans Saints went into Seattle and dispatched Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. Wilson is certainly doing his part, averaging the fifth-best Passing NEP per drop back among starting quarterbacks, but the team is doing him no favors.
Between Chris Carson's fumbling issues and the offensive line ranking as a bottom-half unit in both run-blocking and pass-blocking on Football Outsiders, these recurring issues could tank their playoff chances. The Seahawks still have a strong chance at the playoffs, but they are also in a division with two unbeaten teams in the Rams and 49ers. Home losses to backup quarterbacks certainly don't help.