Biggest NFL Playoff Odds Movers: Week 9

The Colts saw their playoff odds increase dramatically in Week 9, but after an injury to Andrew Luck, it may have been a pyrrhic victory.

If we could reduce a football game to a book for five-year-olds, the Colts win over Denver in Week 9 was the NFL equivalent of “That’s Good! That’s Bad!”

Indianapolis beat Denver, 27-24, earning a win over the fourth-best team according to our nERD power ratings.

Oh, that’s good. 

Even with the win though, the Colts are just 4-5 and rate as a below average team by our metrics.

No, that’s bad.

Still, the win moved the Colts up to 17th in our ratings and saw the second-biggest increase in playoff odds after Week 9.

Oh, that’s good.

Andrew Luck led the way for the Colts, with what was probably his best game of the season, but hurt himself during the game, and will reportedly miss two to six weeks.

No, that’s bad.

Our Brandon Gdula took a closer look at what the injury means for the Colts, and according to our projections, their playoff odds range from 61.9% to 66.2%, depending on the length of Luck’s injury.

Between the playoff-odds boosting win and injury to Luck, Week 9 may have affected the Colts’ future more than that of any team.

The Vikings were the only team that saw their playoff odds increase by more last weekend, while the team they beat, St. Louis, was the biggest loser.

The other big fallers were the Falcons, who seem like much less of a lock for the playoffs than they did two weeks ago, and the Texans, who are 3-5 but still have the league’s 11th-highest division title odds.

They can thank the AFC South.

Oh, that’s bad.


Minnesota Vikings (6-2)

Playoff Odds Movement: +24.1%
Week 9 Result: Def. St. Louis, 21-18
Playoff Odds Before Week 9: 43.8%
Playoff Odds After Week 9: 67.9%

The Vikings were a trendy sleeper pick before the season, and it’s looking increasingly likely that they will indeed make the playoffs.

Their win over the Rams, who came into the game ranked ninth in our ratings, moved them up to 15th, and Minnesota also had things break their way in other games.

St. Louis dropping to 4-4 certainly helped, and Atlanta and New Orleans lost as well.

Despite tying for the league’s fifth-best record, it would be tough to make the case Minnesota has actually been a top-five team, given they have the 10th-highest margin of victory and have played the league’s easiest schedule, according to Pro-Football-Reference.

The schedule will get harder going forward, as Minnesota has two games against Green Bay, in addition to games against Atlanta, Seattle, Arizona and the Giants.

Still, the Vikings already have six wins in the bank, so they are in good shape with regards to the postseason. We give only eight teams a better chance to make the playoffs.

Indianapolis Colts (4-5)

Playoff Odds Movement: +20.8%
Week 9 Result: Def. Denver, 27-24
Playoff Odds Before Week 9: 45.3
Playoff Odds After Week 9: 66.1%

As mentioned in the kindergarten section of this article, the Colts’ odds are somewhat fluid and depend on when Luck returns.

In any case, though, these odds are above 60 percent, as Indianapolis has a half-game lead over Houston and is rated as the better team.

The Colts are 17th and rate as a roughly average team, while Houston is 27th and would be expected to lose to a league-average team by 5.3 points on a neutral field.

Indianapolis also has an easy remaining schedule and has already won what was probably their most difficult second-half game.

The Colts still have a date with fifth-ranked Pittsburgh, but outside of that game, Atlanta (14th) is the only team the Colts left for the Colts to play that is on the top 20 in our power ratings.

Indy's other seven games are against Tampa Bay (28th), Jacksonville (29th), Houston (27th), Miami (23rd) and Tennessee (25th).

New York Giants (5-4)

Playoff Odds Movement: +9.0%
Week 9 Result: Def. Tampa Bay, 32-18
Playoff Odds Before Week 9: 33.2%
Playoff Odds After Week 9: 24.2%

Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)

Playoff Odds Movement: +8.8%
Week 9 Results: Beat Dallas, 33-27
Playoff Odds Before Week 9: 50.0%
Playoff Odds After Week 9: 58.8%

A week after being one of the biggest losers, the Giants made up some ground with a win this week.

Philadelphia won as well, dropping Dallas’ playoff odds to 1.5% and making the East look even more like a two-team race.

The Giants remain in first place by a half game, but we forecast Philadelphia as the more likely champion. We rate the Eagles as the better of the two teams (10th in nERD versus 18th) and see them as having an easier remaining schedule.

Philadelphia’s average remaining opponent ranks 16th in our power ratings, compared to 11th for the Giants.

While winning the division remains both teams’ most likely path to the postseason, it should be noted both teams also saw a boost to their wild card odds, thanks to losses by the Falcons, Rams and Saints.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4)

Playoff Odds Movement: +8.8%
Week 9 Result: Def. Oakland, 38-35
Playoff Odds Before Week 9: 52.1%
Playoff Odds After Week 9: 60.9%

On Sunday, it looked as though Pittsburgh could have been lumped in with Indianapolis in the lede.

The Steelers won and continue to be one of the better teams in the league! That’s good.

Ben Roethlisberger got hurt again. That’s bad.

But while Roethlisberger is not expected to play on Sunday, he also has not been ruled out yet, so the injury probably is not as serious as it looked during the game.

With the win over Oakland, Pittsburgh vaulted into the sixth-seed in the AFC, taking a half-game lead over Buffalo and Oakland, and now have a head-to-head win over the Raiders.

Pittsburgh also now holds the fifth spot in our power ratings, compared to Buffalo (9th) and Oakland (19th).

The loss of Roethlisberger Sunday and Le'Veon Bell for the season will both hurt, but DeAngelo Williams is third in the league among running backs in Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP), so this should soften the blows.


St. Louis Rams (4-4)

Playoff Odds Movement: -15.1%
Week 9 Result: Lost to Minnesota 21-18
Playoff Odds Before Week 9: 45.4%
Playoff Odds After Week 9: 30.3%

The Rams were this week’s biggest loser, dropping a tight game to a fellow wild card contender.

The loss now leaves St. Louis two games behind Minnesota for the 5 seed and 1.5 games behind Atlanta for the final playoff spot.

By our ratings, the Rams are a better team than both the Vikings and Cardinals, but as the gap in the standings widens between the teams, this may not matter.

As mentioned, Minnesota does not have an easy schedule going forward, but St. Louis will need to win three more games than the Vikings going forward to overtake them in the standings.

The Falcons' remaining opponents have an average ranking of 16.9, compared to 19.3 for St. Louis, but the Falcons have their 1.5-game lead and an additional win against NFC opponents already in the bag.

Atlanta Falcons (6-3)

Playoff Odds Movement: -14.0%
Week 9 Result: Lost to San Francisco, 17-16
Playoff Odds Before Week 9: 87.1%
Playoff Odds After Week 9: 73.1%

What a difference two weeks make.

After Week 7, Atlanta was a virtual lock to make the postseason, as we gave the Falcons a 96.4% chance to make the playoffs.

Losses to two of the worst teams in the league have changed things.

Atlanta still remains in good shape, but after falling to Tampa Bay and San Francisco, the Falcons will not coast into January.

These two losses have essentially handed the division to Carolina, which remains unbeaten, as the Falcons’ division title odds have dropped from 34.1% after Week 7 to 3.6%.

The Falcons have enjoyed playing the NFL’s second-easiest schedule, per Pro-Football-Reference, but things will get slightly harder going forward.

They still have games against Tampa Bay (28th) and Jacksonville (29th) remaining, but will also have to face Carolina (4th) twice, in addition to games against Indianapolis and Minnesota.

However, by virtue of their aforementioned 1.5-game lead over the Rams, the Falcons remain in good shape, as only six teams have higher playoff odds.

Houston Texans (3-5)

Playoff Odds Movement: -13.8%
Week 9 Result: Bye week
Playoff Odds Before Week 9: 31.8%
Playoff Odds After Week 9: 18.0%

You have to feel for Houston, which saw their playoff odds drop dramatically despite not even playing this weekend.

This kind of thing can happen though when you’re neck and neck with a team that has an easy remaining schedule, and beats the rare quality opponent they have left.

Speaking of remaining schedule, Houston’s will now get harder, as they had played the AFC’s second-easiest schedule.

Over the next five weeks, the Texans will play four top-10 teams (Cincinnati, the Jets, the Bills and the Patriots), before finishing the season with three intradivisional games.

Miami Dolphins (3-5)

Playoff Odds Movement: -7.9%
Week 9 Result: Lost to Buffalo, 33-7
Playoff Odds Before Week 9: 12.6%
Playoff Odds After Week 9: 4.7%

The Dan Campbell Revolution gave Dolphins fans some hope, as the team won their first two games under interim coach to bring their playoff odds up to almost 20%.

Now, though, they are essentially back to where they were before Campbell took over, and it looks like Miami’s playoff drought will continue.

Dallas Cowboys (2-6)

Playoff Odds Movement: -6.7%
Week 9 Result: Lost to Philadelphia, 33-27
Playoff Odds Before Week 9: 8.2%Playoff Odds After Week 9: 1.5%

If Dallas wasn't finished before their narrow loss on Sunday Night Football, they almost definitely are now.

This one is pretty simple, as Dallas lost, while the two frontrunners in the division both won.

Dallas’ mission after Tony Romo went down in Week 2 was to try to stay afloat and keep things close until Romo returned.

They have instead lost six straight games.

One more time:

Oh, that’s bad.