Biggest NFL Playoff Odds Movers: Week 12

Washington was the big winner this week, as Kirk Cousins and company now sit atop the NFC East.

If I had to list all the things happening this NFL season that we couldn’t predict in August, I’d have no idea where to start.

There’s the Cardinals leading the league in our power ratings, Andy Dalton’s MVP candidacy, and the fact that 5-6 Washington is now in first place in the NFC East.

By virtue of its 20-14 win over the Giants, Washington took the top spot in the division, and also has higher playoff odds (50.3%) than New York, Philadelphia and Dallas.

In addition to the improved spot in the standings, our algorithms' opinion of Washington has also improved. Before Sunday, we had the Redskins pegged as nearly three points below average, 20th in our power ratings.

Now, they are 16th, and would only be expected to lose to an average team by 0.83 on a neutral field.

The Redskins' big win made them the biggest playoff odds movers of the week, followed by Pittsburgh, which moved in the wrong direction. The Steelers’ loss in Seattle, coupled with wins by the Jets, Raiders, Texans and surging Chiefs cost them 24.0% in terms of playoff probability.

Here are the rest of this week's big playoff odds movers:


Washington Redskins (5-6)

Playoff Odds Movement: +26.3%
Week 12 Result: Def. New York Giants, 20-14
Playoff Odds Before Week 12: 24.0%
Playoff Odds After Week 12: 50.3%

Alright guys, let’s get it out of our systems:

Washington has won three of their last five, with the two losses in this span coming to New England and Carolina. During this time, Kirk Cousins has actually been one of the league’s better quarterbacks, completing 71.3% of his for 1,367 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.

Cousins is the league’s highest rated passer since Week 7, and only Russell Wilson and Carson Palmer have averaged more yards per pass than Cousins’ 8.3

He has shaken off a rough start to the season, in which he averaged 6.2 yards per pass and threw 6 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.

With an improving Cousins at the helm, Washington now has the inside track to win the division. The Redskins have split the season series against the Giants, and have a head-to-head win against Philadelphia (they will play the Eagles again in Week 16).

They also have a very manageable rest of season schedule, which includes two games against Dallas (ranked 26th in our power ratings), and contests against 25th-ranked Chicago and 26th-ranked Philadelphia (Buffalo, 9th, is the only above average team remaining).

Seattle Seahawks (6-5)

Playoff Odds Movement: +26.3%
Week 12 Result: Def. Pittsburgh, 39-30
Playoff Odds Before Week 12: 35.9%
Playoff Odds After Week 12: 60.2%

The NFC probably should have buried the Seahawks when it had the chance because the Seahawks never stopped being one of the best teams in the league, and now they are back in the playoff hunt.

Struggles in close games and in the red zone killed Seattle’s record early in the season, despite a nERD score indicative of a top-10 team. The Seahawks have now won four of their last five and now occupy the 6 seed in the NFC.

They now rank sixth in our power ratings and would be expected to beat an average team by 6.0 points on a neutral field.

In terms of opponent-adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP), the Seahawks are 11th on offense and 4th on defense.

In addition to their win over Pittsburgh, ranked fifth by our metrics, Seattle benefited from losses by from fellow wild card contenders Green Bay, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, St Louis, Philadelphia and the Giants.

Carolina and Arizona are the favorites in the conference, but if anyone can break the wheel in the NFC, it’s probably the two-time conference champions.

Minnesota Vikings (8-3)

Playoff Odds Movement: +20.5%
Week 12 Result: Def. Atlanta, 20-10
Playoff Odds Before Week 12: 71.1%
Playoff Odds After Week 12: 91.1%

The tide has completely turned in the NFC North.

Green Bay has lost four of their last five, while the Vikings have won six of their last seven.

Minnesota’s one loss in this span came against the Packers, but the Vikings are 3-1 against the NFC North while Green Bay is 2-2.

The Vikings now have almost a 60% chance to win the division, compared to Green Bay’s 39.9% division title odds.

The Packers are still slightly higher in our power ratings (they’re in 11th compared to 12th-rated Minnesota), but the margin is slim (0.18 points), so the Vikings' edge in the standings and schedule are enough for them to have considerably better odds to come in first.

Kansas City Chiefs (6-5)

Playoff Odds Movement: +18.6%
Week 12 Result: Def. Buffalo, 30-22
Playoff Odds Before Week 12: 50.4%
Playoff Odds After Week 12: 69.0%

After losing five of their first six games this season, all the Chiefs have done is play like the best team in the league.

Kansas City has won their last five games with a +99 point differential, the best in the league since Week 7.

The Chiefs have also jumped to the seventh spot in our ratings and would be expected to beat an average team by 5.1 points on a neutral field. They are 10th in opponent-adjusted NEP and seventh on defense.

If the season ended today, Kansas City would be the 5 seed in the AFC.

New York Jets (6-5)

Playoff Odds Movement: +14.1
Week 12 Result: Def. Miami, 38-20
Playoff Odds Before Week 12: 29.0%
Playoff Odds After Week 12: 43.1%

The Jets find themselves in this space yet again, as a wild season has seen large swings in their playoff odds on a weekly basis.

They find themselves as winners this week after dismantling the Dolphins and were aided by losses by Pittsburgh and Buffalo (who has a head-to-head win over the Jets).

Technically, they still find themselves on the outside looking in as the 7 seed in the AFC by virtue of an inferior conference record to Houston and Kansas City.

That said, the Jets are the eighth-best team in the league by our power ratings and will face three below-average teams the rest of the way (the Giants, Titans and Cowboys), so the opportunity is surely there for them to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.


Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)

Playoff Odds Movement: -24.0%
Week 12 Result: Lost to Seattle, 39-30
Playoff Odds Before Week 12: 69.3%
Playoff Odds After Week 12: 45.3%

In a vacuum, a loss to great team on the road in the opposite conference should not be that devastating to a team’s playoff odds.

Unfortunately for Steelers fans, we do not live in a vacuum, and the Pittsburgh loss was coupled by a great week for the fellow wild card contenders in the AFC.

Pittsburgh remains the fifth-best team in the league by our numbers (and is more than six points above average) but have a number of factors going against them.

For starters, the Steelers are 3-4 against conference foes, a key tiebreaker in a tight race. Kansas City, by contrast, is 5-2, while Houston (4-3), the Jets (5-4), Oakland (5-3), and Buffalo (5-5) are better as well.

Pittsburgh’s upcoming schedule does not do them many favors either, as they have games remaining against the Colts (14th in our ratings), Bengals (4th), and Broncos (10th).

The Steelers are good enough to face this challenge, but the Week 12 results did them no favors.

Atlanta Falcons (6-5)

Playoff Odds Movement: -19.9%
Week 12 Result: Lost to Minnesota, 20-10
Playoff Odds Before Week 12: 54.3%
Playoff Odds After Week 12: 34.4%

The Falcons’ freefall continues.

After starting the season 5-0, Atlanta lost five of their next six games, putting their postseason odds in serious jeopardy.

New coach Dan Quinn’s team had playoff odds of 96.4% as late as Week 7, as a roughly average team with a good record and easy remaining schedule.

Their easy schedule, though, still proved to be a challenge, as Atlanta lost to New Orleans in Week 6, in addition to Tampa Bay and San Francisco.

The remaining slate, aside from two games against Carolina, is still not daunting (the Falcons play the Jaguars and have rematches against the Buccaneers and Saints), but like Pittsburgh, the Falcons have an inferior conference record to their fellow contenders.

It is now more likely than not Atlanta misses the playoffs, an almost crazy statement given their start to the year.

Buffalo Bills (5-6)

Playoff Odds Movement: -19.1%
Week 12 Result: Lost to Kansas City, 30-22
Playoff Odds Before Week 12: 42.0%
Playoff Odds After Week 12: 22.9%

Like Pittsburgh, Buffalo was victimized by the good week the AFC other wild card contenders had.

Our numbers still really like the Bills (we rate them as the ninth-best team in the league), but because they are a game behind and have a tough upcoming schedule, a playoff berth now seems unlikely.

Buffalo still needs to play the Texans (13th), Washington (16th) and Jets (8th), in addition to Philadelphia (21st) and Dallas (26th).

New York Giants (5-6)

Playoff Odds Movement: -16.7%
Week 12 Result: Lost to Washington, 20-14
Playoff Odds Before Week 12: 55.8%
Playoff Odds After Week 12: 39.1%

Winning the NFC East is the Giants’ only real path into the playoffs, which is why a loss the team that is now the top contender in the division was so costly.

We only give the Giants a 2.0% chance to earn a wild card berth, compared to a 37.1% chance to win the division, which now looks like a two-horse race (third-place Philadelphia has only a 12.1% chance to win the division).

The schedule also does the Giants little favors, as they have remaining games against the Jets, Panthers and Vikings.

Green Bay Packers (7-4)

Playoff Odds Movement: -13.9%
Week 12 Result: Lost to Chicago, 17-13
Playoff Odds Before Week 12: 94.1%
Playoff Odds After Week 12: 80.2%

Like Atlanta, Green Bay started the season unbeaten before a tough stretch that included a pair of losses to bad teams.

The similarities might end there though.

The Packers are still likely to make the playoffs, thanks to their seven wins already in the bank and the fact that we still rate them at as the 11th-best team in the league.

They also have three very winnable games coming up, as they’ll take on the 24th-ranked Lions, 26th-ranked Cowboys, and 20th-ranked Raiders.

Green Bay closes the season with Arizona (1st) and Minnesota (12th), but before then, it is conceivable they already have 9 or 10 wins.