Biggest NFL Playoff Odds Movers: Week 14

The Steelers are simultaneously a team that would miss the playoffs if the season ended today and one that no one will want to see in January.

The Pittsburgh Steelers won’t have a bye week and probably will not play a home game in January, and if the season ended today, they wouldn’t even make the playoffs.

All that said, Pittsburgh still has some of the highest Super Bowl odds in the NFL.

While their title probability is only 4.8%, according to our algorithms, that is still higher than 26 teams in the league.

The number rose last week after Pittsburgh’s win over the Bengals, which improved their record to 8-5 and kept them in a three-way tie for a wild card spot with Kansas City and the Jets, who both also won on Sunday. The Steelers lose the tiebreaker to both teams due to an inferior conference record but are tied for the fourth-highest spot in power ratings, so we give them an edge to beat out the Jets for a playoff spot.

By beating a team in the top-six in our ratings, the Steelers saw the biggest increase in postseason odds in Week 14, and we now give them a 63.7% chance to make the playoffs.

The biggest movers in either direction this week were the Buccaneers, whose playoff odds plummeted to 5.6% from 29.0%.


Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)

Playoff Odds Movement: +18.7%
Week 14 Result: Def. Cincinnati, 33-20
Playoff Odds Before Week 14: 45.0%
Playoff Odds After Week 14: 63.7%

By our ratings, Pittsburgh is one of the best teams in the league, and by our metrics, we would expect them to beat an average opponent by over nine points on a neutral field.

This number would likely be even higher, if not for the games played by Landry Jones and Michael Vick. Ben Roethlisberger is fifth in the league in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP), third in Passing NEP per drop back, and first in Success Rate -- the percentage of drop backs leading to positive NEP gains -- among qualifying quarterbacks.

The Steelers have a tough game at home in Week 15 against the Broncos, who are ninth in our ratings, but close out the season at Baltimore (29th) and Cleveland (26th).

Seattle Seahawks (8-5)

Playoff Odds Movement: +12.3%
Week 14 Result: Def. Baltimore, 35-6
Playoff Odds Before Week 14: 83.7%
Playoff Odds After Week 14: 96.0%

Seattle’s big win over the Ravens and losses by the Buccaneers and Falcons all but assure a playoff berth for the Seahawks.

The Seahawks now have a two-game lead over both Tampa Bay and Atlanta with three games remaining, and like Pittsburgh, they are not a team the rest of the conference would like to meet in the playoffs.

Pete Carroll’s squad is third in our nERD ratings (9.68), ranking third in opponent-adjusted Defensive NEP and sixth in opponent-adjusted NEP on offense.

New York Jets (8-5)

Playoff Odds Movement: +10.8%
Week 14 Result: Def. Tennessee, 30-8
Playoff Odds Before Week 14: 48.3%
Playoff Odds After Week 14: 59.1%

The Jets, Steelers and Chiefs all won this week to keep pace with each other, so why did New York and Pittsburgh see their odds increase, while the Chiefs saw theirs drop slightly (by 2.2% to 77.0%)?

In the case of Pittsburgh, they beat the best team remaining on their schedule, turning a game they were expected to lose into a win.

For the Jets, their convincing win increased their nERD rating to 4.29 from 3.35, while Kansas City’s fell slightly -- from 5.68 to 5.44.

Still, based largely on remaining strength of schedule, the Steelers and Chiefs are more likely to make the playoffs than the Jets.

The Chiefs close the season with Baltimore (29th), Cleveland (26th) and Oakland (19th).

New York gets Dallas (28th) next week but has to close the season against the Patriots (4th) and on the road against Buffalo (11th).

Green Bay Packers (9-4)

Playoff Odds Movement: +8.0%
Week 14 Result: Def. Dallas, 28-7
Playoff Odds Before Week 14: 91.1%
Playoff Odds After Week 14: 99.0%

Minnesota Vikings (8-5)

Playoff Odds Movement: +7.2%
Week 14 Result: Lost to Arizona, 23-20
Playoff Odds Before Week 14: 82.8%
Playoff Odds After Week 14: 90.0%

Week 14 results made what we’ve suspected for a while a near certainty: the NFC wild cards will be Seattle and whichever team finishes in second in the NFC North.

Losses from Tampa Bay and Atlanta led to Green Bay and Minnesota seeing their playoff odds increase, even though the Vikings actually lost on Thursday Night Football.

Green Bay leads the Vikings in the division by a game and also has the tiebreaker by virtue of a win in Minnesota in Week 11 (the two teams will meet again in Week 17).

The Packers have a 67.6% chance to win the division.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7)

Playoff Odds Movement: -23.4%
Week 14 Result: Lost to New Orleans, 24-17
Playoff Odds Before Week 14: 29.0%
Playoff Odds After Week 14: 5.6%

The Bucs had been staying afloat for the past few weeks, but a loss at home to a bad team turned their difficult task into a nearly impossible one.

Still, looking beyond this year, Tampa Bay is trending upwards, thanks to rookie quarterback Jameis Winston exceeding expectations. The top pick in the draft is 17th in Passing NEP and 12th in net yards per pass (6.7).

Buffalo Bills (6-7)

Playoff Odds Movement: -20.2%
Week 14 Result: Lost to Philadelphia, 23-20
Playoff Odds Before Week 14: 24.5%
Playoff Odds After Week 14: 4.3%

Like Tampa Bay, Buffalo’s loss in Week 14 effectively killed any chance of making the postseason.

The Bills lost, while the Jets, Steelers and Chiefs all won, leaving them two games out with three games remaining.

Indianapolis Colts (6-7)

Playoff Odds Movement: -9.9%
Week 14 Result: Lost to Jacksonville, 51-16
Playoff Odds Before Week 14: 58.5%
Playoff Odds After Week 14: 48.6%

Unlike the other four teams in the “Losers” section this week, the Colts still have a realistic chance to make the playoffs and would be the AFC South champions if the season ended today.

Their odds would have dropped more if not for a Houston loss to New England, but Indianapolis’ loss to Jacksonville was much more costly. While our probabilities did not give Houston much of a chance to beat the Patriots, the Colts’ game in Jacksonville was close to a toss up, so their loss affected their playoff chances more.

Indianapolis’ shellacking at the hands of a bad team also dropped their nERD rating from -2.86 to -4.83, while Houston’s only fell from -0.09 to to -1.12.

Both Indianapolis and Houston are tied atop the AFC South at 6-7, while the Colts own the tiebreaker thanks to a head-to-head win and will host Houston next week.

By our playoff probability numbers, though, Houston is actually now a slight favorite to win the division. The Texans have a 49.2% chance to win the division, compared to 48.6% for the Colts and 2.2% for Jacksonville (yes, the Jaguars are still mathematically alive).

nERD sees the Texans as a team that is roughly a field goal better than Indianapolis, explaining their edge here.

Atlanta Falcons (6-7)

Playoff Odds Movement: -5.9%
Week 14 Result: Lost to Carolina, 38-0
Playoff Odds Before Week 14: 9.3%
Playoff Odds After Week 14: 3.4%

The Falcons' wild card odds were slim before they got mauled by the Panthers. A loss that dropped them to 20th in the league in nERD, coupled with wins by their fellow wild card contenders just made them slimmer.

Dallas Cowboys (4-9)

Playoff Odds Movement: -4.9%
Week 14 Result: Lost to Green Bay, 28-7
Playoff Odds Before Week 14: 5.9%Playoff Odds After Week 14: 1.0%

A playoff berth for the Tony Romo-less Cowboys was always going to be an unlikely proposition, but Week 13 results broke in a way that allowed Dallas fans to use the ubiquitous “Dumb and Dumber” meme.

All three teams in the NFC East had lost, while Dallas won, leaving the Cowboys a game out of first place in the division.

Fast forward to Week 14, though, which saw the Redskins, Eagles, and Giants all win, while Dallas lost.

The results leave Dallas two games out, and since the Cowboys are 28th in our ratings, they are not good enough to make things remotely interesting.