NFC Wild Card Playoff Probabilities: Week 16 (Part Two)

In our previous post, we identified the probabilities that each team had of winning their respective divisions. In this post, we saw how muddled a couple divisions were (NFC North and AFC South in particular). However, these divisions have nothing on the Wild Card races. In this second part, we race the Giants-Eagles game to get the probabilities of each NFC team of making a Wild Card position; heading into Week 16.

For tie-breaker rules, we will find that we have to utilize the strength of victory measurement to separate some instances; which means the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns can be the reason the Atlanta Falcons may or may not make the playoffs…

Without further adieu…

11. Carolina Panthers (6-8) – 0.0645%

The Panthers are not eliminated from the playoffs! In fact, they can make it with an 8-8 record, but require a plethora of results to fall in their favor:

  • Minnesota beat Green Bay
  • New Orleans beats Tampa Bay
  • Detroit beats Green Bay
  • New York Giants beat Washington
  • Chicago beats Minnesota
  • Chicago beats Washington
  • Carolina beats Atlanta
  • Carolina beats Tampa Bay
  • Atlanta beats New Orleans

If all nine games fall this way… the Panthers make the playoffs as the sixth seed! This has a probability of 0.0645% of happening.

10. New Orleans Saints (6-8) – 0.1161%

The Saints have a slightly better chance. The same scenario must happen above except the Carolina – Atlanta game does not matter. Instead New Orleans must beat Atlanta. In this case, New Orleans will have a 7-5 conference record, ensuring their safety. Combined with a stronger strength of victory than Carolina, the Saints have a slightly upper hand over their division rival. But not much… only 0.1161 percent.

9. Minnesota Vikings (7-7) – 0.6444%

The Vikings have quite the uphill climb despite being only one game out of the wild card with two games to go. In fact, the Vikings have no tie-breaking capability with exception of over Green Bay; a scenario that will never happen at 8-8. If both teams get to 9-7 then either the Packers win the division with a Lions loss to Dallas with the Buccaneers dropping two and Atlanta winning the division. So the Minnesota tie-breaker is very low probability. In fact, most probability comes from the Vikings going 9-7, the Packers going 8-8 and the everyone else dropping to 8-8 or worse or win their division.

8. Washington Redskins (7-6-1) – 11.2571%

The Washington Redskins are in an awkward position as they are holding onto a tie. In this case, since we do not project ties, the Redskins either have to win or lose… no tie-breakers.

For the Redskins, winning two games puts them at 9-6-1, which means only teams who get to 10-6 can beat the Redskins. This means the Giants are already in and therefore we can look only at Green Bay and Tampa Bay each losing at least once.

If the Redskins lose two, they move to 7-8-1 and are eliminated. But at 8-7-1, the Redskins need everyone else to move to 8-8; which mimics the bullets needed in the Carolina series. In this case, the Redskins actually have an 11.2571 percent chance of winning the sixth playoff spot.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6) – 36.5481%

The Buccaneers have a strong chance of taking a wild card spot only because their games are against the Panthers and Saints; combined with the fact that they have a relatively small probability of winning the division; as opposed to the Green Bay Packers.

Tampa Bay also holds several strength of victory tie-breakers; much like Atlanta. In this case, this helps the Bucs as they get a 36.5481 percent chance to make the playoffs.

6. Green Bay Packers (8-6) – 9.6567%

The Packers only have about a ten percent chance because there are many options for the Packers to win the division. They also do not hold many tie-breakers at the wild card; particularly, the 33-32 loss to the Atlanta Falcons from earlier in the season.

5. New York Giants (10-4) – 94.6528%

The Giants may be in fifth place overall, but they are surely the second best team in the NFC. Due to this, and their two game lead over the sixth and seventh placed teams with two games remaining, the Giants have a high probability of making the playoffs. In fact, the Giants have an overall probability of 99.3104% chance of making the playoffs.

The remaining probability? Tie-breakers to the Falcons and Buccaneers if Detroit finishes in a three-way tie with the Giants. This is due to the conference records and ensuing strength of victories.

4. Detroit Lions (9-5) – 15.3815%

The Lions are much like the Packers. With a big Detroit – Green Bay game looming in Week 17 in Detroit, the loser has a much harder chance of making the playoffs, while the other has a high chance of winning the division. This is a factor in why Detroit’s probability is so low.

3. Atlanta Falcons (9-5) – 27.0212%

The Atlanta Falcons have a high probability only because of their tie breakers over the Packers and Vikings; as well as a game in pocket over the Buccaneers.

1. Dallas Cowboys (12-2) – 4.6576%

This is just a formality as the Giants have a 4.6576% chance of winning the NFC East. The Cowboys have already clinched; and with 1:38 remaining (currently) in the Giants-Eagles game; the Cowboys may be off this list in a few minutes.


Total Probabilities for the NFC Playoffs:

Here, we display the probabilities of winning the division (PWD), probabilities of winning a wild card spot (PWC) and the probabilities of making the the playoffs (PMP).

Cowboys 95.3424 4.6576 100.0000
Seahawks 100.0000 0.0000 100.0000
Falcons 70.4056 27.0212 97.4268
Lions 58.5456 15.3815 73.9271
Giants 4.6576 94.6528 99.3104
Packers 41.4544 9.6567 51.1111
Buccaneers 29.5944 36.5481 66.1425
Redskins 0.0000 11.2571 11.2571
Vikings 0.0000 0.6444 0.6444
Saints 0.0000 0.1161 0.1161
Panthers 0.0000 0.0645 0.0645



OK, time to finish this game… Looks like the Eagles are going to alter some of these probabilities very shortly.




Yes… I counted through every single of the 65,536 possible outcomes of the NFC games.


Scratch notes that went through all 65,536 possible NFC outcomes for the remainder of the season!


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