With the crazy NFC North results this past weekend, Football Outsiders' playoff odds in that division have changed considerably from a week ago. Detroit's loss on Monday night was devastating, as they went from a 2-to-1 favorite to a 4-to-1 underdog. It's easy to quip, "Lions will be Lions," but that would be unfair, considering the sheer improbability of a successful 61-yard field goal, let alone a game winner in the final minute of regulation. For all intents and purposes, that leaves the Bears and Packers as the main contenders for NFC North supremacy, and the two teams play each other in Chicago on the final weekend of the regular season.
The health of Aaron Rodgers makes a huge difference here. As an experiment, we ran separate batches of 50,000 simulations: One batch used Green Bay's weighted DVOA as it stands right now (minus-9.6 percent) to simulate Rodgers remaining out for the final two games; the other batch used Green Bay's weighted DVOA at the time of Rodgers' injury (11.9 percent) to simulate him returning for the final two games. In the scenario where Rodgers doesn't come back, Chicago's probability of winning the NFC North is 61 percent, and Green Bay's is only 19 percent. In the scenario where he comes back this week, however, Chicago is only a 51 percent favorite, and Green Bay's chances jump to 32 percent.
In short, ownership of the NFC North division title shifts 23 percentage points based simply on whether Rodgers plays again this season.
Here is the rest of the updated NFL playoff picture. You can find the full playoff odds report, including the odds of each team winning each of the six seeds, on FootballOutsiders.com.
No. 1 Denver Broncos
Current record: 11-3 | Weighted DVOA: 26.1 percent
Projected wins: 12.4
Total playoff odds: 100.0 percent | Weekly change: 0.0 percent
On the heels of a massive upset loss -- they were an 86 percent favorite -- Denver's probability of earning the No. 1 seed dropped from 76 percent to 63 percent. Wait, what? The Patriots and Bengals also lost, so how did the Broncos' chances drop 13 percent? The answer is that all three of these losses allowed the Chiefs, who played themselves out of contention in late November, to re-enter the picture in mid-December (more on that shortly). But don't fret, Broncos fans. With remaining games coming against two of the worst three teams in the NFL (Oakland and Houston, according to weighted DVOA), our projection model says there's only a 15 percent chance Denver loses either game.
No. 2 New England Patriots
Current record: 10-4 | Weighted DVOA: 21.0 percent
Projected wins: 11.3
Total playoff odds: 99.3 percent | Weekly change: -0.6 percent