Heading into Week 17, there's a satisfying mix of straightforward playoff scenarios and convoluted messes. Eight teams have clinched a postseason berth, but only one has clinched a first-round bye (Denver), while five of the remaining seven (New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Carolina and San Francisco) have non-zero probabilities related to three or more different seeds. The hope of overcoming Football Outsiders' current playoff odds is alive for six teams, but only two of them (Dallas and Green Bay) have a 1-in-3 chance or better, and both of those teams will likely be missing their star quarterbacks.
With all of these things in mind, this week's column focuses on the more complicated scenarios and provides more detail than before.
Here are the Week 17 playoff odds:
(1) Denver Broncos
Current record: 12-3 | Weighted DVOA: 25.9 percent
Projected wins: 12.7
Total playoff odds: 100.0 percent | Weekly Change: 0.0 percent
Current record: 11-4 | Weighted DVOA: 23.7 percent
Projected wins: 11.8
Total playoff odds: 100.0 percent | Weekly Change: +0.7 percent
(3) Cincinnati Bengals Current record: 10-5 | Weighted DVOA: 18.6 percent
Projected wins: 10.7
Total playoff odds: 100.0 percent | Weekly Change: +6.2 percent
Current record: 10-5 | Weighted DVOA: -2.8 percent
Projected wins: 10.7
Total playoff odds: 100.0 percent | Weekly Change: +0.0 percent
We wouldn't say that the top four seeds in the AFC are "up for grabs," but only one of the current favorites has a probability of more than 70 percent (Denver at 76 percent) to stay at its current seed. To wit, New England has a non-zero chance of finishing anywhere from No. 1 to No. 4, while both Cincinnati and Indianapolis can finish anywhere from No. 2 to No. 4. Therefore, rather than detailing each team's chances of a specific seed, it's probably best to just lay out the scenarios as a group, and proceed with the discussion from there.
With four Week 17 games relevant to the situation, there are 16 possible combinations of results (excluding ties). In the table below, we've listed each combination, the probability of that combination occurring as per our simulations (rounded to the nearest whole percent) and the seeds which would result.
With all four teams being about 70 percent favorites this weekend, the most likely scenario is that they all win, hence how we have the seeds projected right now. Still, there are four other scenarios in which the seeds remain the same (three, nine, 15 and 16). Taken together then, there's a 44 percent chance that Week 17 changes nothing about the top four seeds in the AFC.