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Each Tuesday morning, we will preview every NFL game of the upcoming week. With two weeks remaining in the season each game this week has a lot of significance as teams make their push towards the playoffs...or towards the top of the draft.
All of our NFL content, including our most recent power rankings and our fantasy projections as well as links to the pre-season preview are located here.
The inputs to the 10,001 simulations of each upcoming game are based on a rigorous analysis of each team that considers strength-of-schedule-adjusted team and player ratings and then makes modifications for injuries and depth at each position. To see other picks like our Upset and Locks of the Week, as well as our season-to-date performance, click here.
With two weeks left in the NFL season, the playoff picture is pretty simple for those leading their respective races. Six teams - half of the field - have already clinched a playoff berth or more with two games left. Surprisingly there are six clear front-runners for the final six spots. All they have to do is win - some once, some twice - and they’re in.
If only it were that simple.
In the NFC, it might be. The 9-5 Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys sit in the driver’s seat and could each clinch a spot if they win and the New York Giants lose this week.
The Packers should get their victory as they host the Seattle Seahawks as they win more than 71% of the time. The Cowboys are even better shape as they go to Washington and win more than 77% of the time against the Redskins. Their playoff statuses may hinge simply on the Giants this week, who win just 55% of their 10,001 matchups when they host the Carolina Panthers.
Seems simple, right? We’ll see. The chances of all three of those outcomes coming through -- a Green Bay victory, Dallas victory and New York loss -- which would lock in the six NFC playoff teams is 24.8%.
The AFC is even more complicated, by a long shot. But at the same time, the conference has two teams in the driver’s seat as well.
Just two teams have clinched playoff spots thus far, the Indianapolis Colts and the San Diego Chargers. The New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals can join that pack simply by winning one of their final two games. The Patriots host Jacksonville this week and win nearly 62% of the time, while the Bengals get the Chiefs, who they beat at a nearly 83% clip. They could also get in with some other outside help, but the chances of New England and Cincinnati both locking up a playoff spot on their own by simply winning their matchups is better than 51%.
The chances of the rest of the AFC playoff races become a murky mess are much higher.
The Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens, each at 8-6, control their own destiny. Win out over the next two weeks and they are in. The problem is the computer doesn’t have either one of them winning the majority of their simulations. Denver heads to Philadelphia, where the Eagles are in but are trying to wrap of an NFC East title, and wins just 46.9% of the time. And Baltimore is in an even worse predicament. The Ravens face the Steelers, who face an uphill battle to get into the playoffs themselves, but broke their losing skid last week and win 66.2% of their 10,001 matchups with Baltimore.
The chances of both Denver and Baltimore losing this week is just over 35.1%, a number that six teams that enter the week at 7-7 have to be salivating at, even if the Broncos (against the Chiefs) and the Ravens (against Oakland) are both heavy favorites - 87.5% and 69.0%, respectively - next week.
With it looking like teams will need nine victories to secure a spot in the AFC, those 7-7 teams need victories this week.
With Houston and Miami playing each other, one team is certain to move to 8-7 and the Dolphins win that game more than two-thirds of the time. The Jacksonville Jaguars actually sit in the best spot of all 7-7 teams in terms of tie-breakers, but have to face a Patriots team looking to clinch a division and win just 38.2% of the time. The Steelers seem to need the most help, but host Baltimore and win nearly two-thirds of their simulated matchups. The Jets may have the toughest road to hoe of any 7-7 team with the Colts and Bengals still on the docket and win this week just under 47% of the time, though the computer doesn’t factor in teams who have already clinched a spot sitting down starters. And the Titans’ dream of making the playoffs after their atrocious start remains alive and they actually end San Diego’s nine-game winning streak 64% of the time behind another huge game from Chris Johnson.
All of this aside, there are some very outside chances that all six AFC spots are sealed up this week.
Denver needs a victory, a Jacksonville loss, a Miami loss, a Jets loss and a Pittsburgh loss to get in. That happens just 1.7% of the time.
If that bleak scenario pans out, the Ravens would also be in by virtue of a victory and losses by Jacksonville and New York. Baltimore is also in if: it wins, Jacksonville loses and Denver loses (11.1%); or it wins, Miami loses, New York loses and Denver loses (3.1%).
All of that clear? Good.
Just know this. There’s a 99.6% chance that at least one playoff spot will be on the line in Week 17.Click on the Boxscore below to the average results from 10,001 simulations of that game. Or click on Simulate Game to play the game once and view stats and play-by-play from that simulation.
NFL Week 16
|Kansas City Chiefs||17.1||15||Boxscore|
|@ Cincinnati Bengals||82.9||28||Simulate Game|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||17.7||18||Boxscore|
|@ New Orleans Saints||82.3||32||Simulate Game|
|@ San Francisco 49ers||77.6||29||Simulate Game|
|@ Green Bay Packers||71.2||27||Simulate Game|
|@ Miami Dolphins||67.3||24||Simulate Game|
|@ Pittsburgh Steelers||66.2||27||Simulate Game|
|San Diego Chargers||36.0||22||Boxscore|
|@ Tennessee Titans||64.0||28||Simulate Game|
|@ New England Patriots||61.8||25||Simulate Game|
|St. Louis Rams||41.8||21||Boxscore|
|@ Arizona Cardinals||58.2||26||Simulate Game|
|@ New York Giants||55.0||23||Simulate Game|
|@ Cleveland Browns||50.7||20||Simulate Game|
|@ Philadelphia Eagles||53.1||21||Simulate Game|
|New York Jets||46.9||19||Boxscore|
|@ Indianapolis Colts||53.1||22||Simulate Game|
|@ Atlanta Falcons||45.0||20||Simulate Game|
|@ Washington Redskins||22.6||16||Simulate Game|
|@ Chicago Bears||23.6||19||Simulate Game|
Other Notable Names in Week 16
Its reunion weekend in the NFL. Larry Johnson and the Bengals take on the Cheifs - Johnson's former team. Johnson was a former first round pick of Kansas City and rushed for 6,015 yards in 6 and a half seasons.
Brian Dawkins signed with Denver as a free agent this past offseason to help their struggling secondary. This week Dawkins' current team, the Broncos, visits his old team, the Eagles, where he spent 13 seasons.
Also don't forget Shaun Suisham. He was signed by the Cowboys this week after Nick Folk missed his league leading 10th field goal Saturday night against the Saints. Suisham steps right in to kick for the Cowboys Sunday night against the team that cut him earlier this year for also missing a kick against the Saints - the Redskins
WhatIfSports.com is a division of FOX Sports Interactive specializing in fantasy football simulation analysis and football sim games. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, we can be reached at BtB@whatifsports.com. Thanks!