Cowboys' loss doesn't hurt much
Week 17 will tell tale in NFC East, plus complete playoff projections
In life, it's great when things aren't complicated. At Football Outsiders, it's no different. So when we ran our simulations, what a joy it was to see how polarized the playoff situation is in the NFC East. The New York Giants and Washington Redskins have been eliminated -- no simulations necessary there -- so only the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys remain in contention. And for both of those teams, a postseason berth rests on winning the division: Philadelphia and Dallas have a combined 4.0 percent chance of earning an NFC wild-card spot.
Heading into Week 15, Philadelphia has the upper hand over Dallas in terms of division-winning odds (64 percent to 36 percent), but they play each other in Week 17 (aka "Tony Romo's Latest Crucible"), and our projection model currently forecasts that game as a toss-up (52-48 in favor of Dallas). That may seem like putting the cart before the horse, but our simulations show the Cowboys to have a probability of winning their next two games (36.7 percent) that's virtually identical to Philadelphia's (34.5 percent). If you've been reading this column on a weekly basis, we've been saying since its inception that we would love to fast-forward directly to the main event in Week 17. The results of Week 14 didn't change that.
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.
AFC playoff projections
No. 1 Denver Broncos
Current record: 11-2 | Weighted DVOA: 28.8 percent
Projected wins: 13.2
Total Playoff odds: 100.0 percent | Weekly change: 0.0 percent
Denver clinched a playoff spot on Sunday, but that's a minor blip on the Broncos' radar. Their intermediate goal is home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and their win over Tennessee (matching New England's win over Cleveland) kept Denver on par with where it entered the week (3-to-1 odds to earn the No. 1 seed). The Broncos continue to shed percentage points off of their once-legendary DVOA rating, but much of that can be attributed to regression to the mean: Their 42.5 percent peak in Week 8 was not sustainable. To boot, Denver's remaining schedule is a farce (vs. San Diego, at Houston, at Oakland), so the Broncos have an opportunity to reverse that trend.