NFL Playoff Simulation

ARI vs CAR

The AFC and NFC brackets are set and I have simulated the postseason 10,000 times.  Let’s jump straight to the results, starting with the NFC:

 PanthersCardinalsVikingsRedskinsPackersSeahawks
Wildcard--100%100%100%100%
Division100%100%41.11%49.99%50.01%58.89%
Conference69.98%76.75%11.36%8.05%11.58%22.28%
Super Bowl45.01%36.64%3.40%1.88%3.22%9.85%

The Packers-Redskins game is as close to a coin flip as you can get according to the simulation.  That matches up with most of the betting market as the Packers are a consensus 1-point favorite as of now.

Due to seeding and scheduling, the Cardinals are more likely to make the NFC Championship game than the Panthers.  Why? Because if Seattle wins on Sunday, they will play at Carolina next week.  Arizona can’t face Seattle until the NFC Championship. Congrats on attaining the 1-seed, Carolina!

In over 80% of simulations, the NFC representative in the Super Bowl was either Carolina or Arizona.  While the adage is that anything can happen in the playoffs, the simulation disagrees and likes the two NFC favorites more than the betting market.

Now let’s take at the AFC:

 BroncosPatriotsBengalsTexansChiefsSteelers
Wildcard--100%100%100%100%
Division100%100%53.06%39.02%60.98%46.94%
Conference51.70%68.09%16.62%11.70%28.45%23.44%
Super Bowl24.69%40.55%8.13%4.15%14.07%8.41%

The Patriots have lost four of their last six games!  The Patriots lost home-field advantage!  The sky is falling in Foxboro!  Well, not so fast.  Despite all of those facts, the Patriots are still the favorites to make it to Santa Clara out of the AFC at a tick over 40%.

Denver had their playoff scenario go as well as possible and ended up with the #1 seed in the bracket.  The bye and home-field advantage help the Broncos but the simulation still isn’t a huge believer as both the Patriots and Chiefs would be small favorites in Denver (although I don’t expect the betting market to agree in the Chiefs instance).

In the immediate future, the simulation disagrees with the idea that the Bengals should be home dogs to their division rivals and has them advancing to the divisional round 53% of the time.

If you are looking for Super Bowl odds, I tweeted those once the playoff field was set:

Finally, a little help for those of you playing fantasy football during the playoffs.  There are various fantasy formats out there, but many include selecting your roster for the entire playoffs at the very beginning.  Because of that, it’s important to attempt to determine how many games each team will play.  While it may seem like taking the favorites to win the Super Bowl is the easy way to do this, it’s not necessarily accurate.  Here are all 12 teams and their expected games played:

TeamExpected Games Played
Panthers2.15
Cardinals2.13
Patriots2.09
Chiefs2.04
Seahawks1.91
Steelers1.79
Bengals1.78
Broncos1.76
Packers1.65
Redskins1.60
Vikings1.56
Texans1.55

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