If you have been reading this blog at all, you will have noticed that I have been simulating the NFL season quite often. Those past simulations were to find out where everyone would end up at the end of the regular season. With this article, we’ll extend the simulation through the Super Bowl.
We’ll start with the AFC where there is still one playoff spot up for grabs. The Steelers need a win on Sunday as well as a Jets loss to sneak in as the 6-seed. The simulation shows Pittsburgh getting in 36.5% of the time with the Jets/Bills game being more of a tossup than a majority of people perceive.
Overall there are six games left that can affect the AFC playoff field, either by seed or by deciding who gets in. With each game having two possible outcomes (ignoring ties), that produces 64 unique results of how the six games could turn out. Those 64 results end up generating twelve playoff fields seen here:
Once the playoff field is set, it can easily be simulated factoring in home-field advantage and ensuring that the seedings send teams to the proper divisional game. I simulated each of the twelve playoff fields 10,000 times and tracked the winner of the bracket each time. Here are the projected AFC Champion results:
|Team||AFC Title Odds||Corresponding Moneyline|
It’s essentially a coin flip (something the Patriots have had trouble with recently) that New England ends up in Santa Clara for Super Bowl 50. Who is their most likely opponent? Let’s take a look at the NFC next.
The six teams in the NFC playoffs have been decided, it’s now just a matter of jockeying for the best positions in the tournament. The NFC really only has three remaining decisions left:
- Carolina or Arizona for the #1 seed
- Green Bay or Minnesota for the #3 seed
- Seattle or Minnesota for the #5 seed (If Green Bay wins the NFC North)
These three decisions produced six particular playoff fields seen here:
It may be deceiving seeing Minnesota as the 3-seed in the most likely scenario. That doesn’t mean that Minnesota is favored to beat Green Bay in Week 17. If you’ll notice on the chart above, there are four playoff fields that have the Packers as the 3-seed compared to the two that have the Vikings winning the division.
The real interesting part comes from the NFC simulation:
|Team||NFC Title Odds||Corresponding Moneyline|
The 14-1 Panthers are not the favorites to win the NFC according to the simulation. This is for two reasons. The first is that the simulation simply has the Cardinals as a better team than the Panthers although it’s very close and Carolina would still be a small favorite at home if the two met in the NFC Championship. The second reason is the playoff schedule. In most cases, the Panthers would face the Seahawks in the Divisional round, the toughest possible opponent they could face. On the other side of the bracket, the Cardinals would face either the Packers/Vikings/Redskins in most instances.
(Side note: if the Packers wanted to tank Sunday’s game to ensure they play at Washington for their first game and avoid Seattle, it would actually be a good idea in my opinion)
That scheduling quirk is enough to make Arizona the favorite in the NFC. The Seahawks are currently the fourth best team according to the simulation (Arizona, Carolina, and New England make up the top three) and having to face them AND THEN the Cardinals is a tough road for Cam Newton and the Panthers, no matter how many baseball bats they bring to the field.
Now on to the big game. Let’s take a look at potential matchups for Super Bowl 50:
And finally, who is going to win the damn thing?