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  • Texans winning out? A Colts and Broncos plunge? The Browns in the playoffs?! It’s all possible based on these scenarios crafted by the NFL playoff simulator.
By Conor Orr
November 27, 2018

We’re close enough to the finish line of the 2018 NFL season that predicting the playoff teams won’t be that difficult. Data crunchers FiveThirtyEight currently has seven teams (L.A. Rams, Saints, Chiefs, Patriots, Bears, Texans, Steelers) with more than a 93% chance of reaching the postseason. It’s safe to assume we’ll see Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees, Sean McVay and Tom Brady play past New Year’s.

Then again, we love the NFL because it’s strange and sometimes unpredictable. Especially in 2018, where some teams are getting hot at a bizarre time.

That’s why we’ve computed three postseason pictures from the remaining games to reflect the pragmatist or wild dreamer in everyone. Here is the sensible, moderate upset and totally insane looks at the 2018 playoff picture. We’ve included the math for your enjoyment:

The Sensible Route

If…

Week 13: NO over Dallas, BAL over ATL, CHI over NYG, MIA over BUF, DEN over CIN, LAR over DET, IND over JAX, HOU over CLE, GB over ARI, CAR over TB, KC over OAK, TEN over NYJ, SEA over SF, NE over MIN, PIT over LAC, PHI over WAS

Week 14: JAX over TEN, NYJ over BUF, NYG over WAS, NO over TB, NE over MIA, KC over BAL, CAR over CLE, GB over ATL, DEN over SF, LAC over CIN, DAL over PHI, DET over ARI, PIT over OAK, LAR over CHI, SEA over MIN

Week 15: KC over LAC, HOU over NYJ, DEN over CLE, CHI over GB, DET over BUF, BAL over TB, ATL over ARI, OAK over CIN, TEN over NYG, MIN over MIA, JAX over WAS, IND over DAL, SEA over SF, NE over PIT, LAR over PHI, NO over CAR

Week 16: TEN over WAS, LAC over BAL, IND over NYG, HOU over PHI, MIA over JAX, GB over NYJ, CLE over CIN, DAL over TB, MIN over DET, NE over BUF, CAR over ATL, CHI over SF, LAR over ARI, NO over PIT, KC over SEA, DEN over OAK

Week 17: BAL over CLE, MIA over BUF, PHI over WAS, IND over TEN, GB over DET, HOU over JAX, KC over OAK, CHI over MIN, NE over NYJ, NO over CAR, DAL over NYG, PIT over CIN, ATL over TB, LAC over DEN, LAR over SF, SEA over ARI

Then…

AFC: 1. Kansas City (14-2), 2. New England (13-3), 3. Houston (13-3), 4. Pittsburgh (10-5-1), 5. L.A. Chargers (11-5), 6. Indianapolis (10-6)

NFC: 1. New Orleans (15-1), 2. L.A. Rams (15-1), 3. Chicago (12-4), 4. Dallas (9-7), 5. Seattle (10-6) 6. Carolina (9-7)

A few problems hereI have a hard time believing the Texans will win out, or that we’ll have such a top-heavy playoff picture. Some of these teams might rest guys, and we’re betting with the current perceived (gulp) momentum these current teams are carrying. In this scenario, we’re mostly going with the team who has the better record, or the home team in close scenarios.


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The Moderate Upset Potential Route

If…

Week 13: NO over DAL, ATL over BAL, CHI over NYG, MIA over BUF, DEN over CIN, LAR over DET, JAX over IND, CLE over HOU, GB over ARI, CAR over TB, KC over OAK, TEN over NYJ, SEA over SF, MIN over NE, LAC over PIT, PHI over WAS

Week 14: TEN over JAX, BUF over NYJ, NYG over WAS, NO over TB, NE over MIA, KC over BAL, IND over HOU, CLE over CAR, GB over ATL, DEN over SF, LAC over CIN, PHI over DAL, DET over ARI, PIT over OAK, CHI over LAR, MIN over SEA

Week 15: LAC over KC, HOU over NYJ, DEN over CLE, GB over CHI, DET over BUF, BAL over TB, ATL over ARI, CIN over OAK, NYG over TEN, MIA over MIN, JAX over WAS, DAL over IND, SEA over SF, PIT over NE, LAR over PHI, NO over CAR

Week 16: TEN over WAS, BAL over LAC, IND over NYG, PHI over HOU, MIA over JAX, GB over NYJ, CLE over CIN, DAL over TB, MIN over DET, NE over BUFF, ATL over CAR, CHI over SF, LAR over ARI, PIT over NO, SEA over KC, DEN over OAK

Week 17: CLE over BAL, MIA over BUF, PHI over WAS, TEN over IND, GB over DET, JAX over HOU, KC over OAK, MIN over CHI, NE over NYJ, CAR over NO, NYG over DAL, PIT over CIN, ATL over TB, DEN over LAC, LAR over SF, SEA over ARI

Then…

AFC: 1. Kansas City (12-4), 2. Pittsburgh (11-4-1), 3. New England (11-5), 4. Tennessee (9-7), 5. L.A. Chargers (11-5), 6. Denver (10-6)

NFC: 1. L.A. Rams (14-2), 2. New Orleans (13-3), 3. Chicago (11-5), 4. Philadelphia (9-7), 5. Minnesota (10-5-1), 6. Seattle (10-6)

What I likeIt feels a little more balanced, though this scenario imagines a Texans fall and Titans surge that feels a little unrealistic (not to mention a Colts plunge that would be hard to envision). Also, the Denver surge would be hard to buy right now, even if it speaks to their friendly schedule down the stretch.

NFL MOCK DRAFT 2.0: Bosa to San Francisco, Quarterback to Tampa and Denver

The Total and Complete Insanity Route

If….

Week 13: DAL over NO, BAL over ATL, NYG over CHI, MIA over BUF, DEN over CIN, LAR over DET, JAX over IND, CLE over HOU, GB over ARI, CAR over TB, KC over OAK, NYJ over TEN, SEA over SF, MIA over NE, LAC over PIT, PHI over WAS

Week 14: JAX over TEN, BUF over NYJ, NYG over WAS, TB over NO, NE over MIA, BAL over KC, IND over HOU, CLE over CAR, GB over ATL, DEN over SF, LAC over CIN, PHI over DAL, DET over ARI, OAK over PIT, CHI over LAR, MIN over SEA

Week 15: LAC over KC, NYJ over HOU, CLE over DEN, GB over CHI, DET over BUF, BAL over TB, ATL over ARI, OAK over CIN, NYG over TEN, MIA over MIN, JAX over WAS, DAL over IND, SEA over SF, NE over PIT, PHI over LAR, CAR over NO

Week 16: TEN over WAS, BAL over LAC, NYG over IND, PHI over HOU, JAX over MIA, GB over NYJ, CLE over CIN, TB over DAL, DET over MIN, NE over BUF, CAR over ATL, CHI over SF, LAR over ARI, NO over PIT, SEA over KC, DEN over OAK

Week 17: CLE over BAL, MIA over BUF, WAS over PHI, IND over TEN, GB over DET, JAX over HOU, KC over OAK, MIN over CHI, NE over NYJ, CAR over NO, DAL over NYG, PIT over CIN, TB over ATL, DEN over LAC, LAR over SF, SEA over ARI

Then…

AFC: 1. New England (11-5), 2. Kansas City (11-5), 3. Baltimore (10-6) 4. Indianapolis (8-8), 5. L.A. Chargers (11-5), 6. Cleveland (9-6-1)

NFC: 1. L.A. Rams (13-3), 2. New Orleans (11-5) 3. Chicago (10-6), 4. Philadelphia (9-7), 5. Seattle (10-6), 6. Carolina (10-6)

Why this needs to happen: What is there not to love about a simultaneous Steelers collapse, a Baker Mayfield-led Browns resurgence that forces the team to hire Gregg Williams full time, a puzzling Packers run that makes Green Bay keep Mike McCarthy despite the team narrowly missing the playoffs, an electric Lamar Jackson stretch that keeps John Harbaugh in Baltimore for three more years and a miniature, season-spoiling stretch of Fitzmagic that knocks a few teams warily off course?

Friends don’t let friends drink and tinker with the playoff simulator. 

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)