NFL

How will the NFL playoff picture shake out?

By Sports Desk December 31, 2021

Only two weeks of the NFL's longest regular season remain, and the playoff picture could become significantly clearer during the penultimate slate of games.

Seven teams can clinch a postseason berth in Week 17, though a crowded fight for the Wild Card spots in both conferences makes the final playoff lineup difficult to predict.

That is where Stats Perform's rest-of-season projection comes in. It allows us to forecast what the playoff picture will look like come the end of Week 18.

Every future game is projected to give a predicted win percentage for each team across its remaining games. Rather than being a simulator of future games, the projections are calculated by looking at each team's quarterback and performance in terms of yards added in expected passing situations as well as team values for pass protection/pass rush, skill position players/coverage defenders and run blocking/run defense.

The projected win percentages are then aggregated to produce the forecasted standings, which, if they come to pass, would produce a potential reunion of former New England Patriots quarterbacks in the opening round.

 

AFC

Division Winners: 1. Kansas City Chiefs, 2. Tennessee Titans, 3. Buffalo Bills, 4. Cincinnati Bengals

Wild Cards: 5. New England Patriots, 6. Indianapolis Colts, 7. Los Angeles Chargers

Week 16's results had no significant impact on the Chiefs' position as the favourite for the first-round bye, with Kansas City (12.6 projected wins) looking at a 13-4 finish that would see them claim the one seed by a comfortable margin ahead of two 11-6 teams in the Tennessee Titans (11.2) and the Buffalo Bills (10.6).

Tennessee's regular-season win over the Bills gives them the tiebreaker and two seed, setting up a matchup with a seventh-seeded Los Angeles Chargers team (9.1) predicted to squeak into the playoffs even after their meltdown against the Houston Texans.

The movement is in the AFC East, where the Bills' dominant win over the New England Patriots (10.3) has put them in an excellent position to claim the division title and a home playoff game. However, as the three seed, that would come against the surging Indianapolis Colts (10.0) and a ground game that gashed the Bills for 264 yards in Week 11.

New England, meanwhile, would face a road game with the Cincinnati Bengals (9.5) and arguably the hottest quarterback in football, Joe Burrow delivering a well-thrown ball on an astonishing 95.7 per cent of his passes in a Week 16 win over the Baltimore Ravens that saw him rack up 525 yards and four touchdowns.

The forecast has the Miami Dolphins (8.8) missing out despite their seven-game winning streak, though their superior record in common games means they would win a tiebreaker with the Chargers if both finished 9-8.

NFC

Division Winners: 1. Green Bay Packers, 2. Los Angeles Rams, 3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4. Dallas Cowboys

Wild Cards: 5. Arizona Cardinals, 6. San Francisco 49ers, 7. Philadelphia Eagles

The Green Bay Packers (13.4) appear to be surging towards the top seed in the NFC, though they are forecast to do so while dropping one of their last two games, against the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions, and winning a three-way tie with the Los Angeles Rams (12.5) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12.5).

Los Angeles' regular-season win over the Bucs would give them the second seed and a Wild Card matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles (9.3). Eagles signal-caller Jalen Hurts has the best well-thrown percentage (80.4) of any quarterback (min. 10 attempts) to average at least nine air yards per attempt.

A potential showdown between Tom Brady and the man formerly seen as his heir apparent with the Patriots, Jimmy Garoppolo – or Trey Lance depending on how his likely start against the Houston Texans goes – would beckon with the San Francisco 49ers (9.4) projected to end the year as the sixth seed and visit the Bucs despite their Thursday Night Football collapse against the Titans.

The Arizona Cardinals (11.0) have failed to score 20 points in each of their last two games and their recent slump is predicted to set up a road playoff game with a Dallas Cowboys (12.2) attack that exploded for 497 total yards and six touchdowns in their blowout Week 16 win over the Washington Football Team.

Related items

  • England 'really have to improve' despite thrashing Netherlands, warns Wiegman England 'really have to improve' despite thrashing Netherlands, warns Wiegman

    Sarina Wiegman is "absolutely happy" with England's progress ahead of the Women's Euro 2022, but she did not see a stunning 5-1 defeat of the Netherlands as cause to get carried away.

    England have never lost back-to-back matches against the Oranje, yet their previous meeting had been a crushing 3-0 reverse in the Euro 2017 semi-finals.

    Wiegman was in the Netherlands dugout on that occasion, guiding her country to a home tournament success.

    That is now her aim with the Lionesses, and Friday's victory at Elland Road surely laid down a marker, with Beth Mead scoring twice – either side of goals from Ella Toone and Lauren Hemp – after Lucy Bronze had cancelled out Lieke Martens' opener.

    England are yet to lose in their 13 games under Wiegman, scoring 80 times across those matches, but the manager still saw room for improvement.

    "Maybe," Wiegman told ITV Sport when asked if she had to temper expectations. "For us, it's just that when we lose, we go with our plan; when we win, we go with our plan.

    "We had a good win, but we cannot think we are there. Today showed that we have still lots of things to do.

    "Things went really well, but lots of things didn't go well, and we really have to improve that, too. We'll start working on that again on Monday."

    That is not to say Wiegman was unhappy with what she saw, adding: "I'm absolutely happy. It was such a high-level game.

    "Of course the score says a lot: 5-1. That's really good, the game in the second half was really good, so there are very exciting things to see.

    "Yes, we're in a good place, but still we have some things to improve."

    The slow start was undoubtedly one area that could have concerned Wiegman, although she was enthused by England's response to only the third goal they have conceded in her tenure – this the first time they have trailed.

    "It's very nice to score five goals, but for us it actually was good that we got behind for the first time and how we reacted to that," she said.

    "We needed to come back from not playing well, conceding a goal, and get the game to a higher standard. That was good."

  • Tsitsipas reaches first grass-court final, Fritz and Cressy set up all-American Eastbourne showdown Tsitsipas reaches first grass-court final, Fritz and Cressy set up all-American Eastbourne showdown

    Roberto Bautista Agut stands in the way of Stefanos Tsitsipas and his first grass-court title.

    Making his debut at the Mallorca Championships, Tsitsipas sealed his maiden appearance in a grass-court final by cruising past Benjamin Bonzi 6-4 6-4 on Friday.

    The world number six has now reached four finals this season, having lost two of the previous three – winning on clay at the Monte Carlo Masters.

    It was the second meeting between the pair in as many weeks, with the Greek having also downed Bonzi at the Halle Open.

    And Tsitsipas now has a chance to warm up for Wimbledon in winning fashion.

    "It was a good match. I am very happy today," Tsitsipas said in his on-court interview. "I have played a final a week before a grand slam before. It was the year I made the final at Roland Garros, in Lyon.

    "It worked out pretty well to have that final and consistency of matches. It is different this time. We are talking about a different surface, so we will see."

    Tsitsipas has now claimed a tour-leading 39 wins this season, but standing between the 23-year-old and silverware is Spaniard Bautista Agut, who reached a 20th career final by beating Antoine Bellier 7-6 (7-5) 6-2.

    Like Tsitsipas, Bautista Agut is aiming for a second title of the season.

    At the Eastbourne International, two Americans will vie for the title after Indian Wells Masters champion Taylor Fritz saw off a tough challenge from Alex de Minaur while Maxime Cressy defeated home favourite Jack Draper 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (2-7) 6-3.

    Fritz, who triumphed at Eastbourne in 2019 – similarly against an American, in Sam Querrey – but has found his best form hard to come by of late, also needed three sets to get the better of De Minaur, eventually succeeding 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-3.

    "It's amazing," Fritz said. "I was having a bit of a rough start coming back from injury to the grass season, and then I came here and the first day I was here I just immediately felt like I was playing good tennis again.

    "I just have a lot of confidence being here, obviously great memories, so I'm really excited to come back out and play for the title again."

  • Aaron Judge, Yankees agree on $19m salary for 2022 Aaron Judge, Yankees agree on $19m salary for 2022

    The New York Yankees and star slugger Aaron Judge agreed to a one-year, $19million contract just hours before the two sides were scheduled for an arbitration hearing on Friday.

    The deal represents a compromise between Judge, who is in his final year of arbitration eligibility, and the Yankees.

    The three-time All-Star's representatives had been seeking a $21m salary for this season, while New York countered with a $17m offer.

    Judge can also earn an additional $250,000 if he wins the American League MVP award and another $250,000 if named MVP of the World Series. 

    The 30-year-old has emerged as an early MVP frontrunner as the leader of a Yankees team who own the majors' best record at 52-18.

    Judge's 27 homers in 2022 are five more than any player, and he is batting a career-best .304 through 68 games. He also ranks third in the majors in OPS (1.037) and third in the AL with 53 RBIs.

    Judge reportedly turned down a seven-year, $213.5m extension offer from the Yankees during spring training, and the six-foot-seven outfielder's stellar start to 2022 likely has him in line for a more lucrative payday when he reaches free agency in the offseason. 

    Those 2022 numbers would not have impacted Judge's arbitration case, however, as any statistics after March 1 are not admissible per the agreement between MLB and the players' association that ended this past offseason's lockout.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.