A wild card round of playoff games has to be in the books until we know for sure. . . But let’s look at the possibilities.
For the final week of the regular season, the Kansas City Chiefs were the only team in the NFL with a guaranteed playoff seed. With their win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 16, the Chiefs locked up the AFC’s first seed. Every second hopeful postseason should be based on the results of the games of the 17th. Wait a week to know where they would be in the playoffs.
On Sunday, the Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts battled it out for the six remaining seeds. But now the postseason dolphins are out, and we know the final sowing for the 2020 AFC playoffs:
In the wild card round, the division winners play at home. The highest seed plays the lowest seed, the second highest plays the second lowest. . . and so on. This means that in week 18 the Bills will house the Colts, the Browns will be on the road against the Steelers, and the Titans will be at home against the Ravens.
The same rules apply to the AFC’s division round games in week 19, with the Chiefs playing at home against the lowest remaining seed. With only three teams going to survive the wild card round, we know the second and third seed – the Bills and Steelers – won’t be able to play the Chiefs until the conference championship round in week 20.
So we just have to find out the probability that each of the remaining four teams will survive the wild card round and also be bet the lowest. This is easiest for the seventh seed – as they only need to win their wild card game to be the lowest surviving seed.
After that it gets more complicated, but it’s still straightforward. The sixth seed plays the first seed if they win and the seventh seed loses. So the probability that occurs is the chance that the sixth seed will win multiplied by the chance that the seventh seed will lose. And then we continue this series of calculations for the rest of the teams.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s ELO model, the Bills have a 78% chance of winning the Colts. The Steelers have a 65% chance of beating the Browns, while the Ravens would win against the Titans 54% of the time.
As you can see, there is no clear favorite here. Expressed in rounds, there is a 1 in 4 chance of playing against any of these teams – mainly due to the relatively small advantage that ELO projects have for the Ravens over the Titans.
Still, the ravens are by far the most likely to make it to Arrowhead Stadium in week 19.
Editor’s note: At the time of going to press, the seeding of the NFC playoffs has not yet been completed, so FiveThirtyEight has not yet released any wild card projections for AFC or NFC. However, they have updated the ELO ratings for all AFC teams on which these forecasts are based. Using the formula published on their methodology page, we took the liberty of calculating the week 19 projections ourselves. We believe we did the math right – but when their projections are released we will double-check that we are sure.
NFL, Indianapolis Colts, American Football Conference, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, National Football League Playoffs, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins
World news – AU – Playoff scenarios: Who the Chiefs could play in the AFC divisional round
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