Updated January 19: NFL Playoff Projections

Utilizing the data I cited earlier, I created a mathematical model to ascribe probabilities to each possible playoff matchup. Then, following the fidgety NFL playoff format,* I calculated the chances for teams reaching each subsequent round. The model is based mostly on Advanced NFL Statistics‘ expected points per play from the season, as well as home-field and dome-field advantages (and disadvantages).

Updated as of the games played on Sunday, January 12th. 

Where we started…

Seed Team Conference Division Conf. Finals Superbowl Champs
1 SEA NFC 100.0% 71.3% 44.3% 25.9%
2 CAR NFC 100.0% 54.7% 24.8% 12.5%
3 PHI NFC 71.2% 33.8% 15.2% 7.5%
4 GB NFC 41.8% 12.4% 4.4% 1.6%
5 SF NFC 58.2% 21.8% 9.5% 4.4%
6 NO NFC 28.8% 6.0% 1.8% 0.8%
Seed Team Conference Division Conf. Finals Superbowl Champs
1 DEN AFC 100.0% 75.3% 49.7% 27.2%
2 NE AFC 100.0% 50.4% 19.3% 7.2%
3 CIN AFC 64.3% 36.7% 17.2% 8.0%
4 IND AFC 65.0% 13.9% 3.9% 1.3%
5 KC AFC 35.0% 13.0% 5.2% 1.9%
6 SD AFC 35.7% 10.7% 4.7% 1.6%

Super Bowl

The model likes the Seahawks to beat the Broncos with a 51.2 percent probability. The expected spread is less than one point, indicating that we have two teams that performed similarly over the regular seasons in terms of net points created, offensively and defensively. If there is an obvious bias to the model, it’s that I was not able to take strength of schedule into account. However, this season the other three teams in the NFC West had a point differential of +73, or +2.4 per game. Teams other than the Broncos in the AFC West had a point differential of +42, or +1.4 per game, indicating that perhaps the Seahawks played a slightly tougher schedule.

*The No. 1 seed from each conference will always play the worst surviving seed from the Wildcard round, which could be the 4-seed, 5-seed, or 6-seed in any given year. The No. 2 seed then gets the sloppy seconds.