Superbowl XLVIII Projection, Week 12, Thursday

Seattle over Kansas City

With a win over Atlanta, New Orleans is now the 2nd likeliest NFC Superbowl representative, displacing Carolina at least until they play Sunday. Atlanta would appear to be out of the playoff hunt, but I'm pretty sure they are not. I ran 250 Million season simulations, and they didn't make the playoffs in any of them. However, with 93 games left to play, there are way more than 250 Million possible outcomes.

When I want to double check whether a team is truly eliminated or has some chance of making the playoffs, I have two options. One is to figure out their best-case scenarios by hand, if they are few. However, at this point in the season, there are way too many games to determine by hand exactly what's best in all games for a given team. For example, should Atlanta root for 4-6 St. Louis or 6-4 Chicago this week? It's a little hard to say, so I go with plan B.  I make up a fake set of games and simulate those a few thousand times, which takes under a second. First I have Atlanta win all of their remaining games. Then, I have that team's conference-mates lose all of their remaining games against the other conference. This serves to weaken the pool of wildcard teams. It is possible I would ruin a multi-team tiebreak scenario by forcing these losses (i.e. if an Atlanta vs Tampa Bay tie favors Tampa Bay, but an Atlanta, Tampa Bay, San Francisco tie favors Atlanta), but I'm just looking for one case where they do make the playoffs. In this case, pushing Atlanta to 7-9 and giving the AFC all remaining cross-conference games did give them about an 0.003% chance of making the playoffs. So while I won't say they're out yet, it's not looking good.

If no playoff appearances were shown, I could extend my system. At 7-9, Atlanta's not catching Seattle or New Orleans, the two NFC teams with 8 or more wins. So, without harming Atlanta, I can simulate them winning the rest of their NFC games. That pushes Minnesota and Tampa to 10 losses each, behind Atlanta. I can then simulate those two teams winning the rest of their NFC games to go 6-10 each. In this case, that pushes Atlanta to a 0.84% chance of getting a wildcard spot.

From here, it becomes more art than science. I've now given the Rams 9 losses, since they play New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and Seattle in the last 3 weeks of the season. Atlanta beat the Rams, so I can probably let them go 7-9. A 3-way or 4-way tiebreaker could make this unsafe though, so I have to be prepared to roll back this scenario and try others. In this case it worked, boosting Atlanta to a 4.88% chance of the wildcard.

I've already handed the NFC West and NFC South to Seattle and New Orleans, but the other two division winners won't be in direct competition with Atlanta either. Seeing Dallas at 5-6 with 5 games to go, I'll give them 5 wins to put them at 10-6, and more importantly, many losses to their conference opponents. That puts Atlanta at 6.38%, and Washington at 3-10, and lets me safely push them to 6-10. That has the effect of pushing Atlanta all the way to 26.3%, and New York to 4-11. I tried having them win their remaining game against Detroit, but that actually lowered Atlanta's chances. The reason for that is that the NFC North race is very close, and Detroit needs to win it in the situation I've created so far. By having them win the North at 9-7, Green Bay acquires its 10th loss and can beat Chicago, pushing them to 6-9. Since I now show Chicago with no playoff chances, I allow them to go 7-9 and beat Philadelphia. Philadelphia is now showing no playoff chances at 6-9, so I allow them to go 7-9 and beat Arizona. Atlanta has clinched a spot, and I've chosen a winner every NFC game. It may not be quite that hard for them to make it, but I'll bet it's close. Ultimately that scenario has 5 7-9 teams in the NFC, and Carolina and Atlanta get the Wildcard spots.


First to 10% chance of Superbowl Win: Seattle (Week 2, Sunday)
First to 20% chance of Superbowl Win: Kansas City (Week 9, Sunday)

First to 80% chance of Playoffs: Seattle (Week 3, Sunday)
First to 90% chance of Playoffs: Seattle (Week 3, Sunday)
First to 99% chance of Playoffs: Kansas City (Week 8, Sunday)
First to 99.9% chance of Playoffs: Kansas City (Week 9, Sunday)

[Week 1]
[Week 2, Thursday]
[Week 2, Sunday]
[Week 2, Final]
[Week 3, Thursday]
[Week 3, Sunday]
[Week 3, Final]
[Week 4, Thursday]
[Week 4, Sunday]
[Week 4, Final]
[Week 5, Thursday]
[Week 5, Sunday]
[Week 5, Final]
[Week 6, Thursday]
[Week 6, Sunday]
[Week 6, Final]
[Week 7, Thursday]
[Week 7, Sunday]
[Week 7, Final]
[Week 8, Thursday]
[Week 8, Sunday]
[Week 8, Final]
[Week 9, Thursday]
[Week 9, Monday]
[Week 9, Final]
[Week 10, Thursday]
[Week 10, Sunday]
[Week 10, Final]
[Week 11, Thursday]
[Week 11, Sunday]
[Week 11, Final]

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