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With No Runaway Favorites, The NFL Playoffs Should Be Wild

With No Runaway Favorites, The NFL Playoffs Should Be Wild

With the NFL’s playoff bracket lastly set, it’s time to survey the sector and handicap the race for the Tremendous Bowl. What’s fascinating about this season is that there are many excellent groups however few that might be categorised as really dominant. 9 groups have an Elo score of a minimum of 1600, however none of them has cracked 1700 on the eve of the playoffs. In just one different season since 1990 — when the NFL expanded its postseason to the present format — have this many groups been squeezed into the 1600-to-1700 vary on the Elo scale, and even that season (2015) had one staff above 1700:

Due to this logjam of good-not-great groups, no one heads into the playoffs with higher odds than the New Orleans Saints’ 21 % probability to win all of it, based on Elo. That’s the third-lowest pre-playoff championship chance for a Tremendous Bowl favourite since 1990, trailing solely the 2015 Carolina Panthers and 2009 San Diego Chargers at 20 % apiece. It’s additionally a lot decrease than the 30 % common for the standard pre-playoff favourite earlier than this yr.

General, this yr’s favorites are much less more likely to win the Tremendous Bowl than ordinary — which means the Saints and Kansas Metropolis Chiefs have a decrease chance than the standard prime two going into the playoffs — whereas a lot of the lesser groups have a greater probability than you’d anticipate to see in a mean yr.

This yr’s playoffs are extra wide-open than normal

Chance of profitable the Tremendous Bowl by rank (amongst playoff area) for the 2018 season and the typical of the 1990-2017 seasons, in accordance with FiveThirtyEight Elo scores

rank 2018 Workforce 1990-17 Avg.
1 Saints 21%


2 Chiefs 20


three Patriots 14


Four Rams 13


5 Bears 7


6 Ravens 6


7 Chargers Four


Eight Eagles Four


9 Seahawks Four


10 Cowboys three


11 Texans three


12 Colts three


All numbers are as of the ultimate regular-season recreation of a given yr. 2018 chances might not add up precisely to 100 % due to rounding.


Given all of this, the wild-card spherical might tackle extra significance than typical, because it’s not a stretch to think about one of many groups enjoying this weekend taking residence the Lombardi Trophy when all is claimed and carried out.

If Elo needed to decide a favourite from that class, it might be the Chicago Bears, who’re presently tied for third within the league in Elo and can host the defending Tremendous Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles (tied for No. 7) on Sunday at Four:40 p.m. ET. Chicago completed the common season having allowed the league’s fewest factors, so this can be a basic Monsters-of-the-Halfway Bears group in that sense. However quarterback Mitchell Trubisky can also be enjoying a lot better than the standard Chicago QB from playoffs previous — he’s no Jim Miller or Rex Grossman, as an example. Based on ESPN’s Complete Quarterback Score, Trubisky was the NFL’s third only quarterback on a per-play foundation this season. Whereas he had some lows (akin to a dreadful 29.5 QBR in an opening-week loss to the Packers) to go together with the highs (like a 98.9 QBR vs. Tampa Bay in Week Four, one of many highest single-game marks on report), Trubisky’s strides as a second-year passer helped Chicago’s offense — which ranked a good 13th in anticipated factors added — be extra according to its dominating protection.

In reality, in response to our experimental quarterback-adjusted Elo scores, Trubisky enters Sunday’s recreation with the most effective QB adjustment of any Bears postseason signal-caller because the 1986 Tremendous Bowl, when Jim McMahon was value roughly 36 extra factors of Elo than a mean quarterback (and promptly shredded the New England Patriots protection for 256 yards and a 104.2 passer score in a 46-10 rout). Trubisky himself is value an estimated 18 factors of Elo, which is why Chicago stands out if we map out the QB adjustment and base (QB-neutral) Elo score for every of this yr’s wild-card-round combatants:

The rest of the wild-card area strains up roughly in inverse order between quarterback high quality and that of the remainder of the staff. Some groups — resembling Andrew Luck’s Colts and Deshaun Watson’s Texans — have gotten to the place they’re largely due to their standout quarterback play. Others, just like the Ravens, are doing lots higher lately than we’d anticipate from their QBs’ efficiency alone. Baltimore has gained six occasions within the seven video games since Lamar Jackson changed Joe Flacco because the starter in Week 11, although Jackson himself ranked third-worst amongst certified quarterbacks in QBR this season, and that features his stellar dashing statistics. (Past his personal stats, Jackson’s impact on the group’s general operating recreation exhibits up beneath the workforce’s QB-neutral Elo score.)

Everybody else is someplace in between, together with the resurgent Eagles with backup Nick Foles, whose QB adjustment is again roughly the place it was after Philly beat the Patriots within the Tremendous Bowl, however took many twists and turns to get there; the Chargers with 37-year-old Philip Rivers, whose personal adjustment has fallen by 38 Elo factors since Week 13 with a string of mediocre outings down the stretch; the Dak Prescott-led Cowboys, whose staff QB adjustment has hovered round common all season; and Russell Wilson’s Seahawks, whose personal run-heavy assault masked one other season of extremely environment friendly passing.

How Elo sees the wild-card spherical enjoying out

Win chances for Week 18 video games based on two strategies — normal Elo and a model that incorporates an adjustment for beginning quarterbacks

Normal Elo QB-Adjusted Elo
Staff Score Win Prob. Base Rtg Beginning QB QB Adj. Win Prob.
CHI 1640 61% 1644 Mitchell Trubisky +18 66%
PHI 1624 39 1606 Nick Foles +2 34
BAL 1627 60 1650 Lamar Jackson -42 61
LAC 1624 40 1580 Philip Rivers +12 39
DAL 1572 54 1569 Dak Prescott Zero 55
SEA 1605 46 1572 Russell Wilson +26 45
HOU 1551 56 1537 Deshaun Watson +28 58
IND 1578 44 1533 Andrew Luck +38 42

Residence groups are in daring.

Elo quarterback changes are relative to common, based mostly on a rolling common of defense-adjusted QB stats (together with dashing).


Of these, Elo provides the perfect probability of advancing to the Bears, adopted by the Ravens. And upset-wise, the most effective odds belong to the Seahawks towards the Cowboys, no matter whether or not we modify for current QB efficiency. Whichever groups win, they’ll need to deal with street video games within the divisional spherical — however given the general state of the league, they’ll nonetheless have a greater probability than traditional to knock any person off and forge their very own path to the Tremendous Bowl.

FiveThirtyEight vs. the readers

To maintain tabs on every group’s basic Elo because the weekend performs out, you’ll want to take a look at FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction interactive, which simulates the remainder of the season 100,000 occasions and tracks how possible each group is to advance via the playoffs and win the Tremendous Bowl. And regardless that the common season is over, you possibly can nonetheless decide towards the Elo algorithm in our prediction recreation and maintain climbing up our big leaderboard.

In response to knowledge from the sport final week, listed here are the matchups by which Elo made its greatest — and worst — predictions towards the reader picks for Week 17:

Elo’s dumbest (and smartest) picks of Week 17

Common distinction between factors gained by readers and by Elo in Week 17 matchups in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction recreation

TEN 62% IND 55% IND 33, TEN 17 +15.1

NO 87 NO 77 CAR 33, NO 14 +13.three

MIN 56 MIN 50 CHI 24, MIN 10 +three.5

LAC 64 LAC 70 LAC 23, DEN 9 +1.Eight

PHI 65 PHI 71 PHI 24, WSH Zero +1.6

HOU 71 HOU 74 HOU 20, JAX three -Zero.1

ATL 54 ATL 56 ATL 34, TB 32 -Zero.Four

PIT 83 PIT 83 PIT 16, CIN 13 -1.7

SEA 88 SEA 86 SEA 27, ARI 24 -2.Zero

KC 88 KC 86 KC 35, OAK three -2.three

LAR 85 LAR 83 LAR 48, SF 32 -2.6

NE 89 NE 86 NE 38, NYJ three -2.6

GB 65 GB 67 DET 31, GB Zero -Four.Four

BUF 59 BUF 55 BUF 42, MIA 17 -5.5

DAL 62 DAL 56 DAL 36, NYG 35 -Eight.2

BAL 81 BAL 68 BAL 26, CLE 24 -10.5

Residence groups are in daring.

The scoring system is nonlinear, so readers’ common factors don’t essentially match the variety of factors that might be given to the typical reader prediction.

Despite the fact that the readers knew about numerous Week 17 roster shenanigans (corresponding to resting starters) and Elo didn’t, the algorithm did what it’s been doing a lot of the season, beating the sector by a mean of 5 factors per reader. (Elo beat the typical reader 16 occasions in 17 weeks in the course of the common season.) Readers picked up factors for trusting Luck and Indy towards the Blaine Gabbert-led Titans in Sunday night time’s do-or-die regular-season finale, they usually additionally received credit score for fading the Saints, who have been resting starters towards the Panthers in a meaningless contest. However at occasions that information got here again to hang-out them, resembling once they dropped the chances of the Ezekiel Elliott-less Cowboys towards the Giants, solely to see Dallas storm again and win. (And it was odd to see Elo underestimate the Browns, which it’s been doing all season, solely to have that work out at season’s finish.)

Both means, congrats to Jake Horowitz, who led all recognized customers in Week 17 with 294.2 factors, and to good ol’ Greg Chili Van Hollebeke, who held on to his No. 1 rating for the season with 1,168.1 factors. Because of everybody who has been enjoying — and the sport isn’t over but! It is best to maintain making picks and making an attempt your luck towards Elo all through the playoffs.

Take a look at our newest NFL predictions.