Playoff odds: Broncos edge Pats for No. 1

Playoff odds favor Denver, while Steelers still alive for No. 6 seed

Updated: December 3, 2013, 7:16 PM ET


By Danny Tuccitto | Football Outsiders

Brady/ManningStew Milne/USA TODAY SportsDespite the Pats’ win, the Broncos are favored to claim AFC’s No. 1 seed.

As we enter Week 14, the Denver Broncos have the highest probability of earning the No. 1 seed in the AFC according to the Football Outsiders playoff odds report, with their only threat being the New England Patriots. Because New England is only one game back in the standings and owns a head-to-head tiebreaker over Denver, it seems on the surface like we can cut the tension with an ice scraper. After a look at the schedule, however, it becomes more apparent that this drama will thaw out on its own.

If we simply average the DVOAs of their remaining opponents, New England’s final four games rank fourth easiest (minus-8.6 percent). (DVOA is Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average metric, explained here.) Unfortunately for the Pats, one of the three teams with an even easier schedule is Denver, which has the easiest path in the league (minus-15.2 percent). As we are wont to do in this space, we can take things further by incorporating Weighted DVOA and home field, which allows us to produce an expected win probability for each game.

As the table shows, both teams figure to be favorites in each of their final four games, but the Broncos have a much clearer advantage in two of them. Generally speaking, playing on the road is equivalent to conceding 17 percentage points of DVOA. In the case of Denver, though, their vast superiority over Houston (ranked 30th in Weighted DVOA) and Oakland (31st) renders that disadvantage moot.

A simple probability calculation tells us there’s a 54.8 percent chance (.725 x .757) that Denver wins both of those road games. New England, on the other hand, has to travel to Miami (17th) and Baltimore (20th), both of whom are fighting for their playoff lives. Our projection model therefore gives the Patriots only a 30.4 percent chance (.532 x .573) to win both of their two road games. With each team’s remaining two home games shaping up to be cakewalks, Denver being twice as likely as New England to sweep their road games is a big deal when determining their chances of earning the No. 1 seed.

You can find the full playoff odds report, including the odds of each team winning each of the six seeds, on FootballOutsiders.com.


AFC playoff projections

No. 1 Denver Broncos

Current record: 10-2 | Weighted DVOA: 28.3 percent
Projected wins: 13.1
Total playoff odds: 100.0 percent | Weekly change: 0.0 percent

If there’s anything whatsoever to be worried about in Denver, it’s that the Broncos have shed 7.1 percentage points off of their Weighted DVOA over the past three weeks. Beating the Chiefs in Kansas City was an accomplishment to be sure, but “coming back from the dead, and then holding on for dear life” wasn’t exactly the kind of convincing victory over an inferior team that instills confidence. Of course, some regression to the mean was inevitable given how well Denver played earlier in the season. It’s always fun to pick nits, though.

To see the rest of the projected playoff odds, you must be an ESPN Insider.

Leave a comment

300-101   400-101   300-320   300-070   300-206   200-310   300-135   300-208   810-403   400-050   640-916   642-997   300-209   400-201   200-355   352-001   642-999   350-080   MB2-712   400-051   C2150-606   1Z0-434   1Z0-146   C2090-919   C9560-655   642-647   100-101   CQE_Exam   CSSLP