News flash: Winning football games will improve your team’s odds of making the playoffs.
OK, that’s not necessarily breaking new ground. But after back-to-back losses to Miami and New England, the Bears win against the Jets – coupled with losses by division rivals in Green Bay, Detroit, and Minnesota – has changed the postseason landscape dramatically just one week after things looked a bit dreary. At minimum, it really brightened the mood around here.
Let’s dive into the latest update as we enter Week 9 of the NFL season.
NFC North Standings:
- Chicago Bears: 4-3-0
- Minnesota Vikings: 4-3-1
- Green Bay Packers: 3-3-1
- Detroit Lions: 3-4-0
In Week 7, the Bears’ loss and wins by everyone else in the division allowed the worst-case scenario to play out. A week later, a Bears win and losses by the rest of the NFC North has flipped the standings once again. From first to worst to first. What a ride!
The Week 8 results in a topsy-turvy NFC North led to an expected change in the playoff odds for each team in the division.
FiveThirtyEight: 2018 Playoff and Division Odds
- Vikings: 51% make playoffs (-17%), 43% win division (-10%)
- BEARS: 40% make playoffs (+12%), 31% win division (+16%)
- Lions: 19% make playoffs (-16%), 15% win division (-7%)
- Packers: 18% make playoffs (-5%), 12% win division (+1%)
Back-to-back losses dropped the Bears’ playoff odds by 27 (!!) percentage points, but the win against the Jets put the team back on the right track and bumped the odds up by 12 percentage points. Ahhh, that just felt better to type. Losses by the Vikings and Lions dropped their chances of making the playoffs by at least 15 percentage points, though FiveThirtyEight still views the former of having the best chances to make the playoffs and win the division.
And in an odd statistical quirk, the Packers’ odds of making the playoffs were trimmed by five percentage points, but chances of winning the division are up one percentage point. That’s odd.
Even though it’s easy to feel better after seeing the Bears’ odds improve, FiveThirtyEight’s numbers suggest they still have some heavy lifting to do to solidify their playoff position. As it stands, the Bears have the eighth best playoff odds in the NFC.
Los Angeles, New Orleans, Washington, and Minnesota are projected division winners, which leaves Carolina (68%) and Seattle (55%) as projected Wild Card teams. The next two teams on the outside looking in at the NFC playoff picture are Philadelphia (47%) and the Bears. Chicago’s 8.5 projected wins are the fewest in this group, which shows how much of a hill is left to climb. But let’s see what else is out there …
FootballOutsiders.com: 2018 Playoff and Division Odds
- BEARS: 68.4% make playoffs (+11.4%), 52.8% win division (+17.9%)
- Packers: 38.3% make playoffs (-5.2%), 22.4% win division (-1%)
- Vikings: 33.2% make playoffs (-19.1%), 20.4% win division (-13%)
- Lions: 6.1% make playoffs (-9.6%), 4.3% win division (-4.1%)
Well, this is certainly a rosier picture.
Not only are the Bears projected to win more (9.6%) by these standards, the playoff odds report at FootballOutsiders.com has Chicago’s odds of making the postseason as the fifth best in the conference. These odds are based off 50,000 simulations of the 2018 season and are rooted in win probabilities based on a proprietary equation that considers the site’s team efficiency ratings. In case you missed last week’s linkage, you can see how it all comes together here.
New York Times NFL Playoff Simulator
There are 44 duodecillion different ways the 2018 NFL season can end, according to the New York Times’ playoff simulator. Here’s how they see things shaking out right now:
- BEARS: 48% make playoffs (+12%), 35% win division (+17%)
- Vikings: 44% make playoffs (-18%), 33% win division (-11%)
- Packers: 31% make playoffs (-8%), 21% win division (no change)
- Lions: 16% make playoffs (-13), 12% win division (-5%)
As we explained last week, the Bears-Jets showdown was a pretty big swing game. Had they lost, their playoff odds would have dropped to 29% and really put this team behind the 8-ball. Instead, the Bears won and everyone else in the division lost – which led to some pretty big changes in postseason probabilities. There was no bigger loser than the Vikings, whose playoff odds dropped by 18 percentage points and chances of winning the division tumbled by 11 percentage points.
You can play around with the simulator here, and I would encourage you to do so if you have the free time. If you don’t, then I’ll do it for you and share the results.
*time passes as the page loads*
Based on 27,000 simulations, the NYT’s playoff simulator has the Bears making the postseason in 50 percent of its scenarios. And while that’s encouraging, it would be even better if the Bears were to win on Sunday. A victory against the Bills would increase the Bears’ playoff odds to 61 percent. But where there is an opportunity of winning, there is also the chance of defeat. A loss to the lowly Bills would drop the Bears’ playoff odds to 43 percent.
For the sake of our sanity, we won’t go through any more scenarios until after this week’s slate of games plays out.