One Wild Card spot is open in the AFC playoff picture, and it figures to be a team with no better than an 8-8 record.
At this point it looks pretty safe to assume the Bengals, Colts and Patriots have their divisions wrapped up. Either the Broncos or Chiefs will win their division with the loser getting the top Wild Card position.
That leaves a group of teams, none with a winning record at this time, where one will be anointed with a spot in the playoffs. Don’t laugh, either. Because the way things have gone the last few years a Super Bowl would be possible.
None of my projections have a team netting 8 wins, they all fall a few fractions below. Most likely at least one will actually win 8, but for probability sake, I’ll resort to fractions to show the likelihood of each teams’ chances.
Jets: At 5-5 would be the second Wild Card if the playoffs were to start today. They have been wildly inconsistent and outscored by 85 points. Their Pythagorean win expectancy at this point is 3, not 5.
The Jets’ remaining schedule has road games against the Ravens, Panthers and Dolphins; home games with the Dolphins, Raiders and Browns. I calculate their win expectancy the rest of the way 2.12 wins, or 7.12 for the season.
Dolphins: Also 5-5. While all the bullying drama has been going on you might have missed the fact they lost the left side of their offensive line. Center Mike Pouncey also missed Sunday’s game. I’m not sure of his status moving forward.
QB Ryan Tannehill snuck out a nice win over the Chargers on Sunday, and Miami stays firmly in the hunt. They have road games at the Jets, Steelers and Bills, all potential cold weather spots where they are known to struggle. Their home games are with the Panthers, Patriots and Jets. I calculate their remaining win expectancy at 2.94 wins, or 7.94 for the season.
Steelers: Have suddenly awakened, winning a couple in a row to climb to 4-6. The fans might have left at halftime of their game with the Lions, but the Steeler defense stuck around and led the way to a win. If their defense has really turned it around, they have the best quarterback among the contenders.
People are suddenly talking about them as a sleeper. Their home games are with the Dolphins, Bengals and Browns. On the road they play the Browns, Ravens and Packers. Whether the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers is in or out could determine their fate. I have their expected wins at 2.43, giving them 6.43 for the season.
Browns: Had a collapse Sunday that might have doomed their season. Among this bunch, however, it will take more than surrendering 31 points in a quarter and three different starting quarterbacks to eliminate your team. In all fairness, the Browns defense wasn’t on the field for most of those points and is actually playing well.
Offense is another story. They host the Steelers, Jaguars and Bears while travelling to the Pats, Jets and Steelers. They are 4-6 now with a win expectancy of 3.11 the rest of the way or a season total of 7.11.
Titans: Few teams can tease you like Tennessee. Chris Johnson probably wrecked more fantasy teams than any other player this decade. They gave the Jaguars their one and only win of the season two weeks ago, then crumbled against the Colts this past Thursday night. Had they won those two games we would be talking about their division winning chances instead of grouping them with these guys.
They’re 4-6 instead of 6-4. Titans need former backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to lead them the rest of the way. They play on the road against the Raiders, Colts, Broncos and Jaguars. Their only two home games are with the Cardinals and Texans. I have their remaining win expectancy at 3.13, or 7.13 for the season.
Chargers: May be a bigger tease than the Titans. It looked like getting rid of Norv Turner would finally do it for them, but the ghost of Norv is not so easily exorcised. They still don’t win too many close ones. They visit the Chiefs and Broncos, but have four games at home against the Bengals, Giants, Raiders and Chiefs.
I have their expected remaining wins at 2.75 in addition to their 4-6 current mark, giving them 6.75 expected wins on the season.
Raiders: Would be a real shocker. They are 4-6 thanks to a surprise win led by quarterback Matt McGloin. Still a rookie, McGloin walked on Penn State then was an undrafted free agent signed by the Raiders. That’s one hell of a parlay already. If he were to lead them to the playoffs it would be like hitting Megabucks. They go to the Cowboys, Jets and Chargers and host the Titans, Chiefs and Broncos.
Yep, it would be a real long shot. I have their expected remaining wins at 1.83 or 5.83 on the season.
Bills: Have E.J. Manuel back and still show signs of life. They are 4-7 with games at the Bucs, Jags and Pats. Home games are with the Falcons and Dolphins. I give them 2.76 expected wins or 6.76 on the season.
Ravens: As a Pittsburgher and Steeler fan, it kills me to say this, but I like Baltimore to sneak in to this Wild Card spot. The Ravens are 4-6 and not looking all that great. Maybe they take Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart” literally and just won’t die. They are home to the Jets, Steelers, Vikings and Pats. They travel to the Lions and Bengals.
Their expected wins are 3.4 out of those six games, which would give them 7.4. Something tells me they’ll have at least 4. Ugh. I make them the favorite.
Here are my Wild Card Odds:
Ravens 7-2; Dolphins 5-1; Browns 6-1; Chargers 6-1; Titans 7-1; Jets 10-1; Steelers 12-1; Bills 15-1; Raiders 20-1.
Chris Andrews has over 30 years of experience as a bookmaker in Nevada. Check out his new website at www.againstthenumber.com and www.sharpssports.com. You can follow him on Twitter@AndrewsSports. Contact Chris at [email protected].