If the NFL were to stop playing altogether, and judge teams on their current records, and assign division winners, the playoff rankings in the AFC and NFC would look something like the table below. The teams’ associated playoff stats, according to my playoff model, are also presented.

Playoff Teams, if NFL playoffs were started 10/30/2103.
NFC
Rank Name Wins Losses Home Field Advantage Prev. Playoff Experience Strength of Schedule
1 Seattle Seahawks 7 1 Yes, throughout. Yes 0.31
2 New Orleans Saints 6 1 Yes, 1 game. No (?) -2.28
3 Green Bay Packers 5 2 Yes, 1 game. Yes 0.30
4 Dallas Cowboys 4 4 Yes, 1 game. No 0.42
5 San Francisco 49ers 6 2 No Yes 0.47
6 Detroit Lions 5 3 No No 0.42
AFC
1 Kansas City Chiefs 8 0 Yes, throughout. No -4.34
2 Cinncinnati Bengals 6 2 Yes, 1 game. Yes -1.37
3 New England Patriots 6 2 Yes, 1 game. Yes -3.06
4 Indianapolis Colts 5 2 Yes, 1 game. Yes 2.03
5 Denver Broncos 7 1 No Yes -2.63
6 San Diego Chargers 4 3 No No -2.01

 

The first thing that pops out in this chart is the remarkable strength of schedule advantage Indianapolis has so far. Given their remaining schedule (games with the Texans, Titans, Rams and Jaguars), that advantage is likely to evaporate over the next 8 games, but it leads to the interesting assertion that Indianapolis would be favored by some 14 points over Kansas City should Indianapolis play KC in a second round playoff game, right now.

Kansas City, by contrast, is an exceptionally weak #1 team in terms of playoff experience and strength of schedule. The Chiefs do start playing some tougher teams in the second half, but just a few.

In the NFC, all the possible playoff teams have had about the same strength of schedule except for the Saints, whose schedule has been a lot easier than most. The one factor an analyst will have to decide for themselves is whether the Saints are a team with previous playoff experience, despite the formal definition of the term, in my formula, as experience in last year’s playoffs. I’ve done that in the past, for the 2011 New York Giants.

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