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AFC Playoffs: Miami Has 66% Chance of Being Last Wildcard, Based on Point Spreads

The Dolphins celebrate one of the Patriots shitty plays

Earlier, I went through the scenarios in the AFC and how certain teams could qualify, so you will want to look at that to see how the sausage is made. Not all scenarios are equal, though. The chances that Denver and New England both lose are not the same as both winning, since both teams are heavy favorites.

I used the current average point spread listed here for each game and then used the average win percentage for all games in the last decade that were within a half point of that line. So, for example, Pittsburgh is favored by 7 over Cleveland. Teams that were favored by 6.5, 7, or 7.5 points have won 295 and lost 112 games over the last decade (72.5%).

Every team in the AFC playoff hunt whose position is uncertain is favored, except Baltimore, who plays against Cincinnati. Many of them are large favorites (San Diego, Denver, New England, and Indianapolis are all favored by 9 or more).

LeGarrette Blount Mocked the Ray Lewis Dance

Add the win percentages based on point spread, and here is what we get for the final wildcard spot:

  • Miami – 66.0%
  • San Diego – 16.7%
  • Baltimore – 14.6%
  • Pittsburgh – 2.7%

That may seem high, but it is basically because, the way the tiebreakers work out, and the matchups, Miami is highly likely to make it if they win against the Jets at home. For those of you that remember chemistry class, the rate limiting step in Miami’s playoff chase is the Dolphins getting the win. They are listed as a 6.5 point favorite. They need a San Diego win or a Baltimore loss. Because San Diego is seen as a heavy favorite against the Chiefs, who are likely to rest starters after getting locked into the 5 seed, and because Baltimore is an underdog, Miami is in good shape.

However, I will note that these results are not entirely independent. San Diego plays in the late afternoon time slot, and the Baltimore and Miami results should be known about the time they kick off. San Diego will likely prepare to go all out no matter what (no point in resting starters even if eliminated), but there could be a psychological impact that lowers San Diego’s chances slightly, if they know they cannot advance. If Baltimore and Miami both win early, then the San Diego result very much matters for both of them.

I tend to personally like the Jets and those points with the pressure on Miami and the offense struggling on Sunday, but if you buy the Vegas odds, Miami is a prohibitive favorite, and it is actually San Diego, and not Baltimore, who is slightly more likely to get in.

Meanwhile, the four teams that are chasing the top four seeds are all favored. Here is the breakdown of the percentage chance of getting each seed based on current odds.

AFC Seeds, odds

All teams here have a sufficient enough chance and incentive that I believe that they will all play to win. Indianapolis and Cincinnati plays at noon, and the Colts have a 42% chance of improving their seed. Because Denver and New England play later, neither will know their seed by the end of the game (unless they lose).

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