The Colts didn’t clinch a playoff spot with the Jets’s loss last night in Nashville. However, the odds of them missing the playoffs are small.
How small, you ask?
Matt Grecco, senior editor at Stampede Blue and fellow stats geek, calculated the odds as .0016%, or a 1-in-62,500 times possibility.
Thanks to @sgelwicks for finding the inevitable error. Colts would clinch with Vikings win, not Texans. Had that backwards. Still 99.9984%.— Matt Grecco (@mgrex03) December 18, 2012
If the worst-case scenario played out, and the Colts were to lose to the 2-14 Chiefs and the Texans to finish 9-7, there is still a miniscule chance that they would miss the postseason.
Week 16: Chiefs beat the Colts, Steelers beat the Bengals, Falcons beat the Lions, Chargers beat the Jets, Raiders beat the Panthers, Vikings beat the Texans.
Week 17: Texans beat the Colts, Bengals beat the Ravens, Jets beat the Bills, Chiefs beat the Broncos, Bears beat the Lions, Jaguars beat the Titans, Patriots beat the Dolphins, Steelers beat the Browns.
In this scenario, the Colts, Bengals, and Steelers would all finish at 9-7. Since the division teams need to be sorted out first, Pittsburgh would get the nod over Cincinnati due to a head-to-head sweep. That means that the tiebreaker would come down to Indianapolis and Cincinnati.
The first two playoff tiebreakers, failing a head-to-head result, are AFC Record and Common Opponents. The Bengals and Colts would each have 6-6 AFC records, and 3-2 records against each other’s common opponents. Strength of Victory is the fourth tiebreaker, and that’s where the above results (notably the Lions losing out) comes into play.
Again, if that above scenario played out, the combined record of the Colts’ nine wins (Vikings, Packers, Browns, Dolphins, Jaguars, Bills, Lions, Titans twice) would be 56-88. The Bengals’ nine wins (Browns, Redskins, Jaguars, Giants, Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers, Eagles, Ravens) would be 57-87. Therefore, the Bengals would get the nod in the Strength of Victory tiebreaker. Flipping any of those results (i.e. the Broncos beating the Chiefs) and Cincinnati’s SOV falls to 56-88. The strength of schedule tiebreaker would go to the Colts on the strength of four games against the Packers (projected 12-4), Patriots (projected 12-4), and Texans (worst-case 13-3 with win over Colts to put them at 9-7).
Some have asked about whether the Ravens possibly dropping their final two and losing the AFC North would affect the Colts. Short answer: it wouldn’t. Even if you throw in Baltimore finishing 9-7, the only change would be the Steelers winning the AFC North, and the Ravens, who have already clinched a playoff spot, falling to the #5 seed after beating out the Bengals based on their AFC Record (8-4 vs. 6-6). A Baltimore Wild Card would bump the Colts to the #6 seed (AFC Record, again).
Obviously, the Colts can avoid all of this by beating the two-win Chiefs, who have lost 45-7 the last two weeks to the Browns and Raiders. Any win in either of their final two games would guarantee the Colts of the #5 seed.
It is highly unlikely that this complicated worst-case scenario plays out. But, hey, there’s still a chance…
(Send all Holiday greetings and gratitude to Matt for cracking the code.)