Week 13 Mailbag

Welcome to our weekly mailbag post! If you have any questions for future posts, feel free to send us a message here!

See the Playoff Picture entering week 13 here

Joshua C:

What are the scenarios that need to happen in order for NYG to sneak into the 7th seed?

There are actually a lot of ways NYG could sneak in, so we’ll just look at the simplest path. First, NYG should win out. In doing so, they give a 7th loss to GB, LAR, and NO. If GB, LAR, and NO drop 1 more game, and then MIN drops 2 NFC games (or 3 games), and TB drops an NFC game (or 2 games), that puts all of the bottom 9 teams at 8+losses, all of which lose a tiebreaker to 9-8 NYG.

How early can NYG be eliminated from playoff contention?

NYG is massively helped by 2 things. For one, they and MIN both have byes this week, preventing them from getting another loss & MIN from getting another win. Secondly, the MIN loss to CHI actually means that no matter what happens in weeks 13 & 14, NYG cannot be eliminated, and it doesn’t even take a tiebreaker to keep them in. Thus, week 15 is the earliest NYG can be eliminated from playoff contention.

Aaron S:

Is there a way for the NFC East to come down to a Strength of Victory tiebreaker between DAL & PHI?

Due to DAL having had all 3 of their losses to conference opponents, but PHI having a non-conference loss, at 14-3, PHI would end up with the conference record tiebreaker unless PHI’s 3rd loss (2nd being to DAL) was to NYG, in which case it would go to DAL on division record.

However, if they both finish 13-4, PHI’s other 2 losses are not to NYG, and DAL’s 4th loss is to MIA or BUF, they will be tied in division record (5-1), commmon games (9-3), and conference record (9-3). Thus, it would fall to Strength of Victory (which is heavily influenced by which 2 losses PHI gets).

What is the worst record someone can win the NFC South with? (With or without ties)

6-11 is the worst record that could win it with or without ties. Most fascinating is that not only could 6-11 win it, but any of the 4 teams could win the division at 6-11 depending upon how the the wins and losses play out.

Charlie W:

What’s the earliest the Rams could clinch a playoff berth or be eliminated and what needs to happen?

For elimination, LAR could be eliminated in week 15. One simple way is to do it on effective record alone with the following:
1) LAR loses weeks 13-15
2) GB wins week 13-15
3) MIN wins weeks 14 & 15
4) SEA wins weeks 13-15
5) DET, SF, DAL all win a game in weeks 13-15.

In that case, you will have DAL/PHI, DET, and SF/SEA all at 9 wins, while LAR would be 8-9 at best. MIN & GB would both be at 8 wins, but they play each other week 17, so the winner would jump ahead of LAR for the 7 seed.

For clinching, LAR could clinch as early as week 16. LAR would have 9 wins if they won weeks 13-16. There are a number of paths for LAR, but the biggest factors are wanting at least 2 of GB/MIN/SEA to lose every game up through week 16. Then you’d want a few more losses from NFC South teams (this has some wiggle room because only 2 of TB/NO/ATL need to reach more than 9 losses due to one winning the division). Then, if NYG & CHI each lose a game, LAR would clinch on record alone.

Calvin C:

If Seattle loses their next 3 games but win their remaining 3 games what needs to happen for them to still make the playoffs at 9-8.

This is one of those that’s got too many permutations to give a comprehensive answer. What I’ll say is that the most relevant factors we have to consider is the fact that SEA will lose the division tiebreaker to LAR, so they need LAR to get to 9 losses. After that, SEA doesn’t have any head-to-head victories over any likely relevant teams (NYG, WAS, DET are the only ones, and they are unlikely to finish at 9-8). SEA would also be 6-6 in conference record, which is below average for 9-8, so SEA most likely is going to need to clinch outright. SEA has a little leeway, as at least 1 of the teams with fewer than 9 wins could still pass SEA and get the 6 seed (with DAL/PHI at the 5). Because of that leeway, and the number of teams involved, I won’t go into detail. Suffice it to say, SEA will basically want PHI/SF/DET/DAL to keep winning against bad teams, and AFC teams to beat NFC teams.

When is the earliest San Francisco could control the #1 seed and what would it take for them to clinch the #1 seed?

The earliest SF could control the 1 seed would be week 14. If they defeat PHI week 13 and win out, they will have conference record on DET, DAL, and PHI, and head-to-head wins over DAL & PHI. Thus, the only way they wouldn’t control their own destiny would be if PHI doesn’t lose a 3rd game. If PHI loses to DAL week 14 and SF defeats SEA week 14, this is sufficient for SF to control their own destiny for the 1 seed.

To clinch the 1 seed, we’d have to start by getting even with PHI. That can’t happen until week 16. At that point, if SF wins all 4 weeks & PHI loses all 4 weeks, SF would have 12 wins, and PHI would have 5 losses. DAL & DET losing 3 games over those 4 weeks would drop them below SF in record alone. If DAL loses to SEA week 13 and loses one of week 15 & 16, SF is guaranteed over them by virtue of the head-to-head and conference record lead (9-3 vs 8-4). If DET drops 2 of weeks 13-16, then they will also have a worse conference record than SF unless one of their losses is to DEN, in which case both would be 9-3 in conference. In this case, DAL/PHI drops out of the 3-way tie, and SF takes common games over DET (5-1 vs at least 2 losses for DET).


Why do the Rams have to lose for the Eagles to get a playoff spot?

LAR doesn’t have to lose, as there is a scenario even if LAR wins (PHI win + GB loss/tie + DET loss). I’ll answer the logic behind the PHI win + LAR loss/tie scenario.

If PHI wins, they finish at 11-6 at worst. Since ATL & NO are both atop the NFC South at 5-6, and they play each other later this season, no NFC South team can finish 11-6 without winning the NFC South, so they aren’t relevant for wildcard purposes. With LAR loss/tie, LAR gets more than 6 losses. This basically knocks 8 teams out on record alone. This means that the only way PHI doesn’t clinch outright is for all the other wildcard teams to finish at 11-6 or better. However, MIN is currently 6-6 and GB is currently 5-6. MIN & GB play each other week 17, so the loser of that game (or both if they tie) is guaranteed to have a worse record than PHI.

As for why LAR loss/tie is even necessary since LAR has a head-to-head loss to PHI, LAR would have a better conference record than PHI, and we can add DET as a 3rd 11-6 team that LAR can use to bypass PHI.

Justin H:

Have the clinching/elimination scenarios become harder since the NFL added the 7th seed?

It’s hard to say for sure, as we have a very small sample size. 2022 was the single simplest season I have done in my 17 years of doing these in some form. However, I think over time, it will prove to make things slightly more complicated only because there’s more wiggle room in some scenarios. A lot of the time during calculations, we say “If we just let team X get the 5 seed, what happens?” and we then find if a path exists to the 6 seed in that case. Now, with a 7th seed, there’s more permutations of checks for the wildcard seeds. However, the flip side of that is that it takes more to eliminate & less to clinch, leading to less need to check all those permutations. This is just conjecture, though, as seasons seem to swing wildly from year-to-year in terms of complexity.

Calvin C:

Why can’t the Bears be eliminated from NFC North title contention this week?

This is a fun one, since they had an elimination scenario last week. The answer is that neither CHI nor MIN plays this week, and that extra division win over MIN from week 12 gave CHI the ability to pass DET at 9-8, so there is no elimination path this week. If MIN or CHI played this week, there would have been a scenario.


When is the earliest week that the Eagles could clinch the division?

If PHI defeats SF this week and DAL in week 14, and DAL loses to SEA this week, PHI would be 12-1, DAL would be 8-5, and PHI would have a sweep over DAL, guaranteeing them the tiebreaker. Thus, PHI could have the NFC East clinched by the end of week 14.

Arnav S:

I thought the simulated seeds were really cool. What if you used 7-8% as the likelihood for tied games since that’s the rate of tie games since 2017 when overtime was shortened to 10 minutes?

I’ve received a few comments/questions to this effect, so I wanted to address it here. I say frequently that I work on possibilities, not probabilities. My goal here is not to show probability of a team actually getting the seed, the goal is instead to show the percentage of possible outcomes that result in a given seed. It’s not perfect, as 1 million simulations only covers a tiny portion of actual possibilities, especially this early in a season, but it’s my best approximation. As part of the possible outcomes ideal, I want every possible outcome of every game to be equal to cover as many of the possible outcomes as I can. Weighing against ties goes against this goal.

If you are interested in odds, there are many great sites that predict those things! It’s just a simple truth that this site does not like to delve into predictions, and weighing games even against ties violates that axiom.

Todd O:

Looking at the schedule in the NFC, it doesn’t look like it’s possible for PHI/DAL/SF/DET to all finish 14-3 but I do think it’s possible for them all to finish 13-4. If that happens, is it possible for any of those 4 teams to obtain the 1 seed? If so, what are the scenarios for each?

Let’s just look at the possible ties. Only division winners are eligible for the 1 seed, so only 1 of PHI/DAL will advance to the next part of the tiebreaker.

PHI/DET/SF - DET didn’t play either team, so there is no head-to-head sweep. PHI is guaranteed to finish 9-3 in conference at 13-4 regardless of how they get there. DET could finish from 9-3 to 10-2. SF could finish from 10-2 to 11-1. If DET finishes below 10-2, SF gets the 1 seed. If SF finishes above 10-2, SF gets the 1 seed. The only way for DET to finish 10-2 is if DET’s remaining loss is to DEN (AFC team). If DET finishes 10-2 & SF finishes 10-2, then PHI drops out of the 3-way on conference record. DET/SF goes to SF on common games (5-1 vs 4-2) unless SF’s remaining loss is to SEA. If that happens, DET/SF goes to Strength of Victory, which is wide open, even though SF has a substantial edge at this point, so either DET or SF could get the 1 seed.

DAL/DET/SF - If DET defeats DAL, then DAL would drop out on head-to-head sweep, and we’d fall to DET/SF, which is identical to the PHI scenarios above. If DAL defeats DET, DET would be 9-3 in conference at 13-4, DAL would be anywhere from 8-4 to 9-3, and SF would be anywhere from 10-2 to 11-1, giving SF the tiebreaker.

Thus, if all 4 teams finish 13-4, SF will get the 1 seed unless DET’s remaining loss is to DEN, SF’s remaining loss is to SEA, and DET clinches Strength of Victory over SF.