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NFC Playoff Predictor: Updated

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New York Giants Super Bowl XLVI Fan Celebration At Metlife Stadium Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

A couple weeks ago I did a piece on predicting NFC playoff success, based on a few stats that have had a strong correlation to playoff success: seeding, point differential, ANY/A, and overall team PFF grade.

At that point, the NFC playoff tournament was looking rather different than it has in recent years, with no clear predictive favorite, and some high seeds looking rather vulnerable. The lower seeds, including the Vikings, looked poised for potential upsets.

Well, things have changed somewhat since then.

First, the Seahawks and 49ers changed seeding positions, which altered the look considerably, the Saints improved, and the Eagles replaced the Cowboys as the #4 seed.

Below is the revised table, including the last decades results.

NFC Playoff Predictor

2019 49ers Packers Saints Eagles Seahawks Vikings
2019 49ers Packers Saints Eagles Seahawks Vikings
Current Seed 1 (13-3) 2 (13-3) 3 (13-3) 4 (9-7) 5 (11-5) 6 (10-6)
Point Differential 1 (169) 4 (63) 2 (117) 5 (31) 6 (7) 3 (104)
ANY/A 4 (7.22) 5 (6.71) 1 (8.33) 6 (6.26) 3 (7.42) 2 (7.73)
PFF Overall Grade 2 (93.2) 4 (87.6) 1 (93.5) 5 (85.3) 6 (83.5) 3 (91.9)
Finish ? ? ? ? ? ?
2018 Saints Rams Bears Cowboys Seahawks Eagles
Seed 1 (13-3) 2 (13-3) 3 (12-4) 4 (10-6) 5 (10-6) 6 (9-7)
Point Differential 1 (151) 2 (143) 3 (138) 6 (15) 4 (81) 5 (19)
ANY/A 1 (8.47) 2 (7.69) 5 (6.59) 6 (6.22) 3 (7.28) 4 (6.89)
PFF Overall Grade 2 (94.0) 1 (95.4) 3 (92.5) 6 (86.6) 5 (87.0) 4 (91.4)
Finish 2nd 1st Lost WC (Eagles) Lost Div (Rams) Lost WC (Cowboys) Lost Div (Saints)
2017 Eagles Vikings Rams Saints Panthers Falcons
Seed 1 (13-3) 2 (13-3) 3 (11-5) 4 (11-5) 5 (11-5) 6 (10-6)
Point Differential 1 (162) 3 (130) 2 (149) 4 (122) 6 (36) 5 (38)
ANY/A 6 (4.75) 3 (7.03) 1 (7.72) 2 (7.71) 6 (5.28) 5 (6.87)
PFF Overall Grade 4 (92.9) 2 (93.9) 5 (92.2) 3 (93.1) 6 (80.0) 1 (94.6)
Finish 1st 2nd Lost WC (Falcons) Lost Div (Vikings) Lost WC (Saints) Lost Div (Eagles)
2016 Cowboys Falcons Seahawks Packers Giants Lions
Seed 1 (13-3) 2 (11-5) 3 (10-5-1) 4 (10-6) 5 (11-5) 6 (9-7)
Point Differential 2 (115) 1 (134) 3 (62) 4 (44) 5 (26) 6 (-12)
ANY/A 2 (7.86) 1 (9.03) T-4 (6.56) 3 (7.24) 6 (5.95) T-4 (6.56)
PFF Overall Grade 2 (92.0) 1 (94.5) 3 (88.2) 4 (87.4) 5 (82.2) 6 (81.9)
Finish Lost Div (Packers) 1st Lost Div (Falcons) 2nd Lost WC (Packers) Lost WC (Seahawks)
2015 Panthers Cardinals Vikings Redskins Packers Seahawks
Seed 1 (15-1) 2 (13-3) 3 (11-5) 4 (9-7) 5 (10-6) 6 (10-6)
Point Differential 1 (192) 2 (176) 4 (63) 6 (9) 5 (45) 3 (146)
ANY/A 3 (7.20) 1 (8.41) 6 (5.70) 4 (7.14) 5 (6.10) 2 (7.73)
PFF Overall Grade 1 (94.1) 3 (93.0) 4 (87.2) 6 (78.5) 5 (84.6) 2 (93.5)
Finish 1st 2nd Lost WC (Seahawks) Lost WC (Packers) Lost Div (Cardinals) Lost Div (Panthers)
2014 Seahawks Packers Cowboys Panthers Cardinals Lions
Seed 1 (12-4) 2 (12-4) 3 (12-4) 4 (7-8-1) 5 (11-5) 6 (11-5)
Point Differential 1 (140) 2 (138) 3 (115) 6 (-35) 5 (11) 4 (39)
ANY/A 4 (6.72) 1 (8.65) 2 (8.11) 6 (5.45) 3 (7.09) 5 (6.03)
PFF Overall Grade 3 (89.7) 2 (92.0) 1 (93.3) 5 (83.6) 6 (71.6) 4 (88.1)
Finish 1st 2nd Lost Div (Packers) Lost Div (Seahawks) Lost WC (Panthers) Lost WC (Cowboys)
2013 Seahawks Panthers Eagles Packers 49ers Saints
Seed 1 (13-3) 2 (12-4) 3 (10-6) 4 (8-7-1) 5 (12-4) 6 (11-5)
Point Differential 1 (186) 3 (125) 5 (60) 6 (-11) 2 (134) 4 (110)
ANY/A 4 (7.10) 6 (5.69) 1 (9.18) 2 (8.00) 5 (6.65) 3 (7.51)
PFF Overall Grade 1 (94.9) 3 (93.2) 5 (91.9) 6 (86.4) 4 (92.1) 2 (93.3)
Finish 1st Lost Div (49ers) Lost WC (Saints) Lost WC (49ers) 2nd Lost Div (Seahawks)
2012 Falcons 49ers Packers Redskins Seahawks Vikings
Seed 1 (13-3) 2 (11-4-1) 3 (11-5) 4 (10-6) 5 (11-5) 6 (10-6)
Point Differential 3 (120) 2 (124) 4 (97) 5 (48) 1 (167) 6 (31)
ANY/A 4 (7.03) 1 (7.55) 3 (7.33) 2 (7.47) 5 (7.01) 6 (4.99)
PFF Overall Grade 3 (88.7) 1 (92.5) 3 (85.5) 5 (84.3) 2 (91.6) 6 (81.2)
Finish 2nd 1st Lost Div (49ers) Lost WC (Seahawks) Lost Div (Falcons) Lost WC (Packers)
2011 Packers 49ers Saints Giants Falcons Lions
Seed 1 (15-1) 2 (13-3) 3 (13-3) 4 (9-7) 5 (10-6) 6 (10-6)
Point Differential 2 (201) 3 (151) 1 (208) 6 (-6) 5 (52) 4 (87)
ANY/A 1 (9.39) 4 (7.00) 2 (8.23) 3 (7.45) 6 (6.83) 5 (6.98)
PFF Overall Grade 3 (82.7) 1 (88.3) 2 (86.9) 5 (81.0) 4 (81.6) 6 (77.3)
Finish Lost Div (Giants) 2nd Lost Div (49ers) 1st Lost WC (Giants) Lost WC (Saints)
2010 Falcons Bears Eagles Seahawks Saints Packers
Seed 1 (13-3) 2 (11-5) 3 (10-6) 4 (7-9) 5 (11-5) 6 (10-6)
Point Differential 2 (126) 6 (48) 5 (62) 6 (-97) 3 (77) 1 (148)
ANY/A 3 (6.23) 5 (5.50) 2 (7.29) 6 (4.86) 4 (6.01) 1 (7.50)
PFF Overall Grade 1 (83.2) T-4 (76.6) 6 (73.4) T-4 (76.6) 3 (80.9) 2 (82.4)
Finish Lost Div (Packers) 2nd Lost WC (Packers) Lost Div (Bears) Lost WC (Seahawks) 1st

As you can see from the table, the final results heading into the playoffs kind of separate the NFC field into two groups. The top group of the 49ers, Saints and Vikings, and the bottom group of the Packers, Eagles, and Seahawks.

The updated results did the Vikings no favors in terms of early match-ups, but helped the Packers and Seahawks (despite losing a first round bye), with theirs.

For the Vikings, they face the two most formidable opponents in the early rounds - and the prospect of an upset isn’t so apparent, particularly as the Saints look perhaps the most likely team to win it all.

But for the bottom group - Packers, Eagles and Seahawks - the road to the NFC Championship is a relatively easy one. They will be playing each other, and none of them look particularly strong. The Seahawks go to Philadelphia Sunday afternoon, and the winner travels to Green Bay. All three teams are close enough where it’s difficult to predict who comes out on top. None of them look good enough to win the Championship game, however. Not even close really.

Injuries Remain a Factor

Beyond the predictive stats, injuries remain a qualitative factor in playoff success. Relatively healthy teams tend to advance, those suffering more injuries tend to go home.

And injuries look to be a factor again in the NFC playoff tournament.

So far, the Vikings and Packers look to be the relatively healthy teams, followed by the 49ers. The Seahawks, Eagles, and the Saints have more injury issues heading into the postseason.

Both the Seahawks and Eagles have been relatively hard hit with injuries. The Seahawks basically lost all the running backs, and now are going with a Marshawn Lynch that hadn’t practiced in over a year (and it showed), and a practice squad guy. They also lost their left tackle, although he could potentially play against the Eagles. DE Jadeveon Clowney is another key ‘questionable’ one against the Eagles, but I bet he plays.

The Eagles have been without their top receivers - plural - most of the season, and that won’t change in the playoffs. In fact it looks to get worse as their top target - TE Zach Ertz - has a broken rib and reportedly a lacerated kidney as well, which would seem to make his availability doubtful for the wild card game. The Eagles also lost their best offensive lineman - RG Brandon Brooks - and RT Lane Johnson has been out too - but may return against the Seahawks. The Eagles have also lost some DBs this season too.

Given all the injuries, and lack of weapons offensively for both teams, this has all the makings of a 3-2 final score, with the winner limping on to Lambeau.

The Saints also have some key injury losses in recent weeks, while the Vikings could be getting some key players back. The most notable losses for the Saints are DE Marcus Davenport and DT Sheldon Rankins, and they could be missing some defensive backs as well. For the Vikings, the return of Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, and (hopefully) improved health of Adam Thielen could make all the difference for the Vikings offense. Nearly all the Vikings starters had last week off as well, which should help make them fresh for the Saints game.

Vikings Notes

The Vikings road to the NFC Championship looks to be front-loaded, with both consensus favorites - the 49ers and Saints - to be faced in the early rounds.

The Saints have the predictor advantage over the Vikings, but the Vikings have the health advantage, which could be significant as well. The Vikings are 4-4 on the road this season, the Saints are 6-2 at home.

There is one other historical note that comes across from the predictor data during the last decade: The Saints tend to lose the close match-ups.

Over the past decade, the Saints have made the postseason five times. Each of those times they had a close, or even slightly favorable match-up, and four times they lost. Not just in 2018 and 2017, but also 2010 and 2011. And last year the Eagles played them tough, despite losing Carson Wentz again, and the match-up not looking competitive from the predictor stats. The Eagles were up 14-0 early, only to lose 20-14. The Saints had a first-round bye as well.

Bottom line, the Saints have been slight underachievers in the playoffs the past ten years. Will that change this time?

Bottom Line

This year’s NFC playoff field looks to be fairly closely bunched in many ways, although there are two distinct groups, based on the predictor stats. However, when you consider that every team has won and lost to at least one other team in the playoff field this season, it kind of backs-up the notion that no team is a runaway favorite. Unlike the AFC this year.

Poll

How far will the Vikings get in the playoffs this year?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Super Bowl Champions
    (298 votes)
  • 4%
    Super Bowl
    (58 votes)
  • 8%
    NFC Championship
    (112 votes)
  • 12%
    NFC Divisional Round
    (169 votes)
  • 52%
    One and Done
    (692 votes)
1329 votes total Vote Now