by Brian Umbaugh, @NFLRosters
It’s that time of year; 13 weeks are in the books, and the hard core fans are starting to mull over the playoff possibilities. For the Carolina Panthers, life is sweet. After squeaking by New Orleans in Week 13, the team stands at 12-0 and, obviously, at the top of the NFC. With 4 games to go, the undefeated regular season challenge looms, and the playoffs are an inevitability. Regardless, as the first team in our series of playoff simulators, using the NY Times Playoff Simulation model, let’s check out the last 4 games individually and how these games affect the Panthers’ playoff chances.
As the situation currently stands (before Monday night’s game), the Panthers have a 90% chance of locking up the #1 seed, and a 10% chance of the #2 seed, with <1% chance of every other scenario.
Rest of Season Odds
It is most likely the Panthers will have locked up the #1 seed after Week 16, but it’s possible they haven’t. The odds for Carolina are dependent on the number of wins they get, not particularly which wins.
Winning the previous 3 games and beating Tampa Bay will create a 16-0 record, which should be good enough for the #1 seed.
Any combination of 3 wins and 1 loss will create a 15-1 record. Since Arizona is currently 10-2, this will also clinch the #1 seed.
Any combination of 2 wins and 2 losses will create a 14-2 record, and about an 80% chance of the #1 seed. There is a 20% chance that Arizona will overtake them for the #1 seed, but the #2 seed would still be assured.
Any combination of 1 win and 3 losses will create 13-3 record, and a 50-50 shot at the #1 seed. Again, Arizona may overtake them and if they do, Carolina will still grab the #2 seed.
If Carolina was to lose all 4 of their remaining games, the situation is also fairly clear. There’s about a 10% chance of earning the #1 seed (if Arizona were to falter), but there’s a 85% chance they will be overtaken and get the #2 seed. In 5% of the simulations, the NFC North champion overtakes Carolina and the Panthers would host a wild card game as the #3 seed.
Not every team has a set of scenarios that are so clear cut. The Panthers, however, have a clear path to home field advantage due to their superior record. Although Carolina currently only ranks #5 in the USA Today Sagarin Ratings, they don’t face any superior opponents. It is quite likely they can run the table. It’s hard to predict 16-0, but there’s no reason why they can’t. Prediction: 16-0, #1 seed in the NFC.