The NFC South is a very, very bad division.
Last night's Atlanta loss to Green Bay ensured that the NFC South champion this year will not have a winning record. Now, we just have to hope that the NFC South champion can go at least 8-8 and not give us the second team in NFL history to win a division with a losing record.
Believe it or not, there is hope. The New Orleans Saints' home loss to Carolina was a horrible performance, but NFL teams put horrible performances like that behind them all the time. And looking forward, the Saints have winnable games. Based on average DVOA of opponent, the Saints have the easiest remaining schedule in the league. First, they go on the road to face the "Don't Care Bears" on "Monday Night Football." Then, they come home to play the Atlanta Falcons. Finally, they head to Tampa Bay to face the Bucs. Our simulations have the Saints sweeping all three games 16.6 percent of the time to win the NFC South at 8-8.
But things aren't really that much tougher for the Atlanta Falcons. It's not ridiculous to think the Falcons might win their last two home games against Pittsburgh and Carolina, which means that if they also win in New Orleans in Week 16, then they will be NFC South champions at 8-8.
Here's a look at who wins the NFC South in our simulations, and how many wins they have when they do:
New Orleans (8-8): 16.6 percent
New Orleans (7-9): 28.8 percent
New Orleans (6-10): 4.0 percent
Atlanta (8-8): 14.7 percent
Atlanta (7-9): 22.3 percent
Atlanta (6-10): 0.6 percent
Carolina (7-8-1): 7.9 percent
Carolina (6-9-1): 5.2 percent
About these numbers: Each week from now until the end of the regular season, we'll be taking a look at the projected playoff field based on the Football Outsiders playoff odds simulation that plays out the rest of the season 50,000 times. A random draw assigns each team a win or loss for each game. (Like Donovan McNabb, the playoff odds simulation does not believe in ties, except the one that already happened. That game counts as 0.5 wins in the projected wins total.) The probabilities are based on each team's current Weighted DVOA rating as well as home-field advantage. (DVOA is Football Outsiders' proprietary defense-adjusted value over average metric that looks at a team's performance on every play and adjusts based on situation and opponent, explained further here. Weighted DVOA then takes that rating and adjusts it to lower the strength of games that took place more than a month ago.)
You can find the full playoff odds report, including the odds of each team winning each of the six seeds, on FootballOutsiders.com.