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Projections: Ravens take final spot

Joe Flacco and the Ravens have a 80.7 percent of beating Cleveland in Week 17. AP Photo/Don Wright

It is often said that a tie is like kissing your sister. But for the Seattle Seahawks, a tie this week would be more like having your sister kick you in the face.

No, I'm not talking about the unlikely event of a tie between Seattle and St. Louis this Sunday. I'm talking about the equally unlikely event of a tie between Detroit and Green Bay. The Seahawks can take care of business and guarantee themselves the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win over St. Louis ... as long as Green Bay and Detroit don't end up tied after 75 minutes of football.

The issue here is the difference between two-team tiebreakers and three-team tiebreakers. The most likely result at the end of the regular season will be a three-way tie at 12-4 for Seattle, Dallas and the winner of Sunday's Green Bay-Detroit game. The Cowboys and their 8-4 conference record will fall third behind the Seahawks (10-2) and either the Lions (10-2) or Packers (9-3). Seattle would take the No. 1 seed over Green Bay thanks to a head-to-head victory in Week 1, or take it over Detroit because of a better record against common opponents. (Seattle would be 5-0 vs. the Packers, Giants, Panthers and Cardinals, while Detroit would be 3-2.)

But if the Packers and Lions tie, then the Lions win the NFC North and get the No. 3 seed at 11-4-1, with Dallas and Seattle (if they both win) standing at 12-4. In that event, the Cowboys get the No. 1 seed because of their head-to-head win over Seattle in Week 6, and the road to Super Bowl XLIX would go through Jerry World.

The Football Outsiders playoff odds simulation 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 which 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; rank among all 32 teams is in parentheses.

You can find the full playoff odds report, including the odds of each team winning each of the six seeds, on FootballOutsiders.com.

It's important to remember that the playoff odds simulation is designed to look at a series of games rather than one-on-one matchups. The odds here don't take into account injuries or the specific strengths and weaknesses of teams facing each other in Week 17. They only consider overall weighted DVOA ratings. (The exception: Like last week, despite Houston's win over Baltimore, we have slightly penalized Arizona and Houston for being down to third- or fourth-string quarterbacks.)

For our last regular weekly playoff odds report, we've also added a listing of each team's current odds of winning the Super Bowl.


AFC playoff projections

1. New England Patriots

Current record: 12-3 | Weighted DVOA: 35.8 percent (1)
Clinched playoffs | Super Bowl odds: 25.9 percent

The Patriots have clinched the AFC's No. 1 seed. They lead the league in weighted DVOA and have the strongest Super Bowl odds of any team. The Patriots face Seattle in the "Pete Carroll Reunion Super Bowl" in 18.4 percent of our simulations.