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NFL playoff picture: Postseason probabilities entering Week 17 of 2023 season

The newest Next Gen Stats model simulates the remainder of the NFL season 10,000 times to provide detailed estimates of each team's playoff chances. Through the rest of the regular season, the NGS Analytics team will present the latest snapshot of the playoff picture through the lens of probability analysis.

What separates the Next Gen Stats playoff probability model from the rest? During live games, playoff probabilities are dynamically updated every five minutes, incorporating the latest win probabilities from NGS for all ongoing games in every simulation. Visit's Playoff Picture for a live look at the latest postseason odds.

A few notes before we dig in:

  1. All probabilities presented are current as of 4 p.m. ET on Dec. 26 unless otherwise noted below.
  2. Terms defined:
    • If win: A team's chances of making the playoffs assuming a win in their upcoming game.
    • If lose: A team's chances of making the playoffs assuming a loss in their upcoming game.
    • Playoff leverage: Refers to the quantifiable impact of a single game on a team's playoff prospects. It is calculated as the difference between a team's probability of making the playoffs if they win their upcoming game versus if they lose. This metric essentially captures the stakes of a game in terms of playoff qualification. A high playoff leverage indicates that the outcome of the game has a significant influence on the team's playoff chances, making it a critical matchup, whereas a low playoff leverage suggests that the game has a lesser impact on the team's playoff probabilities.

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Playoff picture entering Week 17

Table inside Article
AFC Playoff % If Win If Lose No. 1 seed %
1. Ravens (12-3)  100% 100% 100% 74%
2. Dolphins (11-4)  100% 100% 100% 25%
3. Chiefs (9-6)  95% 100% 84% 0%
4. Jaguars (8-7)  70% 82% 40% 0%
5. Browns (10-5)  >99% 100% >99% 1%
6. Bills (9-6)  87% 97% 46% 0%
7. Colts (8-7) 51% 69% 24% 0%
  • After dispatching two of the NFC's best teams in Week 16, the AFC's top two contenders meet Sunday in the most anticipated matchup of this weekend's 16-game slate. Baltimore clinches the conference's No. 1 seed with a win, while a loss drops the Ravens to No. 2 behind Miami in the standings. A win for the Dolphins guarantees them the AFC East title and would mean they'd enter their Week 18 battle with Buffalo as the front-runner for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
  • The Browns will be watching the outcome of Dolphins-Ravens perhaps closer than any other team, as they still own an outside shot (134 out of 10,000) at the No. 1 seed. For that 1% chance to hit, Cleveland needs to beat the Jets and Bengals, the Ravens need to lose to the Dolphins and Steelers, and Miami has to fall to the Bills in the season finale. Sure, it's unlikely, but is it that much more far-fetched than a 38-year-old Joe Flacco coming off the street in early December to lead the Browns on a three-game win streak?
  • Buffalo has gone from the 11th seed to the sixth seed in two weeks' time, seeing their playoff probability skyrocket from 39% to 87%. But because of the Bills' relatively poor conference record (5-5) -- which includes head-to-head losses to Jacksonville, Cincinnati and Denver -- they have a ton riding on their Week 17 matchup with New England. A win all but locks Buffalo into a playoff spot, while a loss drops the team's playoff probability below 50%. Their 51-point leverage is currently the most of any AFC team.
  • The Colts, despite currently holding the No. 7 seed, are NOT in control of their playoff future. In fact, there's a scenario in which Indy wins its final two games and misses the playoffs entirely. Here's how that would happen:
    • 1) The Jags win out and take the AFC South.
    • 2) The Bills and Bengals both win out.
    • 3) The Steelers lose at least one more game (to avoid reaching 10 wins).
    • If this sequence were to occur, the Bengals and Colts would be even at 10-7. But Cincinnati gets the bump into the seventh seed, thanks to its head-to-head win over Indy in Week 14.
Table inside Article
NFC Playoff % If Win If Lose No. 1 seed %
1. 49ers (11-4) 100% 100% 100% 71%
2. Lions (11-4) 100% 100% 100% 8%
3. Eagles (11-4) 100% 100% 100% 20%
4. Buccaneers (8-7) 86% 100% 69% 0%
5. Cowboys (10-5) 100% 100% 100% 1%
6. Rams (8-7)  67% 87% 26% 0%
7. Seahawks (8-7) 68% 87% 39% 0%
  • Despite having the same overall record as the Lions and Eagles, the 49ers are the overwhelming favorites for the No. 1 seed, thanks to their dominant conference mark (9-1 vs. 7-3). They also own heads up wins over Philadelphia and Dallas (still hanging on by a thread) to further their tie-breaking strength. San Francisco can clinch home-field advantage throughout with a win at Washington on Sunday, and losses by both Detroit and Philadelphia. Where things get dicey for the 49ers is if the race extends into Week 18, when they'll face the red-hot Rams in what could end up being a must-win game to secure the top spot.
  • Speaking of the Rams and must-win games, they have the largest playoff leverage of any team (61 points) for the second consecutive week. Because L.A. finishes the season at San Francisco -- a game in which the Rams will likely be heavy underdogs -- they need to topple the Giants this weekend to maintain control of their playoff future.

Who's on the bubble?

Table inside Article
AFC Bubble teams Playoff % If Win If Lose
8. Texans (8-7) 36% 51% 13%
9. Steelers (8-7) 18% 32% 7%
10. Bengals (8-7) 23% 58% 7%
11. Raiders (7-8) 12% 30% 0%
  • The Raiders not only saved their season on Christmas, but they set up a massive Week 17 matchup with the Colts that could wreak havoc on the wild-card race. A win against Indy would drop the Colts from the playoff picture, opening the door for one of the three other eight-win teams to gain entry. It'd also move the Raiders up the board and -- thanks to a strong conference record -- put them in position to potentially earn a spot by season's end.
  • The Bengals' loss to the Steelers on Saturday dropped them them four spots in the AFC standings and dealt a devastating blow to their playoff probability (dropped 25 points from last week). With the worst conference record (3-7) among the contenders, Cincinnati likely needs to win out -- including at Kansas City on Sunday -- to have a chance at a wild-card spot. If they're able to escape Arrowhead with a win, not only would it boost their playoff potential, but it could create loads of drama within the AFC West (see below) entering Week 18.
  • The Steelers still need plenty of help to secure a wild-card slot, but their win over Cincinnati was huge for their cause. Even if they don't sneak back into the playoff mix, their final two games -- at Seahawks, at Ravens -- could have significant implications elsewhere in the postseason picture, with their season finale potentially serving as an opportunity to upend their rivals' bid for the No. 1 seed.
Table inside Article
NFC bubble teams Playoff % If Win If Lose
8. Vikings (7-8) 31% 49% 4%
9. Falcons (7-8) 10% 16% 5%
10. Packers (7-8) 25% 55% 1%
11. Saints (7-8) 13% 28% 0%
  • With back-to-back one-score losses, the Vikings have let a division championship and possibly a playoff spot slip through their fingers. And now they'll have to finish the 2023 campaign without Pro Bowler T.J. Hockenson. But all is not lost for Kevin O'Connell's group. Minnesota has the best conference mark (6-4) of all the NFC bubble teams -- as well as the seventh-seeded Seahawks (6-5) -- with two conference tilts still to play (vs. Packers, at Lions), and they have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the ninth-seeded Falcons. If they can beat Green Bay on Sunday night, it's possible that the Vikes, having just eliminated a hated rival, will face a Detroit team in the regular-season finale keen on resting players before the tournament begins. Minnesota would still need either L.A. or Seattle to slip up at least once over the next two weeks to have a chance.

So you're saying there's a chance ...

(Teams with less than 10% probability to earn a playoff spot.)

Table inside Article
AFC Fringe Teams Playoff % If Win If Lose
12. Broncos (7-8) 8% 12% 0%
  • Broncos fans, here's what you're hoping for this week:
    • Bengals over Chiefs (this is the big one)
    • Raiders over Colts
    • Seahawks over Steelers
    • Titans over Texans
    • Patriots over Bills

AFC teams eliminated from playoff contention:

  • New York Jets (6-9)
  • Tennessee Titans (5-10)
  • Los Angeles Chargers (5-10)
  • New England Patriots (4-11)
Table inside Article
NFC Fringe Teams Playoff % If Win If Lose
12. Bears (6-9) <1% 1% 0%
  • Bears fans, here's what you're hoping for this week:
    • Bucs over Saints
    • Giants over Rams
    • Steelers over Seahawks
    • Packers over Vikings (or, better yet, a tie)

NFC teams eliminated from playoff contention:

  • New York Giants (5-10)
  • Washington Commanders (4-11)
  • Arizona Cardinals (3-12)
  • Carolina Panthers (2-13)

Who's most likely to win each division?

Table inside Article
AFC East Division % Remaining Opponents
1. Dolphins (11-4) 78% at BAL, BUF
2. Bills (9-6) 22% NE, at MIA
  • A race that for weeks has been building toward a seismic Bills-Dolphins season finale could, in fact, end in Week 17 if either Miami wins or Buffalo loses. While the Dolphins undoubtedly have the tougher task on Sunday, the Bills can ill-afford to overlook the 4-11 Patriots when they host them this weekend. New England -- which already has a win over Buffalo this year -- has taken two if its last three games, with both wins coming on the road and against playoff contenders.
  • With a win or tie against the Ravens on Sunday, the Dolphins would clinch their first division crown since 2008.
Table inside Article
AFC North Division % Remaining Opponents
1. Ravens (12-3) 97% MIA, PIT
2. Browns (10-5) 3% NYJ, at CIN
  • The Browns, who handled their business on Sunday to stay in this competition, must've been disappointed come Christmas when San Francisco couldn't gift them a Ravens loss. Cleveland now has to hope Miami doesn't drop the ball on New Year's Eve for this division to remain unclaimed entering Week 18.
  • The Ravens' vise-grip on the division loosens to 89% with a loss to Miami paired with a Browns win over the Jets.
Table inside Article
AFC South Division % Remaining Opponents
1. Jaguars (8-7) 56% CAR, at TEN
2. Colts (8-7) 27% LV, HOU
3. Texans (8-7) 17% TEN, at IND
  • Jacksonville lost its fourth straight game on Sunday, yet still resides atop the division, thanks to timely (or untimely, depending on your rooting interest) losses by both the Colts and Texans. So with just two weeks to play, the South remains a three-way race, with each contender hosting a sub.-500 opponent in Week 17. And none of the three visiting squads -- Carolina, Vegas and Tennessee -- has shown much quit in recent weeks. Potential upsets, plus question marks under center for both Houston and Jacksonville, suggest a spicy weekend ahead.
  • The Jags' four-game slide has created the possibility of a win-and-in showdown between their two rivals in Week 18. If Jacksonville loses to Carolina, and both Houston and Indianapolis win their Week 17 matchups, then the Colts would host the Texans for the division title. In that scenario, because Indy beat Houston in Week 2, the Colts would need only a tie to clinch the AFC South and advance to the Super Wild Card Round.
Table inside Article
AFC West Division % Remaining Opponents
1. Chiefs (9-6) <95% CIN, at LAC
2. Raiders (7-8) 2% at IND, DEN
3. Broncos (7-8) 3% LAC, at LV
  • Another game, another opportunity for the Chiefs to lock up the West. Same rules apply as last week: For either Vegas or Denver to overtake Kansas City in the standings, they'd have to win out, and the reigning champs would need to lose out. While a Chiefs collapse isn't impossible -- especially after what we've seen from them over the past month -- for it to become a reality, Raiders and Broncos fans would need Patrick Mahomes to do something he's never done in his career: lose three in a row.
Table inside Article
NFC East Division % Remaining Opponents
1. Eagles (11-4) 76% ARI, at NYG
2. Cowboys (10-5) 24% DET, at WAS
  • The Cowboys' gut-wrenching last-second loss to the Dolphins on Sunday leveled their chances of taking the NFC East. With a one-game lead and a remaining schedule that would've been on nearly any team's Christmas list, the Eagles are 3:1 favorites to be the division's first repeat champs since they claimed four straight from 2001 to '04.
Table inside Article
NFC South Division % Remaining Opponents
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7) 87% NO, at CAR
2. New Orleans Saints (7-8) 8% at TB, ATL
3. Atlanta Falcons (7-8) 5% at CHI, at NO
  • The Bucs' win this past weekend has made them overwhelming favorites to take the division, with a victory over the Saints on Sunday providing their easiest path to securing the South for a third straight season. However, even with a loss in Week 17, Tampa remains in the driver's seat entering its season finale. Why? Record against common opponents. If the Saints beat the Bucs and the Falcons knock off the Bears, then all three teams would enter the final weekend at 8-8 overall and 3-2 in the division. But Tampa would hold the advantage in common games over both teams with a win over the Panthers in Week 18. If the Bucs were to lose at Carolina, though, then the winner of Falcons-Saints would claim the South.
  • In the event of a three-way tie at 8-9, the Falcons would win the South based on head-to-head record:
    • ATL vs. NO/TB: 3-1
    • TB vs. ATL/NO: 2-2
    • NO vs. ATL/TB: 1-3


Detroit Lions
11-4 · NFC North
San Francisco 49ers
11-4 · NFC West

Jack Andrade, Mike Band and Ali Bhanpuri contributed to this story.

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