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Colts Playoff Clinching Scenarios: An Amended Guide

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Lots of scenarios have been out there this week, but after really studying it we found a few errors. This should clear everything up.


As Brad wrote about yesterday, the Colts have virtually locked up a Playoff spot, regardless of how they play the final two games. Brad laid out a bunch of games that it seemed as though the Colts only needed one game to fall their way, and they'd be able to punch their ticket to the Playoffs.

However, after a little closer look on a day off of work, Brad was dead wrong. In fact, the Colts don't have a 99.9981% chance of making the playoffs. He seriously exaggerated the number. As I'm about to lay out for you (with my math included), the Colts Playoff chances are...


All kidding aside, the numbers aren't really that different than what I mentioned earlier this week, but I did find out a couple more scenarios, and figured out that Yahoo's Scenario Predictor was incorrect with their Strength of Victory calculation, which really threw me for a loop until I worked everything out for myself.

Here's how the Colts clinch a Playoff Spot, triple-checked, so I know these numbers are correct. I apologize that what I initially had was incorrect, but I felt this needed to be correct as we all watch games this weekend. These games over the next two weeks would clinch for the Colts all by themselves (home team in all caps):

Win Lose Probability Week
Colts CHIEFS 63.7% 16
Bengals STEELERS 65.6% 16
COLTS Texans 38.9% 17
Ravens BENGALS 29.7% 17
Browns STEELERS 52.5% 17

The Colts can also clinch a Playoff spot by clinching the Strength of Victory tiebreaker over the Bengals. Over the last 2 weeks, there are 10 games that can swing this tie-breaker, five in each week. If all 10 go in the Bengals favor, they would have a three game advantage over the Colts, which means that the Colts would need just three of the 10 games to go their way and they'll tie the Bengals. The Colts will hold the Strength of Schedule tiebreaker no matter what happens, so they need to just tie the SOV. I'll get to those games in a minute.

Since we all want the Colts to clinch as soon as possible, getting three of five outcomes in Week 16 would get the job done, although not necessary obviously. Ready for the five games?

Win Lose Probability
LIONS Falcons 32.8%
Titans PACKERS 31.8%
JETS Chargers 49.3%
Vikings TEXANS 35.6%
PANTHERS Raiders 66.4%

So let's get to the math. It's much easier to figure out how the Colts do not clinch, then subtract that probability from 1, so that's what we'll do:

P(Colts don't clinch in Week 16) = P(Colts loss) * P(Bengals loss) * P(SOV not clinched) = 36.3% * 34.4% * (5.0% (0) + 22.4% (1) + 35.8% (2)) = 7.89%

This means that if the Colts have a 7.89% chance of not clinching, they are at 92.11% chance that they do clinch this week, which is pretty nice huh? Now, if the unthinkable happens and the Colts somehow don't clinch this weekend, what games also play a part in the Strength of Victory? Here's the five games to watch in Week 17:

Win Lose Probability
LIONS Bears 49.0%
TITANS Jaguars 66.0%
Dolphins PATRIOTS 30.5%
Cowboys REDSKINS 45.9%
BRONCOS Chiefs 85.9%

How do the Colts not clinch after Week 17? Here's the math:

P(Colts don't make Playoffs) = P(IND loss to KC) * P(CIN loss to PIT) * P(IND loss to HOU) * P(BAL loss to CIN) * P(CLE loss to PIT) * P(SOV not clinched) = 36.3% * 34.4% * 61.1% * 70.3% * 47.5% * (.046% (0) + .68% (1) + 3.9% (2)) = .119%

Once we flip the probability of not making the Playoffs, we can see it is 99.881%, which is still almost a virtual lock of occurring. I wanted to go through this exercise to show the 10 games that matter in the Strength of Victory tie-breaker, and to point out the Colts need 3 of them to go their way, not just one.

As I've been saying all week, it'll take a minor miracle for the Colts to not make the Playoffs, which really hasn't changed here. Let's just hope the Colts win one of their last two games, as that'll clinch the five seed for them. Winning Sunday means a better common opponent record than the Bengals, and beating the Texans will guarantee a SOV win for the Colts.

Confused? Ask away. I'm a professional stats guy (at least that's what the piece of paper in my office says). I promise this is correct though.

Want to see clinching scenarios for other teams? Check out all the NFL Playoff Clinching Scenarios here.