The Week 10 slate of NFL games might be the best lineup of the entire season, as multiple contests feature contending clubs vying for postseason berths. With so much on the line, which matchup is the most important?
For some context, we’ll use Brian Burke of ESPN’s Playoff Probability Leverage, which Burke tweets out weekly. In short, playoff probability leverage indicates the change in chance of making the playoffs based on the results of the selected game. For example, the Patriots and Cowboys are so assured of earning a postseason appearance that this week’s contests have limited meaning for them (less than 5% playoff leverage). The Browns, Jaguars, Bears, and others will also face low playoff leverages because they have virtually no chance of making the postseason.
But for other clubs, Week 10 could mean everything. And by combining the playoff probability leverages of the two teams involved in a selected game, we can determine which contests will most determine the postseason entrants:
- Cincinnati Bengals (18.1%) at New York Giants (24.9%), 43% total
- Minnesota Vikings (21%) at Washington Redskins (18.3%), 39.3% total
- Denver Broncos (16.4%) at New Orleans Saints (19.7%), 36.1% total
- Atlanta Falcons (12.3%) at Philadelphia Eagles (23.3%), 35.6% total
- Miami Dolphins (15.2%) at San Diego Chargers (18.3%), 33.5% total
- Green Bay Packers (19.5%) at Tennessee Titans (12%), 31.5% total
- Kansas City Chiefs (15.2%) at Carolina Panthers (9.3%), 24.5% total
Other Week 10 contests aren’t included here for various reasons. While Cowboys/Steelers and Seahawks/Patriots figure to be exciting contests, they won’t impact the playoff chances of at least one team involved. Similarly, Texans-Jaguars and 49ers-Cardinals only affect the odds for one club, and project to be one-sided games.
It’s also important to note that not all playoff probability leverages are created equally. For example, even if the Falcons — who face a 12.3% PPL — lose to the Eagles on Sunday, they’ll still have a greater than 80% chance of making the postseason. On the other hand, the Bengals, while facing a similar PPL to the Falcons (18.1%), will have less than a one-in-five chance of earning a postseason berth if they fall to the Giants. If Cincinnati wins, that number rises to about 35%.
So, what do you think? Are the numbers right — is Bengals/Giants the most critical game of the weekend? Or does a contest farther down the playoff probability leverage spectrum, such as Broncos/Saints, mean more? Vote below, and add your thoughts in the comments section!