A day before the 2016 NFL season kicked off this year, Will Brinson of CBS Sports reviewed the 2016 Super Bowl odds for all 32 NFL teams. At the time, the Seahawks (8-1 odds), Cardinals (8-1), Packers (8-1), Panthers (12-1), Giants (18-1) and Vikings (20-1) were projected as the top NFC teams.
Today, only the Seahawks have locked up their division, the Giants look like a probable wilcard team, and the Packers are barely hanging on to the last playoff spot. The Cardinals have already been eliminated from the playoffs, and neither the Panthers nor the Vikings look like they'll make it either.
In their stead, a new crop of teams is poised to prove once more that the NFL playoff field churns by about 50% from year to year: Since the league moved to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, an average of about six new teams made the NFL playoffs every year.
Here's a look at the current playoff picture and how that compares to the preseason outlook:
The same exercise for the AFC has the Raiders and Dolphins as the new playoff participants, while the Broncos and Bengals would not repeat as playoff participants. In total, if the playoffs were to start today, five new teams would make the playoffs, which is only slightly less than the six-team average of the last 26 years.
At the start of every new season, it always takes a while for us to reconfigure our mental landscape of the NFL. Going by the preseason odds, the Dolphins and Falcons (both with 80-1 odds) had the longest odds of making the postseason of any team currently penciled in as a playoff participant. The Cowboys at 25-1 were tied with the Redskins for the 7th-best odds in the 16-team NFC.
Anything can happen in the NFL. Every new NFL season is always a new chance for teams that fell short of the playoffs the season before. The NFL is intrinsically designed to be a parity-driven league; the draft, revenue sharing, the salary cap, compensatory draft picks, all the way through the schedule; everything about the NFL is designed so that every team from every market has a legitimate opportunity to compete year-in and year-out.
And this season is another prime example of the parity in the league: Through the first 15 weeks of 2016, only four postseason berths have been clinched. Dallas, Seattle and New England have each locked up their divisions while Oakland has clinched a playoff spot. With two weeks left in the regular season, there are still a staggering 22 teams in contention for a trip to Super Bowl LI. There are eight playoff spots up for grabs, including five division titles.
The Cowboys have already clinched the NFC East, a first-round bye and home-field advantage. Not bad for a team starting a 4th-round rookie in place of its injured starting quarterback and considered a long shot at best at the start of the season. And while Cowboys fans are asking themselves how much space they need to clear from their calendars in January and February, fans of the Broncos, Cardinals, and Eagles are asking themselves some very different questions, like
- Broncos: Tempers Flare in Broncos locker room after game - Mile High Report
- Cardinals: Top Five Prospects Performances from the first week of Bowl Games - Revenge Of The Birds
- Eagles: The Eagles could land the No. 7 draft pick, with some very big breaks - Bleeding Green Nation