Saturday’s games are among the relatively less important games of the week, but they still mean something to the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Diego Chargers. Both these teams are currently on the outside of the playoff hunt in their respective conferences. The Eagles will have around a 50% chance of making the playoffs if they beat the Washington Redskins, but will need a fair bit of luck to get there if they lose this one. The Chargers will have around a 25% chance of making it if they beat the fading 49ers—they’ll still need some chips to fall their way—but if they lose this game, they can virtually kiss their playoff hopes good-bye.
Games of Week 16, Ranked by Influence on Super Bowl Picture1
1. Source: Mike Beuoy at fivethirtyeight.com, who runs a weekly Monte Carlo simulation of the remaining season. The ranking his simulation is based on, along with the current projected probabilities of the season's result for each team can be found here. The simulation is run 50,000 times. Ties are neglected. The numbers appearing in the above table are the results of a bit more calculation done on the data he provides.
2. The first percentage represents the cumulative impact a game has on the Super Bowl picture—i.e. the difference between the picture if Team A wins the game vs. if Team B wins the game—taking seeding into account. The unit is a single team's chance of making the super bowl. Thus, for instance the expected impact of a conference championship game will always be 200%, since if Team A wins, it will have a 100% chance of playing in the Super Bowl and Team B will have a 0% chance, and vice versa if Team B wins. Since the Super Bowl involves two teams, the theoretical limit of this number would be 400% (in practice, this limit is unreachable, as no single game ever completely determines both teams playing in the Super Bowl).
The number in parentheses reflects an adjustment based on the odds of each team's winning, to yield what you might call the "Expected Impact" of the game. This decreases the importance of games where an upset would have a large impact on the Super Bowl picture, but such an upset is unlikely to happen. The more lopsided the odds (i.e. the less likely an upset), the greater difference this makes; if the odds are even, it makes no difference at all. For consistency's sake, in calculating this, I used the odds used by the simulation; in most cases these are virtually the same as the current line, but there are occasional exceptions when the line has moved since the simulation was carried out.
3. In a few cases, some teams can justify rooting in either direction of a matchup: for instance, if one team's victory leads to a better chance of making the playoffs but the other team's victory leads to a better chance of a higher seed. In such cases, the rooting team is listed normally on the side of the team whose victory is overall better for its chances of appearing in the Super Bowl, but also appears in small italics on the other side, to show that it has something to gain from that side's victory as well.
4. Source: The line used in the simulation, for consistency with the rest of the post. In cases where the line has moved since that simulation was conducted, the updated line in brackets is from vegasinsider.com.
5. Boldfaced for the most important game of each time slot.