The NFL is known as a league of parity, but some teams always separate themselves by midseason. We can be pretty sure at this point that the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams are going to the playoffs. But with only eight or nine games played for each team, there are still plenty of teams hovering around .500 that could go in a lot of different directions.
Sixteen teams right now sit between 3-5 and 5-3. These teams could go on a second-half run to make the playoffs. They could collapse. They could just stay in the middle and finish around 8-8. How do we know which teams are more likely to be relevant in the second half of the season?
At a play-by-play level, some of those 5-3 teams have played a lot better than other 5-3 teams. Remaining schedules are all over the place, with some teams getting three home games and others getting five. Which games you have won and lost also matters, as teams start to build their tiebreaker résumés, with head-to-head victories plus division and conference records.
To look at which teams have a strong chance to play in January and which teams are just hanging on, we've simulated the season 30,000 times using Football Outsiders DVOA ratings and produced current playoff odds for all 32 teams below. For a full explanation on how we calculate each team's playoff odds, see the end of the article.
However, you can't write off even those teams with low playoff odds at this point. In 81.3 percent of our simulations, at least one of the seven teams listed in the following as "long shots" made it to the playoffs. Last year at this time, Atlanta had only a 15 percent chance to make the postseason. The Falcons not only made it, they even won their first game on the road, against the Rams.