TRF’s Week 15 Playoff Pontificator©

Soon after posting last weeks Playoff Pontificator, we had some blog controversy regarding my assessment that we had a 99% chance to make the playoffs at 10-2.  Well, a week later, very little has changed on that front despite the team’s disappointing loss in KC.  Given all the back and forth on the topic last week, I thought it would be good to spend some time explaining how I (and several similar online ‘playoff simulators’) work. 

Each of these computer programs assessed the likelihood of a team winning or losing a match up.  The odds of each individual outcome varies depending on the specific code of simulator in question.  Simple simulators use a coin toss to determine each outcome, while others use complicated algorithms that take various factors into account such as recent past records, home versus away, Saragin rankings and so on.  Some simulators run 10’s or 100’s of thousand matchups while others use a simpler set up. 

Mine is mid level in complexity (by todays standards) and uses current winning percentage and has a fixed adjuster for home and away.  I check my results with other online simulators and to be honest most of them are almost always within +-5% of each other.  So when you see the Raider’s likelihood of making the post season at 99% that is not suggesting that we are a stone cold lock.  It’s saying that in the overwhelming majority of outcomes we are going to make the playoffs.  Of course things can change. 

Things like injuries, weather and other x factors are obviously not captured in most simulators.  Still, the fact remains that there has never been a case where a 10-2 team did not make the post season.  Most readers understood all of this while a few (ok, one) did not.  Anyhow, I hope things are now “99%” clearer for those who read this and future editions of the Pontificator.

Ok, time to move on to week 15…

For this edition, I decided to concentrate on possibilities associated with this week.  I think many of us (yours truly included) got a bit ahead of the curve last week in anticipation of the big matchup in KC.  It’s time to get back to basics…one game at a time.  That’s what this team, and the fans need to concentrate on.  So with that in mind, here’s where things currently stand…

Right now, the simulated odds facing the Raiders with 3 games to go are:

  1. Make the Playoffs…98% (-1% from last week)
  2. Win the Division/secure a bye…26% (down from 47% in Week 14)
  3. Secure home field through the playoffs…14% (down from 34% last week)

With a win @SD how do the odds change at 11-3?

  1. Make the Playoffs…100%/clinch (Thank you Tennessee!)
  2. Win the Division/secure a bye…43%
  3. Secure home field through the playoffs…25%

As you can see, a win here goes a long way and (almost) gets us back to where we were prior to the KC game as it relates to winning the AFC West and securing a bye.  That’s encouraging.  Securing home field advantage, at least statistically speaking, would still have to be considered a long shot even with a win on Sunday.  That said, if we were to win out, paired with a KC and a NE loss, we would recapture the number 1 Seed.  Yes, I know I am ignoring my own advice to not look too far ahead!

Ok, what happens to our chances if Oakland loses in SD and slips to 10-4?

  1. Make the Playoffs…98% (see additional comments below)
  2. Win the Division/secure a bye…13%
  3. Secure home field through the playoffs…4%

Two words.  Wild Card.  That’s what is very likely to happen if we lose two in a row.  It should be noted that the likelihoods quoted above do not assume any other game outcomes for week 15.  And of course its possible, albeit somewhat unlikely, that we get help in the form of more Tennessee Pre-Holiday Cheer© (@KC) and/or a New England loss in Denver.  In any event, it’s pretty plain to see that we can ill afford another loss, especially to a divisional opponent if we have serious aspirations for the AFC West crown (or the bye it likely comes with).

As for the ‘additional comments’ mentioned above, there are a couple of ways Oakland can a clinch a playoff spot this Sunday even with a loss to the Chargers.  That said, they are pretty involved and some of the ‘desired’ outcomes’ will seem counter intuitive to most Raider fans.  Remember however, what I have below are only scenarios for the Raiders to clinch a playoff berth with a loss to the Chargers.  For that to occur, there are two pathways.

Pathway 1. The Jets beat the visiting Dolphins AND The Pats beat the Broncos at Mile High, while EITHER the Bengals beat the visiting Steelers OR the Eagles win in Baltimore.


Pathway 2. The Jets beat the visiting Dolphins AND The Chiefs beat the Titans at home, while EITHER the Bengals beat the visiting Steelers OR the Eagles win in Baltimore.

A few additional (practical) points of interest…

While mathematically sound, it still is hard to imagine any silver-blooded fan actually rooting for KC over the Titans on Sunday especially since they play earlier than we do.  Still, math is math and with an Oakland loss, a KC win would actually help us.  (Don’t shoot the statistical messenger!)  Now if (when) we win in SD, it goes without saying that a KC loss would help us on our quest to get the AFC West title along with that elusive 1st week bye.  The Pats-Broncos game is an odd one for us as well.  New England beating Denver could help us secure a playoff berth (should we lose @SD) while a Bronco win could go a long way towards helping us secure the coveted number 1 overall Seed (after beating the Chargers).  And yes, all of these alternate universe playoff possibilities are enough to make one’s head explode!

Well, in an effort to minimize grey (silver?) matter loss I think we have covered enough for this week.  I hope to see some of you represe’n and tailgating in San Diego.  The TRF Family will be in tow!  If you and yours are going be sure to drop me a line at with your POC info.  Our Colorado crew is beyond psyched and I fully expect us to make a strong bounce back showing against one of our most hated rivals this Sunday.

Written by: Tuck Rule Fool (TRF)