How The Entire NFC East Can Make The Playoffs
It’s the holiday season, and the playoff race in the NFC East could give us an unprecedented gift: All four teams in one division making it to the postseason, which has never happened in the 90-year history of the NFL playoffs. Although the New York Giants’ loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday pushed the odds of that happening in the wrong direction, the entire division is at least two games above .500, meaning there’s still a surprisingly decent chance that it could happen.
Right now, the NFC East has a 23.8 percent chance of sending all four of its teams to the postseason, according to FiveThirtyEight’s NFL forecast model. The only other division with even a remote possibility to do the same is the AFC East — but its odds are just 0.5 percent.
The dream of an all-playoffs division is alive
Probability of each 2022 NFL division sending a given number of teams to the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight’s Elo forecast model as of Dec. 13
With the Philadelphia Eagles having already clinched a playoff berth and the Dallas Cowboys not too far behind — we give them a better than 99 percent chance — the hopes of getting all four NFC East teams in really just hinge on the Washington Commanders (73 percent) and New York Giants (45 percent). Those two teams happened to have tied each other just a few weeks ago; now the pressure is on each to help its division make NFL history.
Last week’s game between the Eagles and Giants was a golden opportunity to increase those odds. With a New York win, the odds of the entire division making the postseason would have leapt from 24.1 percent to nearly 40 percent (38.1). Instead, the Giants’ loss dropped those odds, which were only salvaged by the Seattle Seahawks’ home loss to the Carolina Panthers later that day.
The Giants will get a few more chances to atone for that slip-up. Their last three games of the season — against the Indianapolis Colts, the Minnesota Vikings and the Eagles, respectively — are the three most crucial for getting the whole division into the playoffs, in terms of how much they would boost the probability of that scenario happening. Each could swing those chances by more than 21 percentage points, if the Giants win.
To get every NFC East team in, N.Y. (and Washington) must win
Most important remaining games to determine whether all four NFC East teams make the playoffs, in terms of swing in probability
Interestingly, though, the upcoming Week 15 Giants-Commanders game is one of the least important games for getting the entire division into the playoffs. A win or loss for either team only swings the odds by 4.9 percentage points. (This is because one team’s win is the other’s loss — it doesn’t change much for the division in the aggregate.)
After the Giants’ last three games, the Commanders’ Week 17 game against the Cleveland Browns and Week 16 game against the San Francisco 49ers are the most impactful. A Washington win in either game would boost the odds by 11.5 and 10.4 percentage points, respectively.
Of course, while a 23.8 percent chance is not nothing, it’s much more likely that we’ll see only three of the NFC East’s teams in the postseason. And that would be a rarity in itself. According to Sports Illustrated, three teams have made the playoffs from the same division just nine times since 2002, when the league changed to four divisions per conference.1 Entering Week 15, the 2022 NFC East has a 70.1 percent chance of joining that club.
Though the chances are only a little over half those of the NFC East, the AFC East — which at one point also looked primed to get four teams into the playoffs — could also send three teams into the postseason. After the New England Patriots’ victory on Monday night, the division has a 42.6 percent chance of pulling off the feat. And if both East divisions were to get three teams in, it would be only the second time two divisions each had three playoff representatives in the same year.
The odds of that happening are 30.4 percent, according to our model — a bit better than the chances of seeing all four teams from one division make it. With so many different scenarios floating around this season, fans anticipating NFL history might just see their wish come true.
Check out our latest NFL predictions.