The Redskins are tied for first place in the NFC East with an edge over the Giants in the tiebreaking system. According to one group of numbers crunchers, Washington is now a solid favorite to win the division and the home playoff game that comes with it. But another well-known group of stats nerds is not quite as bullish on their chances.
Prior to their Week 12 game against the Giants, Football Outsiders gave the Redskins a 22 percent chance of winning the NFC East title. New York was the favorite with a 53 percent chance. Washington’s 20-14 win completely flipped the script.
Now it’s the Redskins with a 54 percent chance of taking the division, according to FO. They have the Giants still in the hunt with a 26 percent chance of grabbing the division. Even the Eagles (16 percent) have some life while the Cowboys (2.2 percent) are only mathematically alive.
The guys at FO arrive at the odds by playing out the rest of the season 25,000 times. “A random draw assigns each team a win or loss for each game,” they explain. “The probability that a team will be given a win is based on an equation which considers the current Weighted DVOA ratings of the two teams as well as home-field advantage.”
DVOA is FO’s main measure of team strength. The Redskins have a better weighted DVOA than the other three teams in the NFC East and four of the five teams left on their schedule. Only the Bills, who the Redskins play at home, have performed better.
Before you cancel your January plans, however, let’s look at one stats site that is not as bullish on the Redskins’ playoff chances. FiveThirtyEight.com, a site owned by ESPN, uses a metric called Elo to predict game outcomes and playoff chances. They have the Redskins holding just a 33 percent chance of making the playoffs. Those are better odds than those assigned to the Eagles (15 percent) and Cowboys (7 percent) but they have a considerably worse chance than the Giants (45 percent).
I’m certainly not going to challenge validity of their methods here. But it is puzzling to look at the rankings and see that the Redskins are the bottom team in the division per the Elo metric. Whether you look at how the teams are playing right now or the body of work over the course of the season, it’s hard to rationalize the Redskins being ranked as worse than the Eagles and Cowboys.
There are many other calculators and simulators out there and you can Google them and take your pick. The picture will get clearer as time goes on and if the Redskins should live up to their status as a favorite against the Cowboys and win on Monday night things start to take care of themselves.