NFL standings based on playoff chances: Chargers in a deep hole

Chicago Bears v Los Angeles Chargers
Chicago Bears v Los Angeles Chargers / Joe Scarnici/GettyImages

With the 2023 NFL season reaching its halfway point, it is time for fans of all 32 teams to look ahead at the playoff picture and how the conferences will shake out. While the playoffs may seem out of reach for the LA Chargers right now, a hot run in the second half can definitely catapult the Bolts into the tournament.

A team's chances of making the playoffs are much deeper than their current record, however. Fans also have to factor in tiebreakers, the remaining schedule, and the overall talent of the team. It can feel impossible to accurately do that while also factoring in all other 31 NFL teams.

That is what the New York Times Upshot NFL Playoff Picture simulator is for. This tool from the N.Y. Times gives fans an idea of where their team stands compared to its peers and what the percentage chance is of that team making the playoffs. Here is how the league currently shakes out.

NFL standings based on playoff percentage:


  1. Kansas City Chiefs - 95%
  2. Miami Dolphins - 93%
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars - 93%
  4. Baltimore Ravens - 89%
  5. Buffalo Bills - 68%
  6. Cincinnati Bengals - 62%
  7. Cleveland Browns - 53%
  8. Pittsburgh Steelers - 39%
  9. LA Chargers - 34%
  10. New York Jets - 26%
  11. Houston Texans - 23%
  12. Indianapolis Colts - 11%
  13. Denver Broncos - 5%
  14. Tennessee Titans - 4%
  15. Las Vegas Raiders - 2%
  16. New England Patriots - 2%

As you can see, the LA Chargers have a tough hill to climb with the ninth-best playoff odds and there only being seven playoff spots allocated in the AFC. The most surprising ranking on this list has to be the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are 5-3 but have the eighth-best playoff odds in the conference.

It probably has to do with the fact that there are major concerns about this Steelers offense and that the team has a negative point differential despite being two games over .500. There also is not much faith in the New York Jets despite the team being 4-3 entering Week 9.


  1. Philadelphia Eagles - >99%
  2. Detroit Lions - 99%
  3. San Francisco 49ers - 94%
  4. Dallas Cowboys - 92%
  5. Seattle Seahawks - 81%
  6. New Orleans Saints - 71%
  7. Atlanta Falcons - 57%
  8. Minnesota Vikings -41%
  9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 27%
  10. Green Bay Packers - 14%
  11. LA Rams - 12%
  12. Washington Commanders - 8%
  13. New York Giants - 3%
  14. Chicago Bears - 1%
  15. Carolina Panthers - 1%
  16. Arizona Cardinals - <1%

There is real class disparity in the NFC as there are five teams that have above an 80% chance of making the playoffs and four teams with above a 90% chance. That is different from the AFC, which has a much denser middle class of teams fighting for playoff spots.

The battle for the last wild card spot/NFC South crown is going to be interesting to watch as it will be between a lot of mediocre football teams. One thing is for certain: the Chargers would make the playoffs if they were in the NFC.

Week 9 is huge for the Chargers playoff chances

The NY Times Playoff Simulator also allows you to choose the outcomes of specific games to see how they will impact the playoff chances of any particular team. With the Chargers taking on another AFC wild-card contender in the Jets, Week 9 is hugely important for the team.

Beating the Jets would increase the Chargers' playoff chances to 45%, regardless of the other outcomes throughout the week. No Chargers fan would have expected the team to have just under a 50% chance of making the playoffs after the way the season started.