New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin says his team remains driven by the knowledge that there’s still “a chance” to make the postseason.
The question is: How much of a chance?
With one week left in the National Football League’s regular season, the Giants’ likelihood of qualifying for the playoffs is 18 percent, according to RJ Bell, the president of Las Vegas-based handicapping information website Pregame.com.
The Giants have lost two games in a row and can no longer reach the postseason just by winning. To make the playoffs, they need to beat the Washington Redskins in their Jan. 2 regular-season finale and have the Green Bay Packers lose at home to the Chicago Bears. The Giants are 4-point favorites against the Redskins, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers, and the Packers are favored by 6 1/2 points over the Bears, who have locked up a playoff berth.
“We do have to have a little bit of help to get it done, but there is a chance,” Coughlin, 64, said yesterday on a conference call with reporters. “That’s the incentive for us to regroup and try to put together the kind of game we can be proud of.”
The Packers, who beat the Giants 45-17 two days ago, have a 79 percent chance of claiming the last wild-card playoff berth in the National Football Conference, said Bell, whose website is the largest of its kind compliant with U.S. laws. The Packers would make the postseason with a win over Chicago or losses by both the Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are 7 1/2-point underdogs against the New Orleans Saints.
Bell factors point spreads and the required win-loss scenarios into his formula to determine the percentage chance teams have to make the playoffs.
One possible avenue for the Giants to advance closed last night when the Saints, the defending Super Bowl champions, claimed an NFC postseason berth by winning 17-14 in the Atlanta Falcons.
Had the Saints lost, the Giants would have had a 30 percent chance of getting a wild-card berth, which go to the two teams in each conference with the best records who didn’t win a division. With the win by New Orleans, the Packers, Giants and Buccaneers are left to vie for the NFC’s final spot.
The team most likely to claim a playoff spot in the final week is the Indianapolis Colts, with Bell giving them an 89 percent chance of claiming the last berth in the American Football Conference.
The Colts would win the AFC South Division with a home win over the Tennessee Titans as 9-point favorites or with a loss by the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are favored by 2 1/2 points on the road against the Houston Texans.
“Our guys have done a great job I think of staying really focused of not getting caught up in scenario central,” Colts coach Jim Caldwell told reporters. “Trying to reduce things to the lowest common denominator, and that lowest common denominator is that we have to win.”
The New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets have secured the other five playoff spots in the AFC.
The Falcons, Bears, Saints and Philadelphia Eagles have claimed NFC berths in the postseason, which starts with first-round games on Jan. 8-9.
One division title remains undecided in the NFC, where the Seattle Seahawks host the St. Louis Rams for the West Division crown on Jan. 2. The Rams, who are favored by a point, have a 52 percent chance of advancing to the postseason for the first time in six years, Bell said.
“Here we are, going into our last regular season game and we control our own destiny,” Rams rookie quarterback Sam Bradford told reporters. “If that doesn’t excite you, I really don’t know what does.”