Paint by Numbers: Playoff Projections

BRIDGEVIEW, IL - JUNE 17: Fans of the Chicago Fire unfurl a banner before the Fire take on the New York Red Bulls during an MLS match at Toyota Park on June 17, 2012 in Bridgeview, Illinois. The Fire defeated the Red Bulls 3-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

If the Chicago Fire make the playoffs this year, it will be their first time in the playoffs since 2009 when they missed out on the MLS Cup Final in a shootout. In case you, the reader, couldn't tell, we here at Hot Time In Old Town are very excited about this. Ryan had a quick post up yesterday to talk a bit about the standings, James briefly wrote about how we've done against the conference earlier this morning, and, about a month ago, Tweed had this interesting post looking at how the top teams in the Eastern Conference were looking.

As if the above wasn't enough, I'm now here to to give you some playoff projections sliced up and served 2 ways after the jump.

The first thing I wanted to look at is pretty basic. Each team has a certain number of games left which means that there are only so many points left for each team to earn. When adding this maximum amount of possible points left to the amount points each team currently has, we have us a ceiling.

Potentialstandings_medium

In the completely impossible scenario that every team in the east wins every single one of their final games, the above is how the east would finish. Chicago would catch the Houston Dynamo, but Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls would be just out of reach. DC United and Houston would face each other in the one-off play-in game to face SKC.

While this entire scenario is completely unrealistic, it does give us one valuable piece of information. As things stand right now, Chicago needs to surpass 66 points (or get 66 points and score more goals than Houston) to ensure a playoff appearance. To get to 66 points, Chicago would have to take 25 points out of the 27 possible point left. That's 8 wins and a draw. Totally doable, right?

Being two months away from the end of the season is what is making these numbers seem a little unattainable. At this moment, from this simplistic view of the standing, no one is technically out of playoff contention. Toronto FC are wiping their feet on the doorstep of elimination with the Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution not too far behind. As for the teams still alive, none of these numbers are going to seem realistically achievable for them until there are 2 or 3 matches left in the season.

To get a more realistic look at the playoffs, I took an approach similar to Tweed. I calculated the points per game rate for each team when they played at home and away. I then multiplied those numbers by how many home or away matches they had left on their schedule.

NOTE: If you have trouble reading the below graph, just click on it.

Pointsprojected_medium

In this scenario of projected points, Chicago needs 53 points to make the playoffs. That's much more comfortable. That's only 12 points out of the 27 possible points they have left in their season. They would need to go at least 2-1-6 in their final 9 games to hit this mark. Although, if the Fire did finish the season like that, I think a lot of us would be pulling out hair out of our heads.

Either way it's cut, the Fire are in a very good positions to make the playoffs, but nothing is safe. From here on out, the Fire will be playing each Eastern Conference opponent once more, and each match is going to count big.


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