The Top 3 tracker is a long view of the contest, trying to figure out who will end up in the Top 3 based on the current standings. It works in a similar way to the finals model, but rather than week-to-week, it looks at historical information to decide who most looks like a Top 3 contestant.
Sam Woolf has seen a significant decline in popularity, and gave up all the ground he regained last week. This would have put him back in 3rd place, but for the significant improvement of Caleb Johnson. Thus he drops to 4th. Caleb, along with Alex Preston and Jena Irene, has steadily gained in the past three weeks, as has Malaya Watson, though to a lesser extent (one can see below that her curve is concave down, possibly indicating a slowing of momentum).
Jessica Meuse has been stable, which in this case isn’t really a good thing. All other things being equal, everyone’s chance of getting to the Top 3 should improve every week. Her performance is stagnant. C.J. Harris and Dexter Roberts are both still in the doldrums, with Dexter gaining a very marginal bit of ground. Both are nearly certain not to make the Top 3.
Here is the Top 3 tracker over time:
To visualize the historical data, I have plotted as points the model elimination probability versus whether or not the person made the Top 3. If the person is near the top, he or she made the Top 3, and if that person is near the bottom, he or she did not make it. Some vertical jitter has been added so that points can be easily seen. Mouse over a dot to see which person in Idol history it corresponds to.
Alex and Jena have better scores than anybody who didn’t make the Top 3. The best score of someone who did not make the Top 3 was James Durbin, and Caleb has a slightly worse score. C.J. and Dexter have scores worse than the worst who did make it (Syesha Mercado), meaning that it would be quite surprising if they did.
The black curve is the theoretical probability of making it to the Top 3 versus the model elimination probability. However, the model has begun to become skeptical of big swings, averaging this round with the previous round. As such, Sam is not necessarily out of the running. A volatile contestant can nonetheless make the Top 3.
I would caution that the Top 3 Tracker doesn’t have squat to say about who will win the season. Predicting the makeup of the Top 3 is a hell of a lot easier than predicting the outcome of the Top 3, let alone the finale. The Top 3 may be the most difficult round to predict of all (recall Melinda Doolittle, for instance).