In short, pretty far.
Since I was feeling curious, and probably more than a little masochistic, I decided to try and figure out what types of results over the remaining 16 games might see our mighty Wanderers claim one of the promotion playoff spaces. I took a look at the previous twelve seasons from the 2011/2012 season all the way back to the last time Bolton won promotion in the 2000/2001 season.
The average number of points for the 6th place team over this stretch was 73.6 points.
The lowest point total was 70 points, which happened twice (Blackpool – 09/10 & Watford 07/08).
The most common point total for a 6th place finisher was 75 points, which happened five times.
For the purposes of calculations, I rounded the average points to 74, which would leave Bolton needing to accrue 37 points over the remaining 16 games to feel good about securing a playoff spot. If 2012/2013 ends up being a low point total year for the 6th place team, which it does not appear it will be, Bolton would still need to claim 33 points in their last 16 games.
Looking at the data, barring one or two truly epic winning or unbeaten streaks, the playoffs seem an unlikely prospect for the Wanderers this season. To reach 74 points Bolton could afford only 3 losses, and then would need 12 wins and 1 draw from the remaining fixture. This would appear to be a tall order for this squad. However, if this year’s squad is going to make a run at them, now would seem to be the time with the return to health and fitness of a number of key players, and potentially talented new additions. The complete chart of records that would potentially see the Wanderers into the playoffs is below. Green shaded records would see Bolton at 74+ total points, Yellow shaded means Bolton would have between 70 & 73 points.