NFL Picture & Playoff Scenarios

December 31, 2015

Here are the conference standings, followed by playoff scenarios for every team either clinched or at least mathematically alive, starting in the AFC:

  1. New England (12-3)
  2. Denver (11-4) (head-to-head tiebreaker on Cincinnati)
  3. Cincinnati
  4. Houston (8-7)
  5. Kansas City (10-5) (conference record tiebreaker on New York)
  6. New York
  7. Pittsburgh (9-6)
  8. Oakland (7-8) (conference record tiebreaker on Buffalo & Indianapolis)
  9. Buffalo (head-to-head on Indianapolis)
  10. Indianapolis
  11. Jacksonville (5-10) (conference record tiebreaker on Baltimore & Miami)
  12. Miami (head-to-head tiebreaker on Baltimore)
  13. Baltimore
  14. San Diego (4-11)
  15. Cleveland (3-12) (head-to-head tiebreaker on Tennessee)
  16. Tennessee

New England has clinched a bye.  They clinch the #1 seed if they beat Miami in Week 17.  However, if they should lose and Denver wins, Denver would clinch the #1 seed based on their head-to-head win over the Patriots.  Cincinnati also winning would not mess things up for Denver because the Broncos also beat the Bengals, and having a perfect record against all tied teams, having played all tied teams, grants tiebreaking preference.  Cincinnati cannot get the #1 seed, even if Denver loses: them and New England at 12-4 would both be 9-3 in conference games. However, the Patriots would edge out Cincinnati on record vs common opponents 4-1 to 2-3.  Cincinnati is currently the #3 seed but they actually have a scenario where they can move up to the #2 seed without winning.  If Denver loses and Kansas City wins, then the Chiefs would win the division at 11-5, and Cincinnati has the head-to-head tiebreaker on the Chiefs.  Of course, if the Bengals win and the Broncos lose, then the Bengals are cleanly in the 2nd spot at 12-4.

As mentioned above, although the Broncos could still be the #1 seed, and are guaranteed at least the #2 seed if they win, they could still lose the division to the Chiefs if they lose and Kansas City wins.  The Chiefs would win a tie at 11-5 on division record.  Denver as a wildcard would be the #6 seed if New York wins to get to 11-5, as they would lose a conference record tiebreaker to the Jets.  Or they would be the #5 seed if the Jets lost.  Basically, if Denver wins they will be the #1 or #2 seed.  If the Broncos lose they could be #2, #3, #5, or #6.

If Kansas City wins the division they will be the #3 seed.  If they win Sunday over Oakland they will be no worse than the #5 seed, as they have conference record tiebreaker on the Jets.  If they lose and the Jets win, the Chiefs drop to #6.  If both lose they stay #5, as they have the conference record tiebreaker on the Jets and potentially the Steelers.

If the Jets win they will make the playoffs as either the #5 or #6 seed (see above).  If the Jets lose and the Steelers win, the Steelers get the #6 seed and the Jets are out.  They would both be 7-5 in conference games.  Against common opponents the Steelers would be 4-1 vs 3-2 for the Jets (the key being the Jets lost to Oakland).

The winner of the AFC South will be the #4 seed.  It will almost certainly be Houston.  If the Texans lose and the Colts win, both would be 8-8 having split against each other, being 4-2 in division games, .500 against common opponents, and 6-6 in conference games.  The next tiebreaker is strength of victory.  The strength of victory numbers are such that Indianapolis has 5 games that have to all break the right way simply to level this factor.  The next factor is strength of schedule.  There are two games that factor here, the outcome of which would decide whether Houston’s schedule was 1 game harder, they’re the same, or Indianapolis’ schedule was 1 game harder.  If this factor is level, the next tiebreaker is points for/against ranking amongst all AFC teams.  Entering Week 17, Houston’s ratio is 83 points better than Indianapolis’.  So barring a blowout loss of the Texans and a blowout win by the Colts, Houston will hold this tiebreaker.  So the bottom line is the Colts have to win their game and have wins by Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Denver, and Miami, then also have Oakland win or tie and Pittsburgh win or tie (as long as both teams don’t tie).  Or have Oakland or Pittsburgh win (or both tie) and gain 84 points in points for/against ratio on the Texans on Sunday.

Now that you have a headache, let’s ponder the NFC, which already knows its 6 playoff teams:

  1. Carolina (14-1)
  2. Arizona (13-2)
  3. Green Bay (10-5) (head-to-head tiebreaker on Minnesota for division rank)
  4. Washington (8-7)
  5. Minnesota
  6. Seattle (9-6)
  7. Atlanta (8-7)
  8. St Louis (7-8)
  9. Detroit (6-9) ({head-to-head tiebreaker on Chicago for division rank} conference record drops Philadelphia {head-to-head on New York for division rank} from 3 team tie, then record vs opponents common with Tampa {division record tiebreaker on New Orleans for division rank})
  10. Tampa Bay ({division record tiebreaker on New Orleans for division rank} conference record tiebreaker on Philadelphia {head-to-head tiebreaker on New York for division rank} & Chicago)
  11. New Orleans (conference record tiebreaker on Philadelphia {head-to-head tiebreaker on New York for division rank} & Chicago)
  12. Chicago (record vs opponents common with Philadelphia {head-to-head on New York for division rank})
  13. Philadelphia (head-to-head on New York)
  14. New York
  15. San Francisco (strength of victory tiebreaker on Dallas)
  16. Dallas

Carolina and Arizona have clinched the two bye seeds.  Carolina will be the #1 seed unless they lose and Arizona wins, in which case they are both 14-2; the Cardinals would win that tie with an 11-1 vs 10-2 conference record.

The winner of the NFC North will be the #3 seed.  Green Bay and Minnesota play each other on Sunday Night football; the Packers won the first meeting, so a tie is to their benefit.  The Packers if they lose would be the #5 seed even if Seattle wins in Week 17 as they beat the Seahawks.  Minnesota, on the other hand, would fall to the #6 seed if they lose and Seattle wins as they lost to the Seahawks; a tie or a Seattle loss would give the Vikings the #5 seed.  Even if Seattle loses, Atlanta cannot make the playoffs because the Seahawks would have a better record vs opponents common with the Falcons (3-2 vs 2-3 with the key difference being Atlanta lost to San Francisco).  And Washington, as winners of the NFC East, will be the #4 seed.

A couple random observations that might interest only me: I can’t remember a season where so many of the Week 17 matchups are meaningful, so far as playoff positioning is concerned, for exactly 1 team.  Excluding the Indianapolis scenarios, there are 11 games with playoff impact, but Minnesota v Green Bay and Seattle v Arizona are the only games where it matters for both teams (and only slightly for Seattle in the latter example).  The 8 AFC matchups all have meaning, or potential meaning, for exactly 1 of the 2 teams playing in the game.

The NFC will finish the season with a +6 against the AFC.  However, it is the AFC that will potentially have a 10-6 team (Pittsburgh or New York) miss the playoffs whereas the best record that will miss the playoffs in the NFC will at best be 9-7, and there could be a 9-7 wildcard.  Which is to say the AFC has more teams with solid records, whereas the NFC is very top-heavy.

 

NFL Standings and Playoff Picture

December 16, 2015

Starting with the standings in the AFC:

  1. New England (clinched division) (11-2)
  2. Cincinnati (10-3) (conference record tiebreaker on Denver)
  3. Denver
  4. Indianapolis (6-7) (head-to-head tiebreaker on Houston for division lead)
  5. Kansas City (8-5) (conference record tiebreaker on New York & Pittsburgh)
  6. New York (conference record tiebreaker on Pittsburgh)
  7. Pittsburgh
  8. Oakland (6-7) (conference record tiebreaker on Houston & Buffalo)
  9. Buffalo (head-to-head tiebreaker on Houston)
  10. Houston
  11. Jacksonville (5-8) (head-to-head tiebreaker on Miami)
  12. Miami
  13. Baltimore (4-9)
  14. San Diego (3-10) (conference record tiebreaker on Cleveland & Tennessee)
  15. Cleveland (head-to-head tiebreaker on Tennessee)
  16. Tennessee

Excluding the AFC South we appear to have a clear race of 6 teams for 5 playoff spots, with only New England being completely clinched at this point.  The Chiefs, Jets, and Steelers all winning last week means nothing has changed in the wildcard race.  New York is still currently ranked ahead of Pittsburgh because the Jets have one more conference win.  However, it is the Steelers that still control their destiny at this point because, if both teams win out to 11-5 they will end up at the same conference record, and Pittsburgh would then win a tiebreaker of record vs common opponents.  However, if they end up tied at 10-6 it would become of critical importance who the loss was for each team: if New York is going to lose a game this Saturday night against Dallas would be their best choice as they then would have a better conference record at 10-6 than the Steelers.  If the Steelers win the next two weeks and New York beats Dallas but loses to New England, that record in common games tiebreaker would be clinched by the Steelers.  However, if both win the next two weeks but then stumble in Week 17, which for Pittsburgh would be a loss to Cleveland, the record vs common opponents would be evened, taking the tie to strength of victory.  Sitting even prettier in this is Kansas City who would win any relevant tie for a playoff spot.  3 wins clinches it for them also, and one loss simply means they need the Jets or the Steelers to lose a game without regard to which one.

As far as that goes, the Chiefs still have a chance at winning the AFC West division.  They need Denver to lose twice down the stretch and to win out.  If that happens, Kansas City would win a tie at 11-5 on a better division record, again regardless of where the Denver losses come from.  The Steelers are also alive still to win the AFC North, however their odds are much longer.  If Cincinnati loses to San Francisco and Denver the next two weeks, but then beats Baltimore in Week 17, the Bengals would win the North on division record tiebreaker even if the Steelers win out.  If the Bengals lose twice and its to San Francisco and Baltimore they would edge out the Steelers on conference record.  If the Bengals lose to Denver and Baltimore and the Steelers win out, then the tie would go to strength of victory which the Steelers probably do win.

New England moved back into the driver’s seat for getting the #1 seed in the conference by winning last weekend.  But if they lose once down the stretch their loss to Denver could again haunt them.  Cincinnati plays Denver in Week 16 on Monday Night Football in what could be a pivotal showdown to see who gets the other bye seed and who is playing at home wildcard weekend (or even in peril of not winning their division).

As for the AFC South, Indianapolis plays Houston in what is obviously a critical game.  The winner will move 1 game ahead of the other with two games remaining.  If the Colts win they will also hold tiebreaking advantage by sweeping the Texans.  If Houston wins they would have a better division record, but that could be lost by losing one of their final two games.  Also, don’t forget about Jacksonville.  Their win last weekend got them within 1 game of the front runners.  However, what is really hurting them is they lost one of their games against Tennessee.  They are going to need this Sunday’s winner to lose their last two games because they will lose a tiebreaker on division record.  The Jaguars have to win out and be the only team at 8-8 to win the South.

Also alive but just barely, in this case in the wildcard race, are Buffalo and Oakland.  At 6-7 both would have to win out and both would need considerable help.  Oakland is the one team out there that could potentially win a tiebreaker with Kansas City at 9-7 and they would win a tie with the Jets while Buffalo would win a tie with either New York or Pittsburgh at that record.  Oakland plays the Chiefs and Buffalo plays the Jets down the stretch which does mean they’re hoping for less than a miracle.

And now for the NFC

  1. Carolina (clinched bye) (13-0)
  2. Arizona (clinched playoff spot) (11-2)
  3. Green Bay (9-4)
  4. Washington (6-7) (head-to-head-to-head on Philadelphia & New York for division lead)
  5. Seattle (8-5) (head-to-head on Minnesota)
  6. Minnesota
  7. Tampa Bay (6-7) ([head-to-head on Atlanta for divisional rank] head-to-head on Philadelphia [head-to-head on New York for divisional rank])
  8. Atlanta (head-to-head on Philadelphia)
  9. Philadelphia
  10. New York
  11. St Louis (5-8) (conference record tiebreaker on New Orleans & Chicago)
  12. New Orleans (conference record tiebreaker on Chicago)
  13. Chicago
  14. Detroit (4-9) (conference record tiebreaker on San Francisco & Dallas)
  15. San Francisco (conference record tiebreaker on Dallas)
  16. Dallas

Outside of the East division there isn’t a ton of drama left in the NFC, or so it would seem.  Carolina has clinched no worse than the #2 seed.  Arizona has clinched a playoff spot and will probably get the 2nd bye; even losing all 3 games probably wouldn’t lose the division for them.  The Cardinals do still play Green Bay, so losing to them does put them at some peril of dropping to the #3 seed.  Green Bay is now definitely likely to win the North; even if they lost the next two weeks but beat Minnesota in Week 17 they would win the North on head to head tiebreaking.  Seattle and Minnesota are now two games clear in the wildcard race with only 3 weeks to go, with Atlanta and Tampa both needing to win out just to get to 9-7 and hope someone stumbles badly.  Neither play Seattle and Atlanta lost to Minnesota.  Remember when the Falcons were 5-0?

As for the East race, it now definitely looks like a 3 team race.  Philadelphia and Washington play each other in Week 16 in what looks like a critical game.  Both of them know that 3 wins and they claim the title at 9-7.  New York would likely prefer the Eagles win that game, as the Giants can then take care of Philly in Week 17.  The Giants would lose a tie with Washington at 9-7 on division record.  Remarkably for a 6-7 team still in the playoff race, Philadelphia does *not* need to win this weekend against Arizona.  If they lose to the Cardinals but beat Washington and New York they would for sure win the division at 8-8.  Washington is by no means out of it if they lose to Buffalo this coming weekend; two wins to finish and they win the division at 8-8 if New York loses once down the stretch.  The Giants could also make 8-8 work if the loss is not the Philadelphia game Week 17.  However, if they lose to Carolina this weekend the fact is they would lose a tie with the Eagles based on record vs common opponents and would lose a tie with the Redskins based on conference record.  An upset of the Panthers but then a loss to Minnesota in Week 16 and they could then win a tie at 8-8 with the Eagles on conference record.  And, at 4-9 Dallas is not eliminated completely yet.  If they win out to 7-9 and have the other 3 teams all lose at least 2 of their remaining 3 games (Philly must lose to Arizona or Washington & New York must both lose in Week 15) the Cowboys would win that tie with a 4-2 division record.  And, let’s face it.  Defending two time conference champion Seattle playing at 7-9 Dallas would be poetic justice for the year the Seahawks won the West at 7-9 and got to beat defending champion New Orleans in Seattle lol.

NFL Standings at the 3/4 Pole

December 9, 2015

A few thoughts on the NFL Playoff picture after everyone has played 12 of their 16 games, along with the complete standings in each conference.  With only 4 weeks to go, 31 of the 32 teams maintain at least a theoretical chance at making the postseason (sorry Cleveland) while only 1 team (hooray Carolina!) is guaranteed a spot.  A remarkable 30 of the 32 teams are somewhere in that iffy zone.  Let’s start with the conference standings in the AFC:

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (10-2) (conference record tiebreaker on New England & Denver)
  2. Denver (head-to-head tiebreaker on New England)
  3. New England
  4. Indianapolis (6-6) (head-to-head tiebreaker on Houston for division lead)
  5. Kansas City (7-5) (conference record tiebreaker on New York & Pittsburgh)
  6. New York (conference record tiebreaker on Pittsburgh)
  7. Pittsburgh
  8. Buffalo (6-6) (head-to-head tiebreaker on Houston)
  9. Houston
  10. Oakland (5-7) (conference record tiebreaker on Miami)
  11. Miami
  12. Jacksonville (4-8) (head-to-head tiebreaker on Baltimore)
  13. Baltimore
  14. San Diego (3-9) (conference record tiebreaker on Tennessee)
  15. Tennessee
  16. Cleveland (2-10)

At the top of the conference the Patriots, Bengals, and Broncos all look safe for winning their divisions (they each have scenarios where they can clinch that this weekend) and 2 of the 3 will get the coveted byes into the Divisional round.  Cincinnati and Denver will play a critical head to head matchup on Monday Night Football in Week 16.  Denver has a win over New England while the Patriots and Bengals don’t play each other.  Both of Denver’s losses so far are in the conference, whereas the Bengals and Patriots both only have one conference loss.  At this point all 3 teams are guaranteed being a bye seed if they don’t lose again.

The AFC South “winner” will be the #4 seed and get a home game Wildcard Weekend.  While Jacksonville and Tennessee maintain mathematical chances at that, its almost certainly going to be either Indianapolis or Houston.  The Colts won the first matchup with the 2nd, possibly decisive one, still to come.  If the Texans win the rematch but lose one more of their other 3 games than the Colts, who the loss is to would be critical.  If either stumbles in a remaining game with the Jags or Titans they could blow the division on division record.

At this juncture the race for the two wildcards is still fluid.  Kansas City is in the best shape because they have a stellar 6-2 conference record, with the 2 losses being understandably to Denver and Cincinnati; losses that wouldn’t hurt them in head to head ties for the wildcard.  New York and Pittsburgh are also at 7-5 and both have 4 losses in conference, with New York having one more win (one non-conference game remaining). If they were to end up the year tied for a spot and with the same conference record, the next tiebreaker is record vs common opponents.  Right now that is a slight edge to Pittsburgh because the Jets lost to Oakland (both have a loss to the Patriots) and because both have one remaining game against a common opponent; for New York its the 2nd New England game while for Pittsburgh its the 2nd Cleveland game.

Not out of it by any stretch is Buffalo at 6-6.  They have a game remaining with New York and would have the tiebreaker on the Jets if they win that game and they end up tied.  Keep in mind that divisional ties are of paramount importance; a team cannot be ranked in the wildcard standings ahead of a team they are behind in their own divisional standings.  They have a head up loss to Kansas City just like the Steelers do, and currently have one more loss than the Steelers.  However, if Pittsburgh loses a game down the stretch it will be in the conference.  The Bills schedule is rather unique in that they still have 3 non-conference games remaining, so their performance down the stretch can impact both the AFC wildcard race and the NFC East division race!  If they did tie the Steelers ultimately at 10-6 that tiebreaker would also go down to common opponents which would  favor the Steelers if they beat the Bengals this coming Sunday; Buffalo went 1-4 against the Chiefs, Patriots, Bengals, and Colts.  However, if Pittsburgh loses Sunday then they are also 1-4 against that grouping.

Houston is also only 1 game out in the wildcard.  However, if they win out to 10-6 they would win their division; there are scenarios to their advantage at 9-7 if they don’t win the South, but with losses to Buffalo and to Kansas City they don’t have great odds.  Oakland and Miami are still alive if they could win out to get to 9-7.  The Raiders are hurt by a loss to Pittsburgh in that scenario, but they would gain a split with the Chiefs and did beat New York.  Miami is killed by the fact they got swept by both New York and Buffalo; they would need both of those teams to finish at 8-8 or worse, or for themselves and one of those two to be the only teams in wildcard position to finish 9-7.  By the math and the schedule its possible, but not likely.  At 4-8 Baltimore needs a miracle; they would have to sweep Pittsburgh so with help they could be 2nd in the North which is a start.  At 4-8 Jacksonville has a chance to get to 8-8 and win their division with considerable help.  Tennessee could win the South at 7-9 with an enormous amount of help.

And now for the NFC:

  1. Carolina {clinched division} (12-0)
  2. Arizona (10-2)
  3. Green Bay (8-4) (head-to-head tiebreaker on Minnesota for division lead)
  4. Washington (5-7) (head-to-head-to-head tiebreaker on Philadelphia & New York for division lead)
  5. Minnesota (8-4)
  6. Seattle (7-5)
  7. Tampa Bay (6-6) (head-to-head on Atlanta for divisional rank)
  8. Atlanta
  9. Philadelphia (5-7) ([head-to-head on New York for divisional rank] conference record tiebreaker on Chicago)
  10. New York (conference record tiebreaker on Chicago)
  11. Chicago
  12. Detroit or St Louis (4-8) ([St Louis has head-to-head tiebreaker on San Francisco for divisional rank] conference record tiebreaker on New Orleans & Dallas) {Detroit & St. Louis have identical conference records.  They are scheduled to play each other this coming Sunday}
  13. St. Louis or Detroit
  14. New Orleans (conference record tiebreaker on Dallas & San Francisco
  15. Dallas (record vs opponents common with San Francisco {games played not yet at minimum of 5 games each to qualify per NFL tiebreaking formulas: my ranking based on current record and projection that 5 common games will have been played by end of season}
  16. San Francisco

As it currently stands there is a very good chance that Carolina will end up the #1 seed (they can clinch a bye seed this coming weekend) and Arizona the #2 seed (assuming they don’t collapse and lose the division to Seattle and/or let the North winner catch them [they play Minnesota this coming Thursday Night]).  The winner of the North should do no worse than the #3 seed, and will likely end up exactly in that spot.

The “winner” of the East will get the #4 seed and the home game on wildcard weekend that goes with.  Philadelphia and Washington both have the most control over their destiny; the Eagles have a game remaining with both the Redskins and Giants: winning both would give a better division record than both Washington and New York and likely tiebreaker advantage over Dallas also.  If Washington wins over Philadelphia on December 26th they would have swept the Eagles.  For the Giants, winning out to 9-7 would put the Eagles behind them and box out the Cowboys but they need someone to hand the Redskins a loss.  Along those lines, the Giants are somewhat less likely to have 8-8 or 7-9 work for them than the other teams in the division being the only team that already has 3 division losses.  Dallas is in much better shape than any other 4-8 team in the NFL.  They can draw inspiration from the fact that Carolina was 3-8-1 at this time last season and the Panthers won out to 7-8-1 and claimed the division title.  The Cowboys finish with Washington and would have a 4-2 division record at 8-8 but they likely cannot afford the Eagles to be 8-8 with their two wins being their remaining division games.  And, of course, given their records to date, it’s a real possibility no one gets to .500 and the division is “won” at 7-9; the scenarios are almost boundless based on who won and lost which games to get to that record.

The wildcard picture in the NFC has the potential to be very clear within a week or two.  2nd place in the North, which is currently Minnesota, and Seattle are the clear front-runners.  For the North division it could come down to Week 17 at Lambeau with the Packers being able to enter 1 game back having won the first matchup.  Seattle’s win last Sunday against the Vikings means the Seahawks are, despite being 1 game back right now, in good shape to end up being the #5 seed.  This is important as the #5 seed gets to play the East division winner.  However, there are no guarantees; Seahawks fans might remember they were a 7-9 division winner a few years ago that knocked out defending champion New Orleans in the wildcard round.  I’m sure Marshawn Lynch and the local Richter Scales remember!

If Seattle or 2nd place in the North stumble down the stretch, there are other teams still alive with a hot finish.  Tampa is in better shape at 6-6 because they swept Atlanta head to head and they have only 3 conference losses.  The Falcons are in free fall mode after a 5-0 start to the season.  Chicago could win out to 9-7 but that doesn’t really seem at all likely in light of their loss at home to the 49ers; even if it did happen they would have a pedestrian 6-6 conference record.  St. Louis could win out to 8-8 and they would have swept Seattle so that gives them a small chance if the Seahawks collapse and a number of other things also goes their way.  New Orleans and San Francisco are not mathematically eliminated, but their chances at this point are even smaller than the Rams’.

Final NFL Standings, Thoughts, and Playoff Schedule

December 30, 2014

Here are the final conference standings and random observations, starting with the AFC:

1. New England (12-4) (head to head over Denver)

2. Denver

3. Pittsburgh (11-5) (head to head over Indianapolis)

4. Indianapolis

5. Cincinnati (10-5-1)

6. Baltimore (10-6)

Planning for 2015

7. Houston (9-7) (conference record on Kansas City [head to head over San Diego for division rank] and Buffalo)

8. Kansas City (head to head over Buffalo)

9. San Diego (head to head over Buffalo)

10. Buffalo

11. Miami (8-8)

12. Cleveland (7-9)

13. New York (4-12)

14. Jacksonville (3-13) (record vs opponents common with Oakland)

15. Oakland

16. Tennessee (2-14)

Buffalo went 4-0 against the NFC North and 4-2 within their own division.  What ultimately caused them to miss the playoffs is they went only 1-5 in non-divisional conference games (the win was Cleveland).  Their losses included Houston, San Diego, and Kansas City.  If they win just one of those games they might have made the playoffs; winning one of them plus against Oakland Week 16 and they definitely would have.

Houston had the opposite problem hold them back.  They went 8-4 against the AFC but went just 1-3 against the NFC East.  No one thought much of them losing to the Giants when it happened back in Week 3, but if they had won that game they would have been in the playoffs.  For that matter, all you have to do is flip the outcome of their midseason Monday Night game in Pittsburgh and you would have the Texans in the playoffs as the #5 seed, the Bengals win the North, and the Ravens out.

San Diego ultimately of course rues the fact they lost both games to Kansas City.  The Chiefs were hurt by the fact they lost both “power match” games; Week 16 to Pittsburgh was a game changer for both teams.  But back in Week 1 they got pummeled at home by Tennessee, a fact that is both hard to swallow for Chiefs fans and hard to comprehend in hindsight.

Miami is the quintessential mediocre team.  Not only did they go 8-8, but they went 3-3 in the division, 7-7 in the 14 games common within the division, and 6-6 in conference games.

Denver and Indianapolis were the only two teams in the NFL to go 6-0 in division games.

Jacksonville went a paltry 3-13, but that was good enough to be 3rd place in their division, not last place, which means they have to play a playoff team, Baltimore, and a near-playoff team, San Diego, as their “power match” games in 2015.

And for the NFC:

1. Seattle (12-4) (conference record on Green Bay and Dallas)

2. Green Bay (conference record on Dallas)

3. Dallas

4. Carolina (7-8-1)

5. Arizona (11-5) (head to head over Detroit)

6. Detroit

Planning for 2015

7. Philadelphia (10-6)

8. San Francisco (8-8)

9. New Orleans (7-9) (head to head over Minnesota)

10. Minnesota

11. Atlanta (6-10) (conference record over St. Louis and New York)

12. New York (head to head over St. Louis)

13. St. Louis

14. Chicago (5-11)

15. Washington (4-12)

16. Tampa Bay (2-14)

Minnesota went 7-9, including 6-6 in the conference.  However, they were merely 1-5 in division games while being a strong 5-1 in non-division conference games.  They could have been a factor later into the season with a better division record.

The four NFC South teams ended up going 10-29-1 in games against teams outside the division.  Atlanta went 1-9, worse even than Tampa’s 2-8 record outside the division.  If the Falcons had managed even a still anemic 3-7 they would have been 8-8 overall and won the division.

Philadelphia has the horrible luck of being the only team in either conference to win 10 games and miss the playoffs.  The NFC East as a whole was 10 games under .500 in conference games, with both Dallas and Philadelphia taking all of their losses within the NFC while going 4-0 against the AFC South.  Dallas faces the potential of having to go to Seattle for the NFC Championship Game despite having the same record as the Seahawks and having won against them in the regular season.  The nature of multi-way tiebreaking works against the Cowboys.

Tampa was the only team in the NFL that lost all 6 of its division games.

The AFC went 33-30-1 against the NFC in 2014, which is remarkably close.

And now for the complete playoff schedule:

Saturday January 3rd:

Arizona @ Carolina 4:30pm ESPN

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh 8:15pm NBC

Sunday January 4th:

Cincinnati @ Indianapolis 1pm CBS

Detroit @ Dallas 4:30pm Fox

Saturday January 10th:

Lowest remaining AFC seed @ New England 4:30pm NBC

Lowest remaining NFC seed @ Seattle 8:15pm Fox

Sunday January 11th:

Higher remaining NFC seed @ Green Bay 1pm Fox

Higher remaining AFC seed @ Denver 4:30pm CBS

Sunday January 18th:

NFC Championship Game 3pm Fox

AFC Championship Game 6:30pm CBS

Sunday February 1st:

Super Bowl XLIX at Arizona 6:25pm NBC

Happy New Year!

NFL Picture with One Week to Go

December 26, 2014

Hopefully everyone had a Merry Christmas!  Below are the conference standings with quick run downs of what every team still alive for the playoffs is playing for this coming Sunday and what they need to have happen, starting in the AFC:

1. New England {clinched #1 seed} (12-3)

2. Denver {clinched division} (11-4)

3. Cincinnati {clinched playoff spot} (10-4-1)

4. Indianapolis {clinched division} (10-5)

5. Pittsburgh {clinched playoff spot} (10-5)

6. San Diego (9-6) (head to head tiebreaker on Baltimore)

In the Hunt

7. Baltimore

8. Houston (8-7) (conference record tiebreaker on Kansas City & Miami [conference record on Buffalo for division rank])

9. Kansas City (head to head on Miami)

Playing for 2015

10. Miami

11. Buffalo

12. Cleveland (7-8)

13. New York (3-12) (conference record on Jacksonville & Oakland)

14. Jacksonville (record vs opponents common with Oakland)

15. Oakland

16. Tennessee (2-13)

New England, by virtue of its one game lead over and head to head victory against Denver, has clinched the #1 seed in the conference.  Denver will end up with the #2 seed unless they lose to Oakland and Cincinnati beats Pittsburgh, in which case the Bengals get the #2 seed.  If Denver loses and Pittsburgh wins there would be a tie for the #2 seed that could also involve Indianapolis.  A worse conference record would drop the Colts from the tie.  Ultimately, the Broncos would hold onto the #2 spot with a superior strength of victories tiebreaker over the Steelers.  Indianapolis, given the fact the Bengals/Steelers game will have an outcome, that they are currently 1/2 game behind the Bengals, and given that they lost to the Steelers, are locked into the #4 seed unless the Colts win and the North title game is tied.  In this scenario, the Colts at 11-5 would be essentially tied with the Bengals at 10-4-2 and the Colts win the head to head tiebreaker for the #3 seed.

The Bengals game at the Steelers, as referenced above, will decide who wins the North division.  The Bengals again as already mentioned would most likely be the #3 seed with a win, but they could be 2nd.  If they win the division by tying they would be the 4th or 3rd seed.  The loser of the division will be the #5 seed regardless of other outcomes: the Bengals at worst would be 1/2 game ahead of the Chargers and Ravens and the Steelers at worst would be tied with either/both the Chargers and Ravens and holding a better conference record.  The Steelers, if they win, will be the #3 seed.

The Chargers are in the crystal clear position of definitely being in the playoffs as the #6 seed if they beat Kansas City Sunday, and also definitely missing the playoffs if they lose.  A loss would put them behind the Chiefs in the division standings with no chance of surviving an “everyone loses” type of scenario.

For Baltimore to make the playoffs, given they lost to San Diego head to head, they need to win Sunday over Cleveland and have the Chargers lose.

Houston can make the playoffs, given their superior conference record, if they beat Jacksonville while the Chargers and Ravens both lose (their conference record would be 8-4 at 9-7 overall while no one else would be better than 7-5).

The Chiefs can make the playoffs if they win and both Baltimore and Houston lose.  With Houston out of the equation, Kansas City is ahead of San Diego with a head to head sweep, Baltimore has a worse conference record, and the Chiefs beat both Miami and Buffalo head to head.  That last fact, by the way, is why there is no scenario that Miami or Buffalo can make the playoffs even though they are also 8-7.

NFC

1. Seattle {clinched playoffs} (11-4) ([head to head on Arizona for division rank] conference record drops Dallas from 3-way tie, then record vs opponents common with Detroit [head to head tiebreaker on Green Bay])

2. Detroit {clinched playoffs} (conference record on Dallas)

3. Dallas {clinched division}

4. Carolina (6-8-1)

5. Green Bay {clinched playoffs} (11-5) (record vs opponents common with Arizona)

6. Arizona

Playing for 2015

7. Philadelphia (9-6)

8. San Francisco (7-8)

In the Hunt NFC South Edition

9. Atlanta (6-9) ([head to head on New Orleans for division rank] conference record on New York, Minnesota, & St. Louis)

Playing for 2015

10. New Orleans (conference record drops New York & St. Louis from 4 way tie, then head to head on Minnesota)

11. Minnesota (conference record on New York & St. Louis)

12. New York (head to head on St. Louis)

13. St. Louis

14. Chicago (5-10)

15. Washington (4-11)

16. Tampa Bay (2-13)

The winner of the Carolina at Atlanta game will “win” the South division and claim the #4 seed in the conference.  New Orleans is eliminated; even if they win and the Panthers tie Atlanta to finish 6-8-2, the same as being 7-9, Carolina then wins the tiebreaker with New Orleans by having a 1/2 game better division record.

We know the 5 playoff teams other than the South winner, but with all 5 teams being 11-4 entering the final day, its a bit chaotic to know how teams will end up seeded.  Dallas is the one in the group that has clinched their division, so their floor is the #3 seed, whereas the other 4 could fail to win their division and end up 5th or 6th.

Dallas beat Seattle head to head so they could be the #1 seed even if the Seahawks won Sunday, but only if the Packers v Lions game ended in a tie to prevent the North winner from being in the tie.  With the North winner in a 3-way tie Dallas’ inferior conference record drops them from the #1 consideration.  Furthermore, Seattle wins the #1 spot over Detroit on record vs common opponents or on Green Bay on head to head, so the Seahawks get the #1 spot, then the North winner gets #2 over Dallas on conference record, leaving the Cowboys the #3 seed.  Arizona winning the West would not help Dallas as the Cardinals also have a better division record.  Dallas can be the #2 seed if Seattle & Arizona both lose, or if Seattle loses while Arizona wins and the North game ends in a tie.

The winner of the North will do no worse than the #2 seed unless its Detroit at 11-4-1 and both Dallas along with at least one West team wins.  Green Bay can be the #1 seed if Seattle loses as they have the common opponents tiebreaker on Arizona.  Detroit lost head to head against Arizona and loses a common opponents tiebreaker to Seattle, so the Lions would need both West teams to lose to be the #1 seed.

Seattle clinches the #1 seed by winning Sunday against St. Louis unless Dallas wins and the North game ends in a tie, as their loss to the Cowboys is the only negative tiebreaker they have.  Arizona can be the #1 seed if they win and Seattle loses and Detroit wins the North.  The Cardinals are the #2 seed if they win, Seattle loses, and Green Bay wins the North.  If both the Seahawks and Cardinals lose, Seattle wins the division and would be the #3 seed.

As far as seeding the two wildcards 5th and 6th is concerned, Detroit would definitely be #6 if they lost.  The Packers would be #5 if Arizona loses but otherwise would be #6.  The 2nd place team in the West would be the #5 seed unless Arizona and Green Bay both lose, in which case the Cardinals are #6.  Also, the West loser is #6 if the North game ends in a tie and the West loser had lost their game.  And keep in mind, this is not a small matter as the #5 seed gets to play the South “winner” whereas the #6 seed has to play a 12-4 or 11-5 team on the road!

I’m not going to project the playoff schedule this week.  The current standings may very well not end up being the final standings.  Instead, I’ll make a few general predictions:

The Dallas involved wildcard game will be the Saturday 8pm game on NBC.  If Dallas gets a bye seed, then the Green Bay involved game will be.  If they are the two bye seeds, then it will be the Seattle involved game.  In any event, its going to be an NFC game on NBC wildcard weekend after they took an AFC game in Week 17.

The AFC wildcard game that does not involve Pittsburgh will be the game on ESPN.  The AFC wildcard game that involves the Steelers will be on CBS sometime Sunday, again given that the Steelers were taken off of the CBS menu for Week 17.

This year NBC gets a Divisional round game.  After taking an NFC game wildcard weekend it’ll be an AFC game in the divisional round.  My hunch is they’ll let CBS keep the New England involved game and that NBC would be more than happy to take a Denver involved game (will involve the Broncos if they’re the #2 seed or if they’re the #3 seed and win at home wildcard weekend).  This will probably get slotted before the wildcard games are actually played.

And below are the official clinching scenarios copy/pasted from NFL.com:

NFC

The Cowboys clinch home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with: a win plus a Cardinals loss or tie and a LionsPackers tie.

Dallas clinches a first-round bye with:
1) a win plus a Seahawks loss or tie plus a Cardinals loss or tie
2) a win plus a LionsPackers tie
3) a tie plus a Seahawks loss and a Cardinals loss
4) a tie plus a Seahawks tie, a Cardinals loss or tie and LionsPackers does not end in a tie

The Lions clinch the NFC North with: a win or a tie.

The Lions clinch home-field advantage with:
1) a win plus a Seahawks loss or tie and a Cardinals loss or tie
2) a tie plus a Seahawks loss, a Cardinals loss and a Cowboys loss or tie

The Lions clinch a first-round bye with:
1) a win
2) a tie plus a Cowboys loss or tie
3) a tie plus a Seahawks loss and a Cardinals loss

The Packers clinch the NFC North and a first-round bye with a win. They clinch home-field with: a win and a Seahawks loss or tie.

The Seahawks clinch the NFC West with:
1) a win
2) a tie plus a Cardinals loss or tie
3) a Cardinals loss

The Seahawks clinch home-field advantage with:
1) a win plus LionsPackers game does not end in a tie
2) a win plus a Cowboys loss or tie
3) a tie plus a Cardinals loss or tie, a Cowboys loss and a LionsPackers tie

The Seahawks clinch a first-round bye with:
1) a win
2) a tie plus a Cardinals loss or tie and a Cowboys loss
3) a tie plus a Cardinals loss or tie and a LionsPackers tie

The Cardinals clinch NFC West with:
1) a win plus a Seahawks loss or tie
2) a tie plus a Seahawks loss

The Cardinals clinch home-field advantage with:
1) a win plus a Seahawks loss or tie and a Packers loss or tie
2) a tie plus a Seahawks loss, a Cowboys loss or tie and a PackersLions tie

The Cardinals clinch a first-round bye with:
1) a win plus a Seahawks loss or tie
2) a tie plus a Seahawks loss and a Cowboys loss or tie
3) a tie plus a Seahawks loss and a LionsPackers tie

he Panthers clinch NFC South with win over Falcons.

The Falcons clinch NFC South with win over Panthers.

AFC

Denver clinches a first-round bye with:
1) a win or tie
2) a Bengals loss
3) a Bengals tie plus Colts win

Bengals clinch AFC North with a win or tie in Week 17.

Cincinnati clinches first-round bye with:
1) a win plus a Broncos loss or tie
2) a tie plus a Broncos loss and a Colts loss or tie

Steelers clinch AFC North with win.

Chargers clinch playoff spot with:
1) a win
2) a tie plus a Ravens loss or tie

Ravens clinch playoff spot with:
1) a win plus a Chargers loss or tie
2) a tie plus a Chargers loss

The Chiefs clinch a playoff spot with: a win plus a Ravens loss and a Texans loss or tie.

The Texans clinch a playoff spot with: a win plus a Ravens loss and a Chargers loss.

Enjoy and Happy New Year!

NFL Picture at the 1/8th Pole

December 17, 2014

Some things are starting to come into focus with two weeks to go in the season, but many things are also still up in the air.  In the AFC we know 3 of the 4 division winners for certain with a still muddled, albeit stratified, wildcard picture.  In the NFC, we essentially have two teams each in the East, North, and West for a total of 5 spots while the mediocre South remains a 3 team race for a home game.  Below are the standings, analysis, clinching scenarios, and projected playoff schedule, starting in the AFC:

1. New England {clinched division} (11-3) (head to head on Denver)

2. Denver {clinched division}

3. Indianapolis {clinched division} (10-4)

4. Cincinnati (9-4-1)

5. Pittsburgh (9-5) (division record on Baltimore)

6. Baltimore

In the Hunt

7. Kansas City (8-6) ([head to head on San Diego for division rank] head to head on Buffalo)

8. San Diego (head to head on Buffalo)

9. Buffalo

10. Houston (7-7) (conference record on Miami & Cleveland)

11. Miami (conference record on Cleveland)

12. Cleveland

Playing for 2015

13. New York (3-11)

14. Tennessee (2-12) ([head to head on Jacksonville for division rank] conference record on Oakland)

15. Oakland (strength of victory tiebreaker on Jacksonville)

16. Jacksonville

The Patriots, Broncos, and Colts have all clinched their divisions, with the Patriots and Broncos having the inside track on getting the two byes into the divisional round.  The Patriots definitely get the #1 seed with two wins having beaten Denver head to head; the Broncos conversely can lose once and still be no worse than the #2 seed having beaten the Colts.

In the AFC North the Bengals and Steelers both control their destiny for winning the division; Baltimore can win the North by winning its last two games and having the Bengals or Steelers lose in Week 16, then beat the other in Week 17.  The Bengals make the playoffs by winning one of their last two.  The Steelers clinch a playoff spot if they beat Kansas City this coming Sunday.  If they lose to the Chiefs and beat the Bengals they would need the Bengals to have lost in Week 16 or the Ravens to lose once or the Chiefs to lose in Week 17 to the Chargers to make the playoffs at 10-6.  The Ravens get in the playoffs for sure with two wins; if they lose once down the stretch they need some help to get in as they would have at 10-6 a weak 6-6 conference record including losing to the Chargers.  All three have scenarios where they get in at 9-6-1 or 9-7 with considerable help.

Of the 8-6 teams Kansas City is in the best shape; they control their destiny.  If they get to 10-6 they would beat the Steelers, beat San Diego twice, have beaten Buffalo, and have a better conference record than Baltimore.  Their conference record also means they have ways they could get in at 9-7 but it takes a good deal of help.

San Diego gets in at 10-6 if Baltimore loses at least once.  They could also get in if Cincinnati or Pittsburgh loses twice.  Buffalo is in the weakest position because all 6 of their losses are conference games.  They need to win out, and have either one team in the North lose twice plus the Week 17 Kansas City v San Diego winner to have lost in Week 16 or for two North teams to lose out.

The teams at 7-7 are in a very weak position but can still get in with two wins and massive amounts of help.  Miami and Houston are in relatively better shape because of decent conference records.  For Cleveland, who at 9-7 would only be 5-7 in the conference they have to have the following all play out:

1. Win their two remaining games.

2. Baltimore loses Week 16 to Houston

3. Houston loses Week 17 to Jacksonville

4. San Diego loses to San Francisco in Week 16

5. Kansas City loses to Pittsburgh in Week 16

6. Buffalo loses its two remaining games

7. Miami loses one of its two remaining games (Minnesota & New York Jets)

8. The Week 17 game between San Diego and Kansas City ends in a tie.

And now for the NFC:

1. Arizona {clinched playoff spot} (11-3)

2. Detroit (10-4) ([head to head on Green Bay for division lead] conference record on Dallas)

3. Dallas

4. New Orleans (6-8)

5. Seattle (10-4) (head to head on Green Bay)

6. Green Bay

In the Hunt

7. Philadelphia (9-5)

Playing for 2015

8. San Francisco (7-7)

9. Minnesota (6-8) (head to head on St. Louis)

10. St Louis

In the Hunt NFC South Edition

11. Carolina (5-8-1)

12. Atlanta (5-9) (conference record on Chicago & New York)

Playing for 2015

13. Chicago (conference record on New York)

14. New York

15. Washington (3-11)

16. Tampa Bay (2-12)

Arizona is the only team in the conference that has clinched a playoff spot with two weeks to go.  They can clinch the West and the #1 seed by beating the Seahawks this Sunday night.  Of course, they will be starting their 3rd string quarterback against the defending champs.  If Seattle wins out they win the West as that will give them a season sweep of the Cardinals.

Detroit and Green Bay both control their destiny for winning the North as they play each other in Week 17 and both have scenarios where they can clinch a playoff spot this week.  The Lions, Packers, and Seahawks all make the playoffs at 11-5 if it is Dallas that wins the East as they are all in good tiebreaking shape vs Philadelphia, either on head to head or on conference record.  However, if Dallas goes 1-1 down the stretch and the Eagles win their last two games, the Eagles win the East and Dallas is in the wildcard mix at 11-5.  Dallas beat Seattle head to head.  Assuming the Cowboys are 11-5 because they lose to the Colts in Week 16 then beat Washington in Week 17, Detroit would still win a tie on conference record, but a Dallas v Green Bay tie would goto record vs common opponents wherein Dallas has a 4-1 vs 3-2 advantage.  So basically, for the Eagles to get in they probably need a Dallas loss so they can win the East.  Otherwise they need someone of the Packers, Lions, or Seahawks to lose twice for a wildcard.  Dallas’ best bet is to win twice and win the East, but they can be a wildcard over Seattle or over Green Bay (if the loss is the Colts game).  Dallas could also, if they win at Washington but lose to Indianapolis, be a team that posts an 8-0 road record but misses the playoffs!

And all of this shiftable math which applies to who would get the two wildcards also applies to who gets the bye seeds.  Dallas can be the #1 if they win out, Seattle wins out and the North is won at 11-5.  Seattle is the #1 seed if they win out and the North is won at 12-4 or the East is not won by Dallas at 12-4.  For the North winner to the be the #1 seed they would need the West winner to be 11-5, but they would be the #2 seed at 12-4 unless Dallas is the #1 seed and the West winner is Seattle at 12-4.  This chaotic math, of course, could end up applying to determining which wildcard is the #5 seed and gets to play the South winner and which wildcard is the #6 seed and has to play whichever division winner has the above mentioned math work against them into being the #3 seed.

As for the South division, a week after New Orleans and Atlanta became the first two 5-8 teams in NFL history to control their destiny for making the playoffs, Atlanta is now the first 5-9 team in NFL history to control their destiny.  They win the South at 7-9 as winning their last two games would be beating New Orleans and Carolina; they would post a 6-0 division record.  New Orleans of course wins the division if they win their last two games over Atlanta and Tampa and finishes 8-8.  Carolina can win the division at 7-8-1 if they win their last two games over Cleveland and Atlanta and New Orleans loses (or ties) one of its last two games.  The worst this division could be won at is by Carolina at 6-9-1.  For this to happen Carolina would have to lose to Cleveland but beat Atlanta, Atlanta beats New Orleans, and Tampa beats New Orleans.  In that case, the Panthers are 6-9-1 while the Saints and Falcons are 6-10.

And now for a projected playoffs schedule, based on current standings:

Saturday January 3rd:

Baltimore @ Indianapolis 4:30pm

Green Bay @ Dallas 8:15pm

Sunday January 4th

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati 1pm

Seattle @ New Orleans 4:30pm

Saturday January 10th:

Higher AFC wildcard winner @ Denver 4:30pm

Lower NFC wildcard winner @ Arizona 8:15pm

Sunday January 11th:

Higher NFC wildcard winner @ Detroit 1pm

Lower AFC wildcard winner @ New England 4:3opm

Sunday January 18th:

AFC Championship Game 3pm

NFC Championship Game 6:30pm

And here are the official Week 16 clinching scenarios, copy/pasted from NFL.com:

NFC

ELIMINATED: New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers

The Cardinals clinch NFC West and home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with win over Seahawks.

The Lions clinch a playoff spot with:
1) a win
2) a tie plus an Eagles loss or tie
3) an Eagles loss

The Lions clinch the NFC North with: a win and a Packers loss.

The Lions clinch a first-round bye with a win, a Packers loss and a Cowboys loss.

The Cowboys clinch a playoff berth with: a win plus a Packers loss or tie plus a Lions loss or tie as long as both results don’t tie.

The Cowboys clinch the NFC East with:
1) a win plus an Eagles loss or tie
2) a tie plus an Eagles loss.

The Seahawks clinch a playoff spot with:
1) a win plus an Eagles loss or tie
2) a win plus a Lions loss or tie
3) a win plus a Packers loss or tie
4) a tie plus an Eagles loss
5) a tie plus a Lions loss and a Packers loss
6) or an Eagles loss and a Cowboys win or tie.

The Packers clinch a playoff spot with:
1) a win plus an Eagles loss or tie
2) a win plus a Cowboys loss or tie
3) a tie plus an Eagles loss
4) a tie plus an Eagles tie and a Cowboys win or tie
5) an Eagles loss plus a Cowboys win or tie.

The Saints clinch the NFC South with a win plus a Panthers loss.

AFC

ELIMINATED: Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, New York Jets

The Patriots can clinch a first-round bye with:
1) a win
2) a tie plus a Colts loss or tie
3) a Colts loss plus a Bengals loss or tie, a Steelers loss or tie and a Ravens loss or tie.

The Patriots clinch home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with a win plus a Broncos loss.

The Broncos clinch a first-round bye with:
1) a win
2) a tie plus a Colts loss or tie.

The Bengals clinch a playoff spot with:
1) a win
2) a tie plus a Ravens loss
3) a tie plus a Chiefs loss or tie and a Chargers loss or tie
4) a Chiefs loss plus a Chargers loss and a Bills loss or tie.

The Bengals clinch the AFC North with a win plus a Steelers loss and a Ravens loss or tie.

The Steelers clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Chiefs.

The Ravens clinch a playoff spot with:
1) a win plus a Steelers loss and a Bengals loss
2) a win plus a Chiefs loss or tie and a Chargers loss or tie
3) or a tie plus a Chiefs loss, a Chargers loss and a Bills loss or tie.

Enjoy!

 

NFL Picture with 3 Weeks To Go

December 10, 2014

Last weekend’s games shuffled the order of teams in the AFC wildcard race but didn’t really eliminate anyone.  A few teams have moved to the verge of clinching a playoff spot, finally.  Buckeyenewshawk cannot remember the last season no one was clinched with only 3 weeks to go.  Below are the standings and comments as usual.  New twists this week as I will also include a projected playoff schedule and at the end of the column a copy/paste job from NFL.com of the official clinching scenarios in Week 15.

AFC

1. New England (10-3) (head-to-head on Denver)

2. Denver

3. Indianapolis (9-4)

4. Cincinnati (8-4-1)

5. Pittsburgh (8-5) ([division record tiebreaker on Baltimore for division rank] conference record on San Diego)

6. San Diego (head-t0-head on Baltimore)

In the Hunt

7. Baltimore

8. Houston (7-6) (conference record on Miami [division record tiebreaker on Buffalo for division rank], Kansas City, and Cleveland

9. Miami (conference record tiebreaker on Kansas City {more wins} and Cleveland)

10. Kansas City (conference record tiebreaker on Buffalo and Cleveland

11. Buffalo (head-to-head tiebreaker on Cleveland)

12. Cleveland

Playing for 2015

13/14. New York/Tennessee (2-11) ([Tennessee has head-to-head tiebreaker on Jacksonville for division rank] conference record tiebreaker eliminates Oakland from tie {equal conference record teams play head-to-head in Week 15})

15. Oakland (strength of victory tiebreaker on Jacksonville)

16. Jacksonville

Pittsburgh made a significant move up in the conference standings due in equal parts them winning last week, Miami losing last week, and also Cleveland losing, thus breaking the 3-way tie in the AFC North.  As I wrote a couple weeks ago, the Steelers have tiebreaking on both Baltimore and Cleveland in a head-up situation, but the Ravens had it in the 3-way tie.  The Steelers are now in a position where they would win the North by winning out to 11-5.  If they lose once in their last three games they could still win the division or they could get a wildcard; there are scenarios where they could be left out at 10-6 but with a conference record of either 9-3 or 8-4 at 10-6 they would generally be in solid shape.

Cincinnati is currently leading the division and can obviously maintain that to the end of the season.  However if they fall out of 1st place they could quickly be in a precarious position for getting a wildcard.  If they go 10-4-2 or 10-5-1 they’re probably okay, but 9-6-1 (they play Cleveland, Denver, and Pittsburgh to finish) might not cut it.

Baltimore is currently on the outside at 8-5 with all 5 losses being in the conference, including to San Diego a couple weeks ago.  However a finishing schedule of Jacksonville, Houston, and Cleveland gives them a real chance of finishing 11-5, and its hard to imagine that not getting them in.  With a small amount of help it could win them the division.

Can Johnny Football lead the Browns to the playoffs?  Playing Cincinnati, Carolina, and Baltimore is not an easy path to 10-6 but it’s what Cleveland must do to make it in.  All 6 of their losses are in the conference, including to Buffalo and to Houston.  The one good thing is if they do win out they would finish ahead of Baltimore in the all important division standings; they would really need the Bengals to lose to Denver or Pittsburgh or for Pittsburgh to lose to Cincinnati so they can move up to 2nd.  They can still win the division with an even greater degree of help.

Miami is in decent shape of the 7-6 teams looking at tiebreaking, however they still have to play New England this coming Sunday, a probable 7th and crippling loss.  If they somehow upset the Patriots, however, their last 2 games are with Minnesota and the Jets, both imminently winnable.

Buffalo has 6 conference losses and they have to play Green Bay this weekend and a finish with New England looms.

Houston would be in great shape if they can beat the Colts this coming Sunday.  It would actually leave them alive for the division.  They would have the chance to beat the Ravens in Week 16.  If the Texans win out to 10-6 they really don’t need much help, as that would be a 9-3 conference record.  They would only need San Diego to lose once or for Cincinnati to lose twice or for Pittsburgh to lose a conference game and them to not be the only 2 teams at 10-6 or for Pittsburgh to lose twice.  That might sound like a lot, but it’s really not.

At the top of the conference, New England continues to have the inside track on the #1 seed with them and Denver looking good to win their divisions and get the bye seeds.  The Colts can clinch the division this Sunday by beating (or tying) Houston.

NFC

1. Arizona (10-3) (conference record on Green Bay)

2. Green Bay

3. Philadelphia (9-4) (head-to-head on Dallas)

4. Atlanta (5-8) (head-to-head on New Orleans)

5. Seattle (9-4) (conference record drops Dallas from 3-way tie, then record vs opponents common with Detroit)

6. Detroit (conference record on Dallas)

In the Hunt

7. Dallas

8. San Francisco (7-6)

Playing for 2015

9. Minnesota (6-7) (head-to-head on St. Louis

10. St. Louis

11/12. Chicago (5-8) (same conference record as New Orleans. Teams play each other this coming Sunday)

In the Hunt NFC South Edition

11/12. New Orleans

13. Carolina (4-8-1)

Playing for 2015

14. New York (4-9)

15. Washington (3-10)

16. Tampa (2-11)

The order of the 6 playoff teams has not really changed from last week.  Philadelphia’s position is a bit more perilous after losing to Seattle last Sunday.  They still win the division if they win out.  However, if the lose to Dallas this coming Sunday night they would drop out of the playoffs and their losses would be to Arizona, Seattle, San Francisco, and Green Bay, ie, the very teams they’re competing with.

Green Bay currently leads the North but only by one game and they lost their first encounter with Detroit, which means the Lions still control their destiny for winning the division should they win out including Week 17 in Lambeau.  Assuming this weekend’s game between the Cowboys and Eagles does not end in a tie, it looks like the Lions can guarantee a wildcard by winning against Chicago and Minnesota the next two weeks.

Arizona continues to lead the West and stabilized things by beating Kansas City last weekend.  A win against St. Louis tomorrow night all but guarantees a playoff spot for the Cardinals.  Seattle however also controls their destiny for winning the West having won the first encounter with the Cardinals.  The rematch is Week 16 on NBC.  San Francisco is still alive, but last week’s loss to Oakland was confounding, inexcusable, and crippling.  They must win out and have all but one of the following things happen: 1) The Philadelphia/Dallas loser loses at least one other game. 2) Detroit loses at least twice or Green Bay loses every remaining game. 3) Seattle loses at least one game besides to the 49ers this Sunday. 4) Arizona loses out.  Another possibility for the 49ers is that: 1) They win out. 2) Arizona loses out. 3) Seattle’s only win is against Arizona.  If my figuring is correct, this would let the 49ers win the division.

Minnesota and St. Louis are mathematically alive with 3 weeks remaining, but the best they can do is 9-7 and that’s just not going to cut it.  It’s especially long odds for the Vikings who cannot finish better than 3rd in their division and so need a tremendous amount of help from 2nd place in both the East and West collapsing.  The Rams at least can get up to 2nd in their division; Seattle losing out, San Francisco losing to either San Diego or Arizona, and the Philly/Dallas loser losing their last two games would potentially get the job done.

And then there is the NFC South.  Atlanta currently “leads” at 5-8.  The Falcons not only control their destiny, but they actually are playing a game they don’t need this coming Sunday (hosting Pittsburgh).  If the Falcons lose to the Steelers they would be 5-9 but knowing that if they beat the Saints and Panthers the final two weeks they definitely win the division.  However this Sunday’s game would give them room to lose to New Orleans and still recover from it.  The Saints also control their destiny; if they win out they would beat Atlanta in the process and be the only team standing at 8-8.  Like Atlanta, they also have scenarios where 7-9 or perhaps even 6-10 could get it done.  As for Carolina, at 4-8-1 they are in the thick of it.  If they could win out to 7-8-1 they would beat Atlanta in the process, so all they need of outside help is for New Orleans to lose at least once.  6-9-1 could work but takes more help.

Below is my projected playoff schedule based on current standings:

Saturday January 3rd:

Seattle @ Atlanta 4:30pm

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati 8:15pm

Sunday January 4th:

San Diego @ Indianapolis 1pm

Detroit @ Philadelphia 4:30pm

Saturday January 10th:

Higher AFC Wildcard winner @ Denver 4:30pm

Lower NFC Wildcard winner @ Arizona 8:15pm

Sunday January 11th:

Higher NFC Wildcard winner @ Green Bay 1pm

Lower AFC Wildcard winner @ New England 4:30pm

Sunday January 18th:

AFC Championship Game 3pm

NFC Championship Game 6:3opm

And here are the Week 15 clinching scenarios:

NFC

ELIMINATED: Giants, Redskins, Bears, Buccaneers

ARIZONA CARDINALS

Arizona clinches a playoff spot:

  1. ARI win + DAL/PHI game does not end in a tie
  2. ARI win + DET loss + ARI clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over GB
  3. ARI win + DET loss + GB win or tie

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Green Bay clinches a playoff spot:

  1. GB win + DAL loss + GB clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over DAL

AFC

ELIMINATED: Oakland, Jacksonville, Tennessee, NY Jets

DENVER BRONCOS

Denver clinches AFC West division:

  1. DEN win or tie

Denver clinches a first-round bye:

  1. DEN win + IND loss + CIN loss + PIT loss or tie
  2. DEN win + IND loss + CIN loss + DEN clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over PIT

Denver clinches a playoff spot:

  1. MIA loss or tie + HOU loss or tie + CIN loss + PIT loss
  2. MIA loss or tie + HOU loss or tie + BAL loss + CLE loss or tie
  3. MIA loss or tie + HOU loss or tie + BAL loss + PIT win

New England Patriots

New England clinches AFC East division:

  1. NE win or tie

New England clinches a first round bye:

  1. NE win + IND loss + PIT loss or tie + CIN loss or tie
  2. NE win + IND loss + PIT loss or tie + DEN loss

New England clinches a playoff spot:

  1. BUF loss or tie + CIN loss + PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss or tie
  2. BUF loss or tie + CIN loss + PIT loss + KC loss or tie + SD loss
  3. BUF loss or tie + HOU loss or tie + KC loss or tie + SD loss + BAL loss

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Indianapolis clinches AFC South division:

  1. IND win or tie

Enjoy the games!

 

NFL Landscape at the 3/4 Pole

December 3, 2014

The NFL season, unbelievably, is already 75% complete.  Also, I didn’t fall asleep in my chair until 2am.  So, this would seem to be a good time to take a more exhaustive look at the playoff picture in both conferences.  Remarkably after Week 13 not only does no one yet have a playoff spot clinched, but there are not even any clinching scenarios for Week 14!  Usually by now we at least have a couple pace-setters that have a convoluted way to clinch, but everyone is still at least two weeks away.  As usual I’ll start with the AFC, which is the more muddled, especially when it comes to the wildcard picture and a 6 way tie for the 6th seed (as always please keep in mind that breaking ties within a division are of paramount importance; a team cannot be ranked higher in conference standings than a team that it is behind in division standings):

1. New England (9-3) (head to head tiebreaker on Denver)

2. Denver

3. Cincinnati (8-3-1)

4. Indianapolis (8-4)

5. San Diego (8-4)

6. Miami (7-5) ([division record tiebreaker on Buffalo for division rank] conference record tiebreaker on Kansas City & Baltimore [head to head to head tiebreaker on Pittsburgh & Cleveland for division rank])

In the Hunt

7. Kansas City (conference record tiebreaker on Buffalo & Baltimore)

8. Buffalo (conference record tiebreaker {more wins} on Baltimore)

9. Baltimore

10. Pittsburgh (common opponents record tiebreaker {more wins} on Cleveland)

11. Cleveland

12. Houston (6-6)

Playing for 2015

13/14. New York & Tennessee (2-10) (Tennessee has head to head tiebreaker on Jacksonville for division rank, New York also has tiebreaker on Jacksonville via conference record {more wins})

15. Jacksonville

16. Oakland (1-11)

Starting at the top New England is currently in decent shape to win their division, holding a two game lead on the Dolphins and Bills.  They then also are in good shape to be the #1 seed based on the fact they beat the other 3 current division leaders in head-to-head matchups.  Denver can hold off San Diego even if they lose the upcoming rematch based on a better division record (Chargers lost to Kansas City whereas the Broncos swept the Chiefs).  A Week 16 Monday Night trip to Cincinnati could help determine a bye seed.  The Colts are a game back having already lost to Denver and New England, so they would need help to get a bye seed.  However they are in solid shape to at least win their division.

A critical Week 14 game in the wildcard chase is Miami v Baltimore, as the winner of that game will obviously improve their standing.  The Dolphins have a game with New England looming also; if they were to end up 10-6 it would likely be with a strong 9-3 conference record.  Kansas City has critical remaining games with both San Diego and Pittsburgh.  San Diego has the advantage of being a game clear of the field, but they have a brutal remaining schedule that includes Denver, New England, and San Francisco along with that Chiefs game.

Pittsburgh is currently 10th in the conference, but they actually control their destiny for winning the division.  They still have both games left with the Bengals, so winning out would put Cincinnati a 1/2 game behind them.  And, while they are behind Baltimore right now, the fact is they would win a 2 way tie with either Baltimore or Cleveland at 11-5.  If the Steelers go 10-6 and don’t win the division they would still likely win a tie with either Baltimore or Cleveland.  A tie with San Diego could be problematic if one of the Chargers losses was the San Francisco game.  The Steelers have a stronger conference record than the Ravens or Browns because they have been doing more losing to the NFC South than they should.  A potential problem would be a tie with Miami; odds are that tie would come down to record against common opponents, and, in that eventuality, the Steelers loss to the lowly Jets, whom the Dolphins beat twice, could be crippling.

The Ravens are in better shape to go 11-5; that doesn’t guarantee them the division but almost certainly a wildcard.  After Miami their remaining games are Houston, Jacksonville, and Cleveland.  But at 10-6 they won’t be well-positioned for most tiebreakers, especially if the loss is Miami or Cleveland.  They just took a loss to San Diego and they would be 6-6 in the conference, the weakest possible mark for a 10-6 team.

Cleveland is in a similar predicament with all of their losses thus far being conference games.  They do get to play Carolina and can impact Baltimore by beating them Week 16, but they also still have games left with Indianapolis and Cincinnati.  Of course, the fact they play the Bengals once more still means they would not need much help to win the division should they win out to 11-5.  But at 10-6 they would also only be 6-6 in the conference including losses to Buffalo and Houston.

I haven’t mentioned Buffalo yet; at 7-5 they are in the thick of the race.  However, they also do not have a good conference record.  Also, they still have games remaining with New England, Denver, and Green Bay, so my hunch is they’ll end up around 8-8 and out of it.

Houston is also still alive 1 game back.  If they were to win out they would be 10-6 with a 9-3 conference record.  They have beaten Cleveland and would have to beat Baltimore to get to that mark.  They do have a loss to Pittsburgh.

And now for the NFC

1. Arizona (9-3) (conference record tiebreaker on Philadelphia & Green Bay)

2. Green Bay (head to head tiebreaker on Philadelphia)

3. Philadelphia

4. Atlanta (5-7) (head to head tiebreaker on New Orleans for division lead)

5. Seattle (8-4) (conference record drops Dallas from 3-way tie involving Detroit, then record against opponents common with Detroit to break 2-way tie)

6. Detroit (conference record tiebreaker on Dallas)

In the Hunt

7. Dallas

8. San Francisco (7-5)

In the Hunt NFC South Edition

9/10. New Orleans (5-7) (conference record drops St. Louis from tie involving Chicago [head to head tiebreaker on Minnesota for division rank]. Chicago & New Orleans have same conference record and will play each other later in season)

Playing for 2015

9/10. Chicago (conference record on St. Louis)

11. Minnesota (head to head tiebreaker on St. Louis

12. St. Louis

In the Hunt NFC South Edition

13. Carolina (3-8-1)

Playing for 2015

14. New York (3-9) (head to head on Washington)

15. Washington

16. Tampa Bay (2-10)

The top of the NFC is very tight with 3 division leaders sporting the same record and three 2nd place teams also sporting the identical records that trail their leader by 1 game.  Philadelphia has lost to both the Packers and Cardinals.  However, Arizona is now only leading the division by 1 game after losing the past two weeks.  In the last 4 weeks we still have one matchup each of Philadelphia v Dallas, Green Bay v Detroit, Arizona v Seattle, Arizona v San Francisco,  Seattle v San Francisco, and Philadelphia v Seattle to help either settle some things or muddle the picture even more.  At this moment Dallas would have the extreme bad luck of missing the playoffs at 8-4 which suggests its very possible that 10-6 will not be good enough for one or two teams in the NFC, maybe not even 11-5.

Then there is the NFC South.  Atlanta and New Orleans did pick up wins outside the division in Week 13, improving the division’s record in said games to 8-25-1.  The Saints and Falcons have a showdown remaining in Week 16 that will likely settle things.  Carolina still has the chance to win out to 7-8-1 having 3 division games and a home game with Cleveland remaining so they, at 3-8-1, are not completely out of it yet.

Enjoy the last month of the season!

Current NFL Standings

November 27, 2014

We are now at the point where everyone has taken their byes, so all teams have played the same number of games.  Sorry not much analysis this week as I fell asleep earlier this evening and now its 4am, but here are the standings, starting in the AFC:

1. New England (9-2)

2. Denver (8-3)

3. Cincinnati (7-3-1)

4. Indianapolis (7-4)

5. Kansas City (7-4) ([head to head tiebreaker on San Diego for division rank] conference record on Baltimore [head to head to head on Pittsburgh & Cleveland for division rank])

6. San Diego (conference record on Baltimore {teams play each other this coming Sunday})

In the Hunt

7. Baltimore

8. Pittsburgh (record vs common opponents on Cleveland)

9. Cleveland

10. Miami (6-5) (division record winning percentage on Buffalo)

11. Buffalo

12. Houston (5-6)

Playing for 2015

13 & 14. New York & Tennessee (2-9) (same conference record & they’ll play each other later this season for what its worth)

15. Jacksonville (1-10) (conference record on Oakland)

16. Oakland

At this juncture, excluding division leading Cincinnati and Indianapolis, the AFC has 7 teams with either 6 or 7 wins fighting for the two wildcard spots and also to get back into their division leads.  Pittsburgh currently has tiebreaking on either Baltimore or Cleveland, but the Ravens hold the 3-way tie because their two losses to Cincinnati don’t count against them in this tie.  All 4 of the Ravens losses are in the conference which hurts them in most tiebreaking situations, given that everyone else other than Buffalo and Cleveland in this group only have 3 conference losses.  Buffalo plays Cleveland this weekend and Baltimore plays San Diego, so that could help sort things a little bit (or make it more jumbled).  In the North the Bengals currently lead by 1/2 game but they still have both games with Pittsburgh and one with Cleveland remaining.  Bottom line is odds are 10-6 will be what it takes to make the playoffs with the possibility that someone gets left out at that record, or that 9-6-1 or 9-7 gets someone in.

NFC

1. Arizona (9-2)

2. Green Bay (8-3) (head to head on Philadelphia [division record tiebreaker on Dallas])

3. Philadelphia

4. Atlanta (4-7) (head to head on New Orleans)

5. Dallas (8-3)

6. Seattle (7-4) ([division record on San Francisco] record vs opponents common with Detroit)

In the Hunt

7. Detroit (conference record on San Francisco

8. San Francisco

9. Chicago (5-6)

In the Hunt NFC South Edition

10. New Orleans (conference record on Minnesota & St. Louis)

Playing for 2015

11. Minnesota (head to head on St. Louis)

12. St. Louis

In the Hunt NFC South Edition

13. Carolina (3-7-1)

Playing for 2015

14. New York (3-8) (head to head on Washington)

15. Washington

In the Hunt NFC South Edition

16. Tampa Bay (2-9)

The NFC South is currently 6-24-1 in games outside the division.  But someone will get the 4 seed from this group.  My assumption is someone will get to 7-9 ultimately, but they all have loseable non-division games left.  Carolina at 3-7-1 might almost be in the best shape as they only have one AFC game left and still have 3 division games plus Minnesota this weekend, so maybe they can get to 7-8-1.  With Philadelphia playing Dallas and Seattle playing San Francisco on Thanksgiving, then again in a couple weeks, this might help start sorting out the good teams in the conference.

 

Updated NFL Standings

November 20, 2014

Maybe a more complete set of analysis after Week 12 action goes in the books, but here are the current standings (as I type the KC v Oakland game is in the 3rd quarter, the result of which will change the AFC playoff standings) starting in the AFC:

1. New England (8-2)

2. Denver (7-3) (head to head tiebreaker on Kansas City for division lead)

3. Cincinnati (6-3-1)

4. Indianapolis (6-4)

5. Kansas City

6. Pittsburgh (7-4)

In the Hunt

7. Miami (6-4) (conference record on San Diego & Baltimore [head to head on Cleveland for division rank])

8. San Diego (conference record on Baltimore {teams play each other later in season})

9. Baltimore

10. Cleveland

11. Houston (5-5) (head to head on Buffalo)

12. Buffalo

Playing for 2015

13. New York (2-8) (conference record on Tennessee {teams play each other later in season})

14. Tennessee

15. Jacksonville (1-9)

16. Oakland (0-10)

The Miami at Denver game this Sunday is critical; either the Broncos separate like we expect them to, or Miami improves to 7-4 and the Broncos drop to that record, which figures to be playoff spots, maybe even a team or two on the outside looking in, at the end of the weekend.

NFC

1. Arizona (9-1)

2. Detroit (7-3) ([head to head on Green Bay for division] conference record on Philadelphia [division record tiebreaker on Dallas for division])

3. Philadelphia

4. Atlanta (4-6) (head to head tiebreaker on New Orleans for division)

5. Green Bay (7-3) (conference record on Dallas)

6. Dallas

In the Hunt

7. San Francisco (6-4) (division record on Seattle)

8. Seattle

9. Chicago (4-6) ([head to head tiebreaker with Minnesota for division rank] conference record tiebreaker on St. Louis & 1 fewer conference loss than New Orleans {teams will play later in season})

10. New Orleans (head to head on Minnesota for conference rank after conference record drops St. Louis from 3 way tie {“In the Hunt NFC South Edition”})

11. Minnesota (conference record on St. Louis)

12. St. Louis

In the Hunt NFC South Edition

13. Carolina (3-7-1)

Playing for 2015

14. New York (3-7)  (head to head tiebreaker on Washington)

15. Washington

In the Hunt NFC South Edition

16. Tampa Bay (2-8)

The conference standings below the playoff cut read choppy trying to differentiate between mediocre & probably hopeless teams from teams that are mediocre with the good fortune of being in the South division.  Atlanta is 0-6 in non-division games but lead because they are undefeated in division games.  If they go 6-0 in the division they’ll probably need at least 1 non-division win as I assume someone will end up at least 7-9, maybe even 8-8.  Atlanta still has their home games with Cleveland and Pittsburgh, New Orleans has a home game with Baltimore and a game at Pittsburgh left.  Carolina is also still alive but probably can only afford 1 more loss; 2 would ultimate leave them 6-9-1 and I really hope that isn’t good enough!  There are a lot of teams with 6 or 7 wins in the other divisions and there won’t be room for all of them in the playoffs; the NFC could very conceivably have a 10-6 team or two miss.

With 5 weeks in which there are cross-conference games remaining, I find it interesting to note that the AFC and NFC are so far even against each other.  Because of the Bengals/Panthers tie, they won’t end up flat even unless there is a 2nd tie within the remaining games.