NFL Picture Coming Down the Home Stretch

December 6, 2018

At this point everyone has played 75% of their games and there are a few things we know, things we think we know but maybe we don’t, and a lot to still be decided.  One team (Rams) have already clinched a playoff spot, and several clinching scenarios exist for this weekend.  So let’s take a look, starting in the AFC:

CURRENTLY IN

  1. Kansas City (10-2)
  2. New England (9-3) (head to head tiebreaker on Houston)
  3. Houston
  4. Pittsburgh (7-4-1)
  5. Los Angeles Chargers (9-3)
  6. Baltimore (7-5)

New England and Houston can both clinch their divisions this weekend, and Kansas City and LA (almost typed San Diego lol) can clinch playoff spots.  Even if it’s not this weekend, it feels like it’s just a matter of time for all four.  The Chiefs have a rematch with the Chargers coming in a couple weeks, but even if they lose that game winning the other 3 would guarantee the division on tiebreaking.  New England has head to head wins on both the Chiefs and the Texans for seeding purposes and with 3 of their last 4 against AFC East opponents figure to finish no worse than 12-4.

The Steelers looked safe for winning the North division a couple weeks ago before they dropped to 0-3 against the AFC West (and only 3-3 at home).  Baltimore still has games left with Kansas City and the Chargers but the Steelers still have games left with New England and New Orleans.  It could come down to Week 17 and Pittsburgh needing to beat Cincinnati and/or root for the Browns to beat Baltimore again.  But if the Steelers can beat Oakland this Sunday and Cincinnati 9-6-1 should suffice to at least make the playoffs at minimum unless things break just wrong.

IN THE HUNT

7. Miami (6-6) (conference record over Indianapolis [head to head over Tennessee for division rank] and Denver

8. Indianapolis (conference record on Denver)

9. Denver (conference record on Tennessee)

10. Tennessee

11. Cincinnati (5-7)

12. Cleveland (4-7-1)

Given that Baltimore has a couple tough games remaining there is a real chance of the 2nd wildcard being a 9-7 team unless someone in this pack has a perfect home stretch in them.  Certainly the hottest team in the group is Denver, but we’ll see how the Emmanual Sanders injury impacts them.  The Colts were hot until they got shut out in Jacksonville this past weekend.  I include Cleveland even though 8-7-1 seems like a bit of a longer shot to work it is possible, especially considering in the last 3 weeks the Browns play Denver, Cincinnati, and Baltimore, ie 3 teams they are currently chasing.

And now for the NFC:

CURRENTLY IN

  1. Los Angeles Rams (11-1) [clinched division]
  2. New Orleans (10-2)
  3. Chicago (8-4)
  4. Dallas (7-5)
  5. Seattle (7-5)
  6. Minnesota (6-5-1)

IN THE HUNT

7. Carolina (6-6) (head to head over Philadelphia [head to head over Washington for division rank])

8. Philadelphia

9. Washington

10. Tampa (5-7)

The recent struggles of Carolina, Minnesota, and Green Bay along with a bit of a resurgence from Seattle have changed the picture on the bottom half of the seedings.  The Saints can clinch the division, or at least a playoff spot, this weekend and the Rams can clinch a bye.  At this point it seems fairly clear that the Rams and Saints will end up getting the bye seeds (one LA stumble can let New Orleans get the #1 seed because of the regular season win a couple weeks ago) and that the Bears will win the North and probably end up the #3 seed.  The questions are who will win the East and who will get the wildcards.  Dallas and Philadelphia both control their destiny and Washington seems to be fading being down to their 3rd quarterback.

As for the wildcards, Seattle is in good shape with the game lead on the outsiders and having games left with both Arizona and San Francisco (done playing the Rams).  Minnesota has the inside track on the other spot and can probably afford one loss to end up 9-6-1 unless Carolina has a perfect last month, as it’s not likely that 2nd place in the East will be better than 9-7.

GAMES TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND

New Orleans @ Tampa.  Saints trying to nail down a playoff spot, while the exciting Bucs, who won in New Orleans in Week 1, still have a shot to get to 9-7 and see what happens.

Indianapolis @ Houston. Colts trying to climb back into the playoff picture, and the Texans trying for 10 in a row and a division title.

Baltimore @ Kansas City.  A win keeps the Ravens division hopes vibrant.  Chiefs trying to stay ahead of all of their pursuers to ensure January goes thru Arrowhead.

Philadelphia @ Dallas.  Winner will be leading the NFC East come Sunday night.

Los Angeles Rams @ Chicago.  Rams trying to clinch a bye.  A 2nd loss in a row for the Bears and suddenly the division title is less certain.

Minnesota @ Seattle.  Currently the two NFC wildcards.  The winner of this game looking much more safe, the loser very much not safe.

Advertisements

NFL Playoff Picture

November 13, 2018

At this time everyone has played 9 or 10 games and so the standings are starting to take shape.  At this point the scenarios are numerous and so I’m not going to try and cover everything but just a few thoughts that stand out to me at this juncture, starting in the AFC.

CURRENTLY IN

  1. Kansas City 9-1
  2. Pittsburgh 6-2-1 (percentage points ahead of Patriots)
  3. New England 7-3
  4. Houston 6-3
  5. Los Angeles Charges 7-2

The Chiefs are in excellent position to end up being the #1 seed in the conference.  However they do have to play the Rams this coming Monday Night in Mexico City and have a mid-December showdown with the Chargers on a Thursday Night; a loss in that game could imperil their chances to win the division.  Right now the Steelers would be the 2nd seed with two losses and a tie.  Their next two games are against Jacksonville and Denver; if they can avoid the Tomlin era pratfall of sometimes losing against weaker opponents (a mid December trip to Oakland also falls in this category) that should put them in great shape for making the playoffs.  December showdowns with the Chargers, Patriots, Saints, and Bengals will then help determine if they can lock up the North division and a bye seed.  For New England after their bye this week they have 4 division games along with games against the Vikings and Steelers.  Winning the four division games will clinch the East for them, then those other two games would determine if they can move into a bye seed.

Houston is a dangerous team that no one is talking about.  Good defense and Deshaun Watson is getting back into the form he showed before the injury last season.  I would watch out for them come playoff time assuming they win the South.  The Chargers are 7-2 without a win against a team with a winning record.  They could finish 11-5 and still keep it that way.

CONTENDERS

6. Cincinnati (currently 2nd wildcard via conference record tiebreaker)

7. Tennessee

8. Miami

9. Baltimore

10. Indianapolis

11. Cleveland

12. Jacksonville

13. Denver

Right now the Bengals and Titans are obviously in the best shape having only 4 losses; both are still very alive for their division titles.  My hunch is it’s ultimately one of these two that gets that 2nd wildcard.  Of the teams with 5 losses I would say the Colts are the most likely to get into the playoffs just because they seem to be in every game and Andrew Luck has won in this league before.  The next couple weeks should go a long way to thinning the herd.

PLAYING FOR 2019

14. Buffalo

15. New York Jets

16. Oakland

And now for the NFC

CURRENTLY IN

  1. Los Angeles Rams
  2. New Orleans Saints
  3. Chicago Bears
  4. Washington Redskins
  5. Carolina Panthers
  6. Minnesota Vikings

The Rams can actually clinch the division title this weekend, which is to say before Thanksgiving, if Seattle loses to Green Bay on Thursday night and then they beat Kansas City on Monday Night.  Assuming the Saints don’t fade down the stretch and fail to win the South, them and the Rams figure to get the two byes; the Saints of course control their destiny for the #1 seed because they beat LA last week.

Of the 8 teams currently leading their division, if one team fails to ultimately win said division title my hunch is the Bears.  And really that’s not an indictment of them I just assume the Vikings will end up winning the North.  Both head to head matchups still remain, starting with this coming Sunday Night, and that will obviously go a long way to sorting this out.

In the East the Redskins currently have a two game lead. They have a win against Dallas and both games with Philadelphia remaining.  If they can get to 10-6 that should suffice; but if they have a mediocre last 7 weeks and only end up 9-7 (or worse) that would give the Cowboys or Eagles the opening they need.

As for the wildcard situation, 2nd in the South feels like a near certainty to get one spot with 2nd in the North having a clear lead on 2nd in the West and East.  So right now Carolina and Minnesota are in good shape with both still having a chance to win their divisions.

CONTENDERS

7. Green Bay

8. Atlanta

9. Dallas

10. Seattle

11. Philadelphia

12. Tampa

13. Detroit

Of these teams Green Bay is in good shape if they can win their rematch against Minnesota as that could pull them even with the Vikings and holding the tiebreaker.  Thursday Night against Seattle is also a critical game for the Packers.  And what I said earlier about Andrew Luck is most certainly also true about Aaron Rogers.  Atlanta is also in good shape in that if they can manage to end up 10-6 that will be at worst a 9-3 conference record.  Seattle is helped by the fact they have finished playing the Rams but do still have 3 Arizona/San Francisco wins left to claim.  They get Green Bay at home Thursday night and their tough remaining matchup with Kansas City is also at home.  Dallas and Philadelphia are both much more likely to win the East than fail to do so but be in wildcard position; it’s possible but would take a long of things breaking a certain way.  Detroit and Tampa are still contenders in that if they win out they would be 10-6 but that doesn’t feel very likely in either case.

PLAYING FOR 2019

14. Arizona

15. New York Giants

16. San Francisco

Congratulations to New York for having two of the six teams that already have 7 or more losses!  And congratulations to the Bay Area for having the worst team in both conferences!

GAMES TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND

Six teams are on bye, including the entire AFC East so it’s only a 13 game schedule.  But still there are a ton of huge games including all 3 primetime games (Green Bay v Seattle on TNF, Minnesota v Chicago on SNF, and Kansas City v LA Rams at Stadia Azteca on MNF.  Sunday afternoon key matchups include Bengals/Ravens, Titans/Colts, Texans/Redskins, Cowboys/Falcons, and Eagles/Saints.  So chances are you will have important games played inside your television set this Sunday.  Enjoy!

NFL Playoff Observations that Came Upon a Midnight Clear

December 23, 2017

Sorry I am late getting this posted this week; I was off of work most of the week but was too busy sleeping or watching the new Star Wars movie to get to this.  Anyhow, here are the standings and a few observations, starting with the AFC:

  1. New England (11-3) (head to head over Pittsburgh)
  2. Pittsburgh
  3. Jacksonville (10-4)
  4. Kansas City (8-6)
  5. Tennessee (8-6) (conference record over Buffalo and Baltimore)
  6. Baltimore (records vs opponents common with Buffalo [I continue to differ from the official standings as put out by the NFL.  Buffalo still has not played the requisite minimum of four opponents that are in common with Baltimore, so this is not yet an official tiebreaker.  But assuming the full schedule gets played, it will be at the end of the season])
  7. Buffalo
  8. Los Angeles Charges (7-7)
  9. Oakland (6-8) (head to head over Miami)
  10. Miami
  11. New York Jets (5-9) (conference record over Cincinnati and Denver)
  12. Cincinnati (head to head over Denver)
  13. Denver
  14. Houston (4-10)
  15. Indianapolis (3-11)
  16. Cleveland (0-14)

The most interesting race at this point is for the wildcards.  If Tennessee, Baltimore, and Buffalo all win out to 10-6 they would all have 8-4 conference records.  In a 3 way tie it would go down to Strength of Victory.  Baltimore would not win this tie; right now Buffalo has a projected +1 on Tennessee.  If the Bills win this tiebreaker, then Tennessee edges Baltimore for the 2nd wildcard based on head to head win.  But if Tennessee wins the 3 way tie, then Baltimore edges Buffalo on the common opponents record.  Of course, the Titans could still win the South division at 10-6 if Jacksonville loses to San Francisco this coming Sunday; in that even the Jaguars win any tie with Baltimore and/or Buffalo on head to head or conference record.  If all 3 teams split to end up 9-7 the Titans will either win a tie on conference record (if they lose to the Rams but then beat the Jaguars) or the same dynamic plays out with a 7-5 conference record.  This is why the Titans can actually clinch a playoff spot this week by winning plus Baltimore and Buffalo losing.  Obviously one team losing a game guarantees two wins clinches a spot for the other two teams.  The Chargers could also be in the wildcard mix at 9-7 unless the Chiefs lose twice to hand Los Angeles the division.  However, they would have a weaker 6-6 conference record.  To make the playoffs as a wildcard they need two of three things to happen: 1. Tennessee loses twice. 2. Baltimore loses twice. 3. Buffalo loses at least once (Chargers win a head to head tie with Buffalo).

New England: Two wins guarantees them the #1 seed based on the Jesse James Rule.  However, if they lose either remaining game they could drop down to the #3 seed because they would have a worse conference record than Jacksonville.

Pittsburgh: Two wins guarantees them a bye seed and leaves them a chance at the #1 seed if the Patriots slip up.  However, losing either game also leaves them vulnerable to dropping below Jacksonville, either because of their head to head loss or conference record in a multi team tie involving New England.

Jacksonville: Winning either remaining game clinches the South division and winning both games leaves them a shot at a top 2 seed.  Losing to San Francisco would leave them vulnerable to not winning the division if they would lose the season ender with Tennessee.

Kansas City: Winning either remaining game clinches the West division, either outright or on head to head tiebreaker with the Chargers.  The winner of the West division will be the #4 seed.

Tennessee:  They basically control their destiny for making the playoffs given that Baltimore is not going to win the strength of victory tiebreaker; even if the Bills do the Titans can then win the tiebreaker for the #6 seed on head to head over the Ravens.  Winning both games can give them the division if the Jaguars make the same slip up in San Francisco that the Titans did last weekend.  They can still get in with splitting their last two games with help.

Baltimore: Winning both remaining games will probably get them in the playoffs but they are vulnerable in the scenario detailed above.  They also can get in at 9-7 with some help, but they should be able to win their two remaining games (Indianapolis and Cincinnati).

Buffalo: Their fate really rests on a narrow advantage over Tennessee in strength of victory (or getting help).  But they have to play at New England this Sunday; assuming they lose that game they really could need Baltimore to get upset.  Mind you, a Ravens loss in either remaining game changes the nature of this tiebreaker; they would then be even in record vs common opponents so Buffalo would then win the tie based on superior strength of victory.

Los Angeles:  Need two wins plus two Kansas City losses to win the West.  Or two wins plus a ton of help to get a wildcard.

Miami:  Looking at it, I think they still have a mathematical chance even though the ESPN crawl doesn’t list them and Oakland also at 6-8 is eliminated.  If they win both remaining games (Kansas City, Buffalo) and Buffalo loses to New England, the Dolphins are 2nd in the East.  If Baltimore loses both remaining games they are 8-8.  But the Dolphins lost to the Ravens.  However, if 2nd in the West is also exactly 8-8 (LA goes 1-1 down the stretch or wins both and Kansas City loses Week 17 to Denver) then the multi way tie goes to conference record.  At 7-5 Miami wins that tie.  Not likely.  But it’s the NFL and sometimes strange things happen.

And now for the NFC:

  1. Philadelphia (12-2)
  2. Minnesota (11-3)
  3. Los Angeles (10-4 ) (head to head over New Orleans [head to head over Carolina for division lead])
  4. New Orleans (head to head over Carolina)
  5. Carolina
  6. Atlanta (9-5)
  7. Detroit (8-6) (conference record on Seattle & Dallas)
  8. Seattle (tiebreaker on Dallas)
  9. Dallas
  10. Green Bay (7-7)
  11. Washington (6-8) (head to head over Arizona)
  12. Arizona
  13. Tampa (4-10) (conference record over Chicago and San Francisco)
  14. San Francisco (head to head over Chicago)
  15. Chicago
  16. New York (2-12)

Like the AFC, the most interesting race at this point is figuring out the wildcards.  The 3 good teams in the South all clinch playoff spots with one more win.  New Orleans and Carolina would get to 11 wins; Atlanta with 10 wins holds all necessary tiebreakers.  If any of the 3 South teams goes south and loses their last two games it does open the door for the 3 teams currently 8-6.  At 10-6 conference record would drop the Saints or Panthers from a 3 way tie, then after that Detroit is in the best shape because they would win a tie with the Dallas/Seattle survivor (those two play each other Week 16) based on a better record vs common opponents.  As such, the Seattle/Dallas winner not only needs a South team to lose out (Atlanta plays New Orleans and then Carolina while both the Saints and Panthers have a game left with Tampa) but they also need Detroit to lose once (Cincinnati then Green Bay).  Of course, the Seahawks do have the alternate scenario of two wins plus two Los Angeles losses gives Seattle the West division title.  For a wildcard the Rams at 10-6 would win a tie with New Orleans or Carolina that does not also involve Detroit but would lose a tie with Atlanta.

Philadelphia: Has already clinched a bye and will clinch the #1 seed with one more win or one more Minnesota loss (would win a tie with the Vikings based on record vs common opponents [Minnesota lost to Carolina]).

Minnesota: Has already clinched the division.  Two wins will clinch a bye seed.  One win plus Carolina not winning the South at 12-4 would also work.

Los Angeles: One win clinches the division and two wins gives them a chance at a bye seed.

New Orleans: One win clinches at least a playoff spot and two wins clinches the division title (with a chance at a bye seed).  Beating Atlanta plus Carolina losing once would also suffice for the division.  They could get in with two losses if Detroit lost once and the Dallas/Seattle winner lost in Week 17.

Carolina: One win clinches a playoff spot.  Two wins plus New Orleans losing once clinches the division.  Two wins plus the Saints, Vikings, and Rams losing once would yield a bye seed.  They could get in with two losses if Detroit lost once and the Dallas/Seattle winner lost in Week 17.

Atlanta: One win clinches a playoff spot and two wins guarantees winning the division.  They could get in with two losses if Detroit lost once and the Dallas/Seattle winner lost in Week 17.

Detroit: Must win twice plus have New Orleans or Carolina or Atlanta lose both remaining games to get in as the #6 seed.

Seattle: Must win twice plus have the Rams lose twice to win the West division and be the #4 seed.  Failing that they must win twice plus have New Orleans or Carolina or Atlanta lose twice plus Detroit lose once to get in as the #6 seed.

Dallas: Must win twice plus have New Orleans or Carolina or Atlanta lose twice plus have Detroit lose at least once to get in as the #6 seed.

Merry Christmas!

NFL Playoff Picture 3 Weeks To Go

December 13, 2017

Below are the current conference standings, followed with team by team analysis on where things stand with three weeks to go.  Also, you will see that my playoff positioning in the AFC actually differs from what currently shows on NFL.com, and I will explain that in the standings.  So, starting as usual with the AFC:

  1. Pittsburgh (11-2)
  2. New England (10-3)
  3. Jacksonville (9-4)
  4. Kansas City (7-6) (head to head over Los Angeles for division lead)
  5. Tennessee (8-5)
  6. Baltimore (7-6) ([conference record drops Los Angeles from 3 way tie, then] record vs opponents common with Buffalo [officially Buffalo is currently ranked 6th in the conference because the minimum of 4 common games have not been played yet, and on the next tiebreaker, strength of victory, Buffalo has the edge.  However, if both teams win out to 10-6 Baltimore will win the common games tiebreaker 5-0 vs 4-1 {the Bills lost to Cincinnati}. Based on zero losses against opponents that will be common with Buffalo, I am ranking Baltimore 6th at this time])
  7. Los Angeles (head to head over Buffalo)
  8. Buffalo
  9. Oakland (6-7) (head to head over Miami)
  10. Miami
  11. New York (5-8) (conference record over Cincinnati)
  12. Cincinnati
  13. Houston (4-9) (conference record over Denver)
  14. Denver
  15. Indianapolis (3-10)
  16. Cleveland (0-13)

Pittsburgh: Has clinched their division and has scenarios to clinch a bye seed, or even the #1 seed, this weekend.  Winning two out of their last 3 games guarantees a bye seed, and winning the New England game this Sunday plus one of their last two would guarantee the #1 seed.

New England: Would clinch the division by winning this Sunday (or Buffalo losing).  Winning their last 3 games would guarantee the Patriots the #1 seed.  However, losing any of their last 3 games would leave them vulnerable to dropping out of the bye seed position.

Jacksonville: Would clinch a playoff spot by winning this Sunday.  They would win the division for sure if they beat Houston this Sunday and Tennessee in Week 17.  Winning out plus having New England lose once and/or Pittsburgh losing twice would give them a bye seed.

Kansas City:  If they beat Los Angeles Saturday night they would have to lose their last two games to fail to win the division.  Losing to Los Angeles however would leave them very vulnerable to missing the playoffs entirely.

Tennessee:  Winning their last 3 remaining games (49ers, Rams, Jaguars) would clinch the South division based on sweeping the series with Jacksonville.  As such, they can lose one of their next two games and still win the division if the Jaguars also lose one of their next two games.  Losing to Jacksonville would leave them vulnerable to missing the playoffs if both Baltimore and Buffalo win out as they would have the worst conference record at 10-6.

Baltimore: As detailed in the standings, if they win their last 3 games (Cleveland, Indianapolis, Cincinnati) they will get in as a wildcard.  Baltimore would also get in if Buffalo loses once and Baltimore’s loss is the Cleveland game, or if Buffalo’s loss is one of their games with Miami.

Los Angeles: If they win out they win the West division.  If they beat Kansas City but lose one of their last two games (Jets, Raiders) the Chiefs and/or Raiders beat them in ties at 9-7.  Also, the Chargers would need considerable help to get a wildcard at 9-7 as they would not win a tie that involves Baltimore.

Buffalo: If they win out to 10-6 they make the playoffs if Baltimore or Tennessee loses once.

Oakland: If they win out to 9-7 they win the division if Kansas City loses twice and they clinch strength of victory over the Chargers.  To get a wildcard would require considerable help as they would not survive a tie with either Baltimore or Buffalo.

Miami: To make the playoffs at 9-7 they would need Baltimore to lose twice or Baltimore to lose once and Tennessee lose twice.  They still have both games remaining with Buffalo and so would throw the Bills behind them.

New York & Cincinnati: Mathematically alive.

And now for the NFC:

  1. Philadelphia (11-2)
  2. Minnesota (10-3)
  3. Los Angeles (9-4) (head to head over New Orleans [head to head over Carolina for division lead])
  4. New Orleans (head to head over Carolina for division lead)
  5. Carolina
  6. Atlanta (8-5) (head to head over Seattle)
  7. Seattle
  8. Detroit (7-6) ([head to head over Green Bay for division rank] record vs opponents common with Dallas)
  9. Green Bay (head to head over Dallas)
  10. Dallas
  11. Arizona (6-7)
  12. Washington (5-8)
  13. Tampa (4-9) (head to head over Chicago)
  14. Chicago
  15. San Francisco (3-10)
  16. New York (2-11)

Philadelphia: Has clinched the division.  They can clinch a bye seed, or even the #1 seed, this weekend with a win and help.  Ultimately, winning their last 3 games guarantees the #1 seed.

Minnesota: Can clinch the division title by winning this Sunday.  Winning two of their last 3 games would suffice to clinch a bye seed unless Carolina wins the South division at 12-4; winning all 3 games removes doubt.

Lost Angeles: Has a 5 point scenario for clinching a playoff spot this weekend.  Winning the Seattle game this Sunday plus one of their two other games would clinch the West division.  If they lose to Seattle but win their other two games they should be at least a wildcard even if all 3 good teams in the South end up 11-5 based on their head to head win over New Orleans.  To get a bye seed they’ll need to win out and have either Minnesota lose two of their last three games or Philadelphia lose all 3 remaining games.

New Orleans: Wins the division by winning their last 3 games.  However, if they lose their rematch with Atlanta that opens the door for the Falcons to win the South, and losing any remaining game opens the door for Carolina.  Winning two of their final 3 games does guarantee a playoff spot given that the Carolina v Atlanta game can’t be won by both teams.  Winning out gives the Saints a chance at a bye seed; however they lost to the Vikings back in Week 1 so they need a decent amount of help.

Carolina: If I am reckoning things correctly, they are the team that could have the horrible luck of missing the playoffs at 11-5 if Atlanta wins the division at 11-5, the Saints end up 11-5, and Los Angeles is 2nd in the West at 11-5.  They would be 3rd in the South and the Rams would get the spot ahead of New Orleans.  That having been said, winning the Atlanta game and at least 1 of the 2 others would guarantee them a playoff spot, and they can win the division by winning out and having New Orleans lose a game (or other scenarios).  If they do win the division at 12-4 they would only need the Vikings to lose one game to get a bye seed.

Atlanta:  They are currently a wildcard but are not likely to end up a wildcard.  If they win out they win the South division at 11-5.  If they lose once down the stretch they can still get in as a wildcard if Seattle loses once or Los Angeles loses twice.

Seattle: If they win their last 3 games they win the West division by virtue of sweeping their head to head with the Rams.  If they lose once down the stretch and fail to win the West they would likely need Atlanta to lose twice, they could not win a head to head tie with Green Bay at 10-6, and if the loss was to Dallas they would also be vulnerable to a tie with the Cowboys at 10-6 (could also be vulnerable in a tie with Detroit).

Detroit: If they win out to 10-6 they still have a mathematical shot at winning the division.  They would lose a tie with Atlanta at 10-6 but would win a tie with Carolina and could survive a tie with New Orleans if it also involved other teams (Dallas or 2nd in the West).

Green Bay: Also could win the division at 10-6 if Minnesota lost out.  They are actually in somewhat better shape than Detroit; they would beat the Lions to push them behind, they do not fear a tie with Dallas, and they would win a tie with Carolina if the Panthers lose one of their last two games.  They also do not fear Seattle being at 10-6.  The only landmine is the Packers lose a tie with Atlanta.

Dallas: At 10-6 they are going to want the Detroit/Green Bay winner to have lost one of their other two games.  They would beat Seattle to get there, so the main thing the Cowboys need is for whoever ends up 3rd in the South to lose two of their final three games (they win a tie with New Orleans or Carolina at 10-6)

Arizona: Mathematically alive

And finally, here are the official clinching scenarios for Week 15 copy/pasted from NFL.com:

Philadelphia clinches homefield advantage throughout NFC playoffs:

1) PHI win + MIN loss

Philadelphia clinches a first-round bye:

1) PHI win

2) PHI tie + LAR loss or tie + NO loss or tie + CAR loss or tie

Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota clinches NFC North Division:

1) MIN win or tie

2) DET loss or tie + GB loss or tie

Minnesota clinches a playoff berth:

1) SEA loss + ATL loss + NO loss

2) SEA loss + ATL loss + CAR loss

3) SEA loss + ATL loss + DET loss or tie

4) SEA loss + ATL tie + NO loss + DET loss or tie

5) SEA loss + ATL tie + NO loss + CAR loss

Los Angeles Rams

LA Rams clinch a playoff berth:

LAR win + DET loss or tie + GB loss or tie + NO loss + ATL loss

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pitssburgh clinches homefield advantage throughout AFC playoffs:

1. PIT win + JAX loss or tie

Pittsburgh clinches first-round bye:

1. PIT win

2. PIT tie + JAX loss

New England Patriots

New England clinches AFC East Division:

1. NE win or tie

2. BUF loss or tie

New England clinches a playoff berth:

1. BAL loss or tie

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville clinches a playoff berth:

1. JAX win

2. JAX tie +BUF loss or tie

3. JAX tie + BAL loss or tie

4. BUF loss + BAL loss

5. BAL loss + KC-LAC game does not end in a tie

NFL Situation at the 3/4 Pole

December 7, 2017

With four weeks to go in the NFL season it would seem that the playoff picture is starting to take shape.  However, an NFL season usually is full of twists and turns and I assume this year will be no different; while a number of teams can clinch playoff spots this coming weekend, no one has cinched a spot yet.  Below are the current standings and analysis, starting with the AFC:

  1. Pittsburgh (10-2) (strength of victory vs New England [+1])
  2. New England
  3. Tennessee (8-4) (head to head over Jacksonville for division lead)
  4. Kansas City (6-6) (division record tiebreaker over Los Angeles and Oakland for division lead)
  5. Jacksonville (8-4)
  6. Baltimore (7-5)
  7. Los Angeles Chargers (6-6) ([head to head over Oakland for division rank] head to head over Buffalo)
  8. Buffalo (head to head over Oakland)
  9. Oakland
  10. New York Jets (5-7) ([division record winning percentage over Miami for division rank] conference record over Cincinnati)
  11. Miami (conference record over Cincinnati)
  12. Cincinnati
  13. Houston (4-8)
  14. Indianapolis (3-9) (conference record over Denver)
  15. Denver
  16. Cleveland (0-16)

At this point I would say the top 12 teams are all still alive for a playoff spot as the 2nd wildcard ending up 9-7 cannot be ruled out.  The Patriots and Steelers have win and clinch division scenarios this weekend; Jacksonville actually has a convuluted six games involved scenario to clinch a playoff spot in Week 14.  Each week that goes by continues to reinforce the thought that New England and Pittsburgh will likely end up with the two bye seeds with the December 17th game at Heinz Field likely going a long way to determining the #1 seed.  And each week that goes by continues to reinforce the notion that both the Titans and Jaguars will make the playoffs; one as the division winner and probably the #3 seed and the other as a wildcard.

The Chiefs continued free fall, losing 6 of 7 games after a 5-0 start, has pulled the West division race back wide open.  Kansas City, Oakland, and Los Angeles all have one game remaining with each other (the Chiefs and Raiders play each other this Sunday afternoon) so all 3 of them have complete control of their fate.  In their first matchups the Chiefs beat the Chargers but lost to the Raiders while the Raiders lost to the Chargers.

Baltimore is in great shape for getting a wildcard (can still win the division if they win at Pittsburgh this coming Sunday night).  They have a one game lead on Buffalo; if they end up tied it will also be with the same conference record but the Ravens currently have an advantage in the next tiebreaker, record vs common opponents.  If I am not missing something, if Baltimore loses to Pittsburgh but wins their last 3 games (their other 3 games are Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati) they will make the playoffs even if Buffalo wins out (2nd place in the West cannot be 10-6 because of the 3 tied teams all playing each other down the stretch).  Even a 3 way tie involving 2nd place in the South should not mess it up for Baltimore.  However, if the Ravens would lose at least 2 games and the Bills at least 1 more game, then that does bring the 2nd wildcard down to 9-7.  This could be advantage Jets or Dolphins as either of them would be 8-4 in the conference at 9-7 whereas Buffalo, Baltimore, and Kansas City would be 7-5 and Cincinnati, LA, and Oakland only 6-6.  This would be a bit of a chaos scenario figuring out which team wins the West and then interdependent scenarios of certain teams winning head to head ties but losing others vs multi-way ties that go to conference record, breaking ties for 2nd place in the division first, etc.

And now for the NFC:

  1. Minnesota (10-2) (strength of victory vs Philadelphia [+11])
  2. Philadelphia
  3. Los Angeles Rams (9-3) (head to head vs New Orleans)
  4. New Orleans
  5. Seattle (8-4) (conference record vs Carolina)
  6. Carolina
  7. Atlanta (7-5)
  8. Detroit (6-6) ([head to head over Green Bay for division rank] record vs opponents common with Dallas)
  9. Green Bay (head to head over Dallas)
  10. Dallas
  11. Washington (5-7) (conference record over Arizona)
  12. Arizona
  13. Tampa (4-8)
  14. Chicago (3-9)
  15. San Francisco (2-10) (head to head over New York Giants)
  16. New York Giants

In the NFC I would say 10 teams are still alive for a playoff spot and the 3 teams at 6-6 are hanging by the thread of a hope that the 2nd wildcard spot ends up at 10-6.  Of that group it continues to be true that Green Bay would be in the best position, as they have games left with Detroit who they need to climb ahead of, have already beat Dallas, and have a game left with Carolina which is a team they are trying to catch.  But if it ends up taking 11-5 to make the playoffs we are already down to 7 teams for 6 spots.

Atlanta is currently on the outside looking in, but they actually still control their fate for winning the South division.  A quirk of the schedule is that all of their remaining games are within the division including both games with New Orleans (Thursday Nigh football this week).  At 11-5 they would win the South.  On the other hand, even one loss down the stretch and they are going to need help to make it as a wildcard.  At this point the most likely scenario is that Los Angeles and Seattle both make the playoffs out of the West and that two teams from the South get in.

At the top the battle for bye seeds (and in fact the division itself in the South and West) figures to come down to the wire.  Minnesota is currently #1 by virtue of a much stronger strength of victory than Philadelphia (both have 1 conference loss and are undefeated against opponents they share in common).  At 13-3 New Orleans would only have 2 conference losses, which is what the Eagles or Vikings would likely also have at that record.  The Rams have 3 conference losses, however one of their wins was over the Saints.  Which is why I say this could really come down to the wire to see who maybe has a slip up or two with a lot of ties potentially coming down to record vs common opponents or strength of victory.  Obviously at this point Philadelphia and Minnesota control their fates for getting a bye seed, and they also have the luxury of having their divisions more or less salted away (with straightforward win and in clinching scenarios this weekend).  Los Angeles and New Orleans also have convoluted multi-step scenarios for clinching a playoff spot this weekend.

Below are the official clinching scenarios for Week 14 copy/pasted from NFL.com:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-2) (at Miami, Monday night)

New England clinches AFC East division with:

1. NE win or tie OR

2. BUF loss or tie

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (10-2) (vs. Baltimore, Sunday night)

Pittsburgh clinches AFC North division with:

1. PIT win or tie

Pittsburgh clinches a playoff berth with:

1. BUF loss or tie

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (8-4) (vs. Seattle, Sunday)

Jacksonville clinches a playoff berth with:

1. JAX win + BUF loss + MIA loss or tie + NYJ loss or tie + LAC loss or tie + OAK-KC game does not end in a tie

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-2) (at Los Angeles Rams, Sunday)

Philadelphia clinches NFC East division with:

1. PHI win or tie OR

2. DAL loss or tie

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-2) (at Carolina, Sunday)

Minnesota clinches NFC North division with:

1. MIN win or tie OR

2. DET loss or tie + GB loss or tie

LOS ANGELES RAMS (9-3) (vs. Philadelphia (10-2), Sunday)

Los Angeles Rams clinch a playoff berth with:

1. LAR win + DET loss or tie + GB loss or tie + DAL loss or tie + CAR loss + ATL loss

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (9-3) (at Atlanta, Thursday night)

New Orleans clinches a playoff berth with:

1. NO win + CAR loss or tie + DAL loss or tie OR

2. NO win + CAR loss + DET loss or tie OR

3. NO win + DET loss or tie + GB loss or tie OR

4. NO win + CAR loss + NO clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over DAL OR

5. NO win + CAR tie + NO clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over DAL and GB OR

6. NO win + CAR tie + GB loss or tie + NO clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over DAL

NFL Playoff Picture Entering December

November 30, 2017

Last week’s games maybe helped winnow the list of playoff contenders a little bit in each conference, but there weren’t many seismic shifts.  Below is the current standings and some analysis, starting as usual with the AFC:

  1. Pittsburgh (9-2) (strength of victory over New England [+3])
  2. New England
  3. Tennessee (7-4) (head to head over Jacksonville for division lead)
  4. Kansas City (6-5)
  5. Jacksonville (7-4)
  6. Baltimore (6-5) (conference record over Buffalo)
  7. Buffalo
  8. Cincinnati (5-6) (conference record over LA Chargers [head to head over Oakland for division rank])
  9. Los Angeles Chargers (head to head over Oakland)
  10. Oakland
  11. New York (4-7) ([division record winning percentage over Miami for division rank] conference record over Houston)
  12. Miami (conference record over Houston)
  13. Houston
  14. Indianapolis (3-8) (conference record tiebreaker over Denver)
  15. Denver
  16. Cleveland (0-11)

New England and Pittsburgh are now two games clear of the pack and therefore seem to be in strong position to get the two bye seeds in the playoffs, although nothing is clinched yet.  They play each other December 17th at Heinz Field in a game that figures to go a long way to deciding the top seed in the conference.  Tennessee and Jacksonville look good to both make the playoffs; both teams have head to head wins over Baltimore if they end up in a tie for a wildcard spot and both have strong conference records, especially Jacksonville at 7-2.  The Titans won the first head to head matchup with the rematch being Week 17.

Baltimore and Buffalo both won last week and so continue to be tied for the 2nd wildcard spot; both have 3 conference losses so while the Ravens have the tiebreaker right now with more conference wins that advantage could disappear depending on what games they win (and lose) to ultimately end up at, say, 10-6 or 9-7.  Cincinnati is also in a decent position one game behind.  They lost their first game against Baltimore but could have a huge re-match with them Week 17.  It would help the Bengals immensely for tiebreaking purposes if they could beat the Steelers this coming Monday Night or if the Ravens would inexplicably lose their remaining game with Cleveland.  The Bengals have a head to head advantage on Buffalo.

The Chargers and Raiders are also very much alive in the wildcard picture, but they are even more alive at this point in the West division race as the Chiefs continue to free-fall.  Both have a game remaining with the Chiefs and with each other so have a large measure of control over their fate, especially the Raiders who won their first contest with Kansas City.

The teams at 4-7 are still alive for a playoff spot but would need to win out to 9-7 and get a certain amount of help.  If anyone is in a better spot it’s Miami simply because they still have both games left with Buffalo and so can deal the Bills the two losses it would take to draw even with them.  They and the Jets both would be a relatively strong 8-4 in the conference at 9-7 which would also help in tiebreaking.

And now for the NFC:

  1. Philadelphia (10-1)
  2. Minnesota (9-2)
  3. Los Angeles Rams (8-3) (head to head tiebreaker over New Orleans [head to head tiebreaker on Carolina for division lead])
  4. New Orleans (head to head tiebreaker on Carolina for division lead)
  5. Carolina (8-3)
  6. Atlanta (7-4) (head to head over Seattle)
  7. Seattle
  8. Detroit (6-5)
  9. Green Bay (5-6) ([conference record drops Arizona from 3 way tie then] head to head over Dallas {head to head over Washington for division rank})
  10. Dallas ([head to head over Washington for division rank] head to head over Arizona)
  11. Washington (conference record over Arizona)
  12. Arizona
  13. Tampa (4-7)
  14. Chicago (3-8)
  15. New York (2-9)
  16. San Francisco (1-10)

Philadelphia is the one team that can clinch a playoff spot in Week 13, either by Washington beating Dallas on Thursday Night or by winning their game against Seattle Sunday Night.  The Eagles figure to win the division sooner or later.  But it actually would not take much of a stumble to drop from the #1 seed or even a bye position with the Vikings only one game behind them and the Rams and South leaders only two games back.  The Vikings also established a stranglehold on the North when they beat the Lions Thanksgiving afternoon.

New Orleans will play Carolina this coming Sunday with the winner moving/staying in first place in the South; if the Saints win that would complete a season sweep of the Panthers.  The Falcons are also still very much a factor only one game behind; they lost their first game against Carolina but still have both games with the Saints remaining to be played.  Unless teams stumble in their games other than the ones with each other the South does figure to get at least one wildcard.  All of those games with each other, however, makes it unlikely the South ends up placing both wildcards like it would right now.

In the West the Rams continue to lead Seattle by one game.  However, the Seahawks won the first matchup (in LA) so they also control their fate for trying to win the West.  Neither team can afford too many stumbles down the stretch with the NFC being as competitive at the top; as it is even 6 losses could be too many to make the playoffs.

Currently on the outside but still very alive is a group of teams lead by the Lions at 6-5.  Detroit may very well need to win out to 11-5 to make the playoffs however, as their resume includes losses to all 3 good South division teams.  They will attempt a Wayne Fontes-esque December charge starting this Sunday with a game at Baltimore that has sizeable implications for the wildcard races in both conferences.  The four teams at 5-6 are also still alive if they can win out to 10-6 and get a certain amount of help.  Again, the teams in the South division have a number of games left with each other so that could provide at least some of the help.  The Cowboys and Redskins play Thursday Night in essentially an elimination game.  For the winner, tiebreaking could be tricky as Dallas already lost to Atlanta and Washington already lost to New Orleans.  At 10-6 the Cowboys would have an 8-4 conference record which is better than most would probably have provided they are not tied with the wrong teams.  Green Bay would also be 8-4 in the conference at 10-6; if they can beat Tampa and Cleveland the next two weeks and get to 7-6 it would set up a potentially huge showdown with Carolina in Week 15 and then they could get Aaron Rogers back with a chance.

NFL Picture Entering Turkey Day

November 23, 2017

It’s that time of year again for me to dust off this blog and start taking a look at the NFL landscape.  At the time of this writing everyone in the league has cleared their bye week and played 10 games with six weeks remaining.  Below will be the conference standings and then some brief analysis.  Remember for tiebreakers divisional ties are broken first.  For purposes of my standings I will use the tiebreakers in the order they will be relevant at the end of the season, for example when appropriate I will use record vs common opponents even if less than 4 such games have been played at this point, knowing that after the full season a minimum of 5 such games will be played.  So without further preamble, here are the standings in the AFC:

  1. Pittsburgh (8-2) (conference record over New England)
  2. New England
  3. Jacksonville (7-3)
  4. Kansas City (6-4)
  5. Tennessee (6-4)
  6. Baltimore (5-5) (conference record over Buffalo)
  7. Buffalo
  8. Miami (4-6) ([division record over New York] conference record over Cincinnati, Houston, and Los Angeles [head to head over Oakland])
  9. New York (conference record over Cincinnati, Houston, and Los Angeles [head to head over Oakland])
  10. Cincinnati (conference record over Houston {winning percentage} and over Los Angeles [head to head over Oakland])
  11. Houston (conference record over Los Angeles [head to head over Oakland])
  12. Los Angeles (head to head over Oakland)
  13. Oakland
  14. Indianapolis (3-7) (conference record over Denver)
  15. Denver
  16. Cleveland (0-10)

While nothing is clinched, New England, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City (unless the Chiefs can’t arrest the skid they are on) look very good for winning their divisions.  The Steelers and Patriots play Week 15 at Heinz Field in a game that could end up going a long way towards deciding the #1 seed in the conference.  In the South both Jacksonville and Tennessee appear to be in good shape for making the playoffs; the Titans won the first meeting and the rematch is a current contender to be the NBC final game of the regular season Week 17.  If the Jaguars win the division they are currently only one game behind the Steelers and beat them in early October so are very much in contention for a bye seed.  Despite their recent funk, the Chiefs have a two game lead in the West division.

That then leaves the complete muddled mess for the last playoff spot.  Currently two teams are tied at .500 with then a half dozen teams one game behind at 4-6.  The AFC is currently a net -10 in games against the NFC which is why these records are so mediocre whereas, as I will detail below, better records would miss the playoffs in the NFC.  It’s really hard to say at this point who, if anyone, has a clear advantage.  Baltimore, Cincinnati, and the LA Chargers all have a game remaining with Cleveland.  The Ravens also (along with Buffalo) are at 5-5 instead of 4-6.  The Ravens, along with Buffalo and also Miami of the 4-6 group currently only have 3 conference losses whereas everyone else in the picture has 4 or 5.  Ultimately the last playoff spot will almost certainly go to a team that is at best 9-7 (I wouldn’t rule out 8-8) so everyone in the conference except the Browns still is very alive if they get hot down the stretch.  And yes, I know, there is even a 45 point scenario where Cleveland can get in at 6-10.  It involves a couple games ending in a tie.  Look it up if you dare lol.

And now for the NFC:

  1. Philadelphia (9-1)
  2. Minnesota (8-2) (head to head vs New Orleans)
  3. New Orleans
  4. Los Angeles (7-3)
  5. Carolina (7-3)
  6. Atlanta (6-4) (conference record over Detroit and Seattle)
  7. Detroit (conference record over Seattle)
  8. Seattle
  9. Green Bay (5-5) (head to head vs Dallas)
  10. Dallas
  11. Washington/Arizona (4-6) (same conference record and will play each other Week 15 {conference record winning percentage over Tampa})
  12. Arizona/Washington
  13. Tampa
  14. Chicago (3-7)
  15. New York (2-8)
  16. San Francisco (1-9)

Other than Philadelphia having the East division all but wrapped up, there is little clarity in the NFC at this point with 8 teams above .500 and two others at 5-5.  Minnesota can put themselves in great shape to win the North if they beat the Lions this afternoon.  And certainly the Vikings and Saints are both in good shape to at least make the playoffs.  But the Saints cannot relax at all with Carolina and Atlanta both with strong records.  Atlanta’s win over Seattle this past Monday night was huge; it moved the Falcons back into a playoff spot and also gave them a head to head advantage on the Seahawks should they be in a 2 way tie at the end.  Also, in a year where, as stated above, the NFC is +10 on the AFC, the Falcons are the counter-example.  They went only 1-3 playing the AFC East but have only one conference loss, which means they are in great shape for most tiebreakers outside their division.

In the West, the LA Rams currently have a one game lead but they did lose their first meeting against Seattle (at the Coliseum) so it does not take much stumbling for them to be in a perilous position.

Overall probably the Top 13 are still alive for a playoff spot with the teams at 5-5 or 4-6 needing to get hot down the stretch.  If any of them can it’s probably Dallas, although it might be a struggle the next month without Ezekiel Elliot.  Green Bay is even in worse shape though without Aaron Rogers.  On paper Washington would seem to have what it takes, but they have been finding ways to lose.  And with 5 conference losses already, even at 10-6 they might get left out.  Arizona on their 3rd string quarterback, and Tampa, feel like even longer shots.  It will almost certainly take 10-6 to make the playoffs, and it might even take 11-5 unless that disparity against the AFC narrows the next few weeks.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

NFL Playoff Picture at the Dawn of 2017

December 28, 2016

Last week did a lot to clarify things, as we went from having only 4 teams having clinched a playoff spot to 10, including all 6 in the AFC.  Let’s take a look at the parts of the picture that will be crystallized the 1st day of 2017, starting with the AFC standings:

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

New England is guaranteed a bye seed and will get the #1 seed if they win (or tie) or Oakland loses (or ties).  However, a Patriots loss coupled with a Raiders win would make Oakland the #1 seed as they would have a 5-0 to 4-1 advantage vs common opponents (Patriots lost to Buffalo while Brady was suspended).  The flip side of the coin for the Raiders is if they lose and Kansas City wins the Chiefs snag the division title and the #2 seed because they swept the Raiders in the head to head matchup.  Kansas City is currently #5 but could slip to #6 if they lose and Miami wins because the Dolphins would have a 4-1 to 3-2 advantage on the Chiefs against common opponents.  Pittsburgh is locked into the #3 seed; even if they lose and Houston wins in Week 17, the Steelers have an apparently insurmountable lead in strength of victory.  By my math it is currently +3 on Houston, and if that can be no better than tied, the Steelers would have an advantage on strength of schedule.

To summarize, possible final seeds are as follows: New England = 1 or 2.  Oakland = 1, 2, or 5. Pittsburgh = 3. Houston = 4. Kansas City = 2, 5, or 6. Miami = 5 or 6.

And now for the NFC:

  1. Dallas (13-2)
  2. Atlanta (10-5)
  3. Seattle (9-5-1)
  4. Green Bay (9-6) (head to head over Detroit)
  5. New York (10-5)
  6. Detroit (9-6)
  7. Washington (8-6-1)
  8. Tampa (8-7)
  9. New Orleans (7-8) (conference record over Minnesota)
  10. Minnesota
  11. Arizona (6-8-1)
  12. Carolina (6-9) (conference record over Philadelphia)
  13. Philadelphia
  14. Los Angeles (4-11)
  15. Chicago (3-12)
  16. San Francisco (2-13)

The most interesting team in this is Detroit.  The Lions currently sit in the #6 spot.  If they beat the Packers at home Sunday night they win the division.  They can move as high as the #2 seed and a first round bye that goes with it if they win and both Seattle and Atlanta lose (a tie suffices vis a vis the Seahawks) as they would have the record vs common opponents tiebreaker over the Falcons 4-1 vs 3-2.  However, if they lose and Washington wins, they miss the playoffs completely.

Green Bay cannot get the #2 seed because they lost head to head to Atlanta, but a win or a tie gives them the division title, and a Seahawks loss or tie would move them up to the #3 seed.  However, they also miss the playoffs completely if they lose and Washington wins.  Where it gets complicated is if Washington ties to finish at 8-6-2, which is considered the same as being 9-7.  The Lions would be fine with a Washington tie as they win that tiebreaker on conference record.  But if it is Green Bay that loses on Sunday night, Washington wins that tie on a head to head victory over the Packers unless Tampa is also 9-7.  This is where we get into the fun scenario.

Green Bay and Tampa would be 7-5 in the conference while Washington would be 6-5-1, so the Redskins would be out.  The tie between the Packers and Bucs then goes to strength of victory.  Currently the Packers hold the advantage but it is not insurmountable.  The Bucs can overtake the advantage if, beyond them winning, Green Bay losing, and Washington exactly tying (the Washington tie is necessary because, while they cannot have the Redskins win to be 9-6-1, a New York win over Washington would make Green Bay’s strength of victory prohibitively strong) the following four things happen.  Tennessee beats Houston (this denies Green Bay a boost to their strength of victory for having beat Houston).  Indianapolis beats Jacksonville (this denies Green Bay a boost to their strength of victory for having beat Jacksonville).  Dallas beats Philadelphia (this denies Green Bay the boost to their strength of victory for having beat Philadelphia).  And San Francisco beats Seattle (this boosts Tampa’s strength of victory as, while both them and Green Bay beat Seattle [so that is a wash], only Tampa played/beat San Francisco).  If all those things happen, Tampa wins the strength of victory.  And they must win this tie, as if this breaker is tied the Packers have clinched having the stronger schedule.

For Washington, things are simple; win and they are in unless the Green Bay v Detroit game ends in a tie, in which case they lose the tiebreaker with Detroit on conference record.

So, to summarize, here are the possible seeds by team.  Dallas = 1.  Atlanta = 2, 3, or 4.  Seattle = 2, 3, or 4.  Green Bay = 3, 4, 6, or out.  New York = 5.  Detroit = 2, 3, 4, 6, or out.  Washington = 6 or out.  Tampa = 6 or out.

Games to watch: basically any game I mentioned above.  Buffalo v New York, Baltimore, v Cincinnati, Cleveland v Pittsburgh, Minnesota v Chicago, and Arizona v Los Angeles can be safely ignored.  The two AFC South games are only a factor for the Tampa scenario.

And finally a fun fact that may interest only me: Dallas is 13-2 with their only losses being getting swept by the Giants while San Francisco is 2-13 with their only wins being sweeping Los Angeles.  Happy New Year everyone!

NFL Playoff Picture at Christmastime

December 21, 2016

With two weeks to go we still only know for sure four of the 12 playoff participants; New England and Seattle have clinched division titles while Dallas and Oakland have clinched at least a playoff spot.  We are at the point now where some things are fairly clear, but there are still a number of scenarios, so let’s dive in, starting as usual in the AFC.

  1. New England (12-2)
  2. Oakland (11-3)
  3. Pittsburgh (9-5)
  4. Houston (8-6) (head to head on Tennessee for division lead)
  5. Kansas City (10-4)
  6. Miami (9-5)
  7. Baltimore (8-6) (conference record on Tennessee & Denver)
  8. Tennessee (head to head on Denver)
  9. Denver
  10. Indianapolis (record vs opponents common with Buffalo)
  11. Buffalo
  12. Cincinnati (5-8-1)
  13. San Diego (5-9)
  14. New York (4-10)
  15. Jacksonville (2-12)
  16. Cleveland (0-14)

It continues to be the case that two teams control their destiny for winning both the North & South divisions.  In the North the Steelers would clinch the division by beating Baltimore Christmas evening.  However, the Ravens if they win would have a sweep of the head to head and so would definitely clinch by winning Sunday and their final game against Cincinnati.  That is also to say that, while currently listed as best team out, the Ravens really aren’t a serious factor in the wildcard race because at 10-6 they would win the division.  If the Steelers do lose to Baltimore but beat Cleveland and are failing to win the North at 10-6 however they would then be in the thick of the wildcard race.  Their main problem is they would need Miami to lose at least once and couldn’t be in a two way tie with the Dolphins because of head to head.  However, if Denver wins twice to make a 3-way tie (remember, 2nd place in the South cannot be 10-6 because Houston plays Tennessee in Week 17), conference record would drop Miami from the tie, then the Steelers edge Denver on record vs common opponents.  Alternately, if Kansas City loses twice they would stay ahead of Denver in the division standings; in a 3-way tie conference record again dismisses Miami and the Steelers get the #5 seed because of a head to head win over the Chiefs.  Or, even if Miami wins out to 11-5 if the Chiefs lose twice the Steelers win a head to head tie for the #6 seed.  If Baltimore loses once and is in the wildcard mix at 9-7 they would have a chance at the #6 seed if Miami loses twice and Denver at least once since they would have the superior conference record, or if Denver loses twice the Ravens have head to head over Miami.  The only complication here is if Houston is in the wildcard mix at 9-7 as they would also have a 7-5 conference record.  If applicable we’ll explore this scenario next week.

In the South division Houston can clinch this week if they win and Tennessee loses; the Texans would have tiebreakers on the Titans and/or the Colts.  Otherwise their Week 17 matchup can be for the division title.  For the Colts to win the division they need to win both remaining games, have both Houston & Tennessee lose in Week 16, then have the Titans beat the Texans.  This way, Houston is dropped to 8-8 and the Colts win a tie with the Titans on having swept them.  The Colts may have a shot at a wildcard if the Dolphins lose twice, neither Pittsburgh nor Baltimore is 2nd in the North at 9-7, Denver is no better than 9-7, and the Colts clinch strength of victory over Miami (and Denver if at 9-7).

In the East New England has clinched a bye seed and can clinch the #1 this weekend with a win and an Oakland loss.  Miami is in control of getting a wildcard; they would not be displeased if the Patriots do clinch the #1 this weekend and so are less worried about winning the Week 17 matchup.  If Miami ends up 10-6 because they lost to Buffalo but beat New England they should be fine if Pittsburgh is not involved in the tie because of record vs opponents common with Denver.  But if they’re 10-6 because they lose to the Patriots, their potential tie with the Broncos comes down to strength of victory.  Buffalo is still mathematically alive for the 2nd wildcard; they need two wins plus considerable help.

In the West Oakland is now back in the driver’s seat for winning the division and a bye seed; two wins and they have it.  However, if they lose to either Indianapolis or Denver it would let the Chiefs get back to the top given that Kansas City swept them in the head to head.  Short of winning the division, the Chiefs can clinch a playoff spot this weekend by winning or if Baltimore does not win (clinches that Pittsburgh would not be in the wildcard mix at 10-6).  Denver is still alive; it’s not as hopeless as it may look right now being listed 9th in the conference because at 10-6 they would jump 2nd place in the South and potentially 2nd place in the North.  But since they cannot end up ahead of Kansas City (division record tiebreaker at 10-6) they can only get the #6 seed and only if Miami loses the New England game and the Broncos have strength of victory tiebreaker (and Pittsburgh is not 2nd in the North at 10-6) or if Miami loses twice (and Pittsburgh is not 2nd in the North at 10-6).  This could be a year that a team, perhaps even two, in the AFC go 10-6 but miss the playoffs; a +3 over the NFC in cross-conference games plus teams padding records with wins over Cleveland and Jacksonville being among the culprits.

And now for the NFC:

  1. Dallas (12-2)
  2. Seattle (9-4-1)
  3. Atlanta (9-5) (strength of victory on Detroit)
  4. Detroit
  5. New York (10-4)
  6. Green Bay (8-6) (strength of victory on Tampa)
  7. Tampa
  8. Washington (7-6-1)
  9. Minnesota (7-7)
  10. New Orleans (6-8) (record vs opponents common with Carolina)
  11. Carolina
  12. Arizona (5-8-1)
  13. Philadelphia (5-9)
  14. Los Angeles (4-10)
  15. Chicago (3-11)
  16. San Francisco (1-13)

Green Bay is currently listed in a wildcard spot, but they will almost certainly not end up as a wildcard.  If they win their two remaining games they would win the North division title.  So Tampa with two wins is still likely to end up in the playoffs; the only thing that could block them is if Detroit beats Dallas but loses to Green Bay (after the Packers beat Minnesota) as Detroit would have a superior record vs opponents common with Tampa.  This is why the scenarios that have Tampa clinch a playoff spot this weekend all involve both the Lions and Packers losing this weekend so that 2nd in the North would then be 9-7.  It can also be noted that Tampa could survive Detroit being 2nd in the North at 10-6 if New York loses both remaining games.  Washington still has a chance at the wildcard if they win out to 9-6-1; they need Tampa to lose once (or Atlanta twice) and for Detroit to not be 2nd in the North at 10-6.

Dallas will clinch the East division and the #1 seed once they win once more or New York loses once more.  New York clinches a playoff spot with one more win or if someone of Detroit, Green Bay, Atlanta, or Tampa loses this weekend to ensure at least one of those divisions won’t have its 2nd place team be 10-6.

Atlanta, to use a baseball term, has a Magic Number of 2 to win the South division.  However, if they lose once more than Tampa down the stretch the Buccaneers would win a tie on division record.  If you watched Monday Night Football the infinitesimal scenario for Carolina to make the playoff was outlined.  If they’re still alive in a week we’ll explore it then.

Minnesota can still make the playoffs, but they need two wins plus Tampa losing twice and Washington losing once.  New Orleans needs two wins plus what Minnesota needs plus the Vikings losing to the Bears after beating the Packers and the Packers losing to the Lions.

Seattle should be able to lock up the #2 seed with games with Arizona and San Francisco remaining.  However, if they do lose it could open the door for Atlanta or Detroit.  Two losses could even open the door for Green Bay or Tampa Bay to jump all the way up to the #2 seed.

And now for Games to Watch in the coming dozen days:

Thursday December 22nd: Giants @ Eagles.  New York can clinch a playoff spot.  A loss clinches the #1 seed for Dallas, which could be great news for Detroit and bad news for anyone hoping Detroit loses to Dallas.

Saturday December 24th: Miami @ Buffalo.  Minnesota @ Green Bay. Tampa @ New Orleans. Indianapolis @ Oakland.

Sunday December 25th: Baltimore @ Pittsburgh.  Either the Steelers clinch the North or Baltimore retains control of its destiny (and teams that don’t want Pittsburgh 2nd in the North at 10-6 get nervous).  Denver @ Kansas City.  Either the Chiefs clinch a wildcard and keep hope alive to win the West and Denver is eliminated or the Broncos keep hopes alive while perhaps handing the West to the Raiders.

Monday December 26th: Detroit @ Dallas.  Cowboys perhaps trying to lock down the #1 seed.  Lions can clinch the North if Green Bay lost, or can be trying to preserve their 10-6 wildcard scenarios.

Sunday January 1st: Green Bay @ Detroit. New England @ Miami. Houston @ Tennessee. Perhaps other games as well, but the Green Bay and the Houston games seem at this time to be the two candidates for being flexed into Sunday Night Football.

And finally the official clinching scenarios for Week 16 copy/pasted from nfl.com:

NFC

DALLAS COWBOYS
Dallas clinches division title and home field advantage throughout playoffs:
1) DAL win or tie
2) NYG loss or tie

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Seattle clinches a first-round bye:
1) SEA win + DET loss + ATL loss or tie

NEW YORK GIANTS
NY Giants clinch a playoff berth:
1) NYG win or tie
2) DET loss or tie
3) GB loss or tie
4) TB loss or tie
5) ATL loss

DETROIT LIONS
Detroit clinches division title:
1) DET win + GB loss or tie
2) DET tie + GB loss

Detroit clinches a playoff berth:
1) DET win + TB loss or tie
2) DET tie + TB loss
3) DET tie + TB tie + ATL win
4) WAS loss or tie + TB loss + ATL win or tie

ATLANTA FALCONS
Atlanta clinches division title:
1) ATL win + TB loss or tie
2) ATL tie + TB loss

Atlanta clinches a playoff berth:
1) ATL win + ATL clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over DET
2) ATL win or tie + GB loss or tie
3) ATL win + DET loss or tie
4) ATL tie + DET tie
5) WAS loss or tie + GB loss
6) WAS loss or tie + GB tie + DET loss

GREEN BAY PACKERS
Green Bay clinches a playoff berth:
1) GB win + WAS loss or tie + TB loss + ATL win or tie + GB clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over TB

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Tampa Bay clinches playoff berth:
1) TB win + GB loss + DET loss + WAS loss
2) TB win + GB loss + DET loss + WAS tie + TB clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over DET

AFC

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
New England clinches home field advantage throughout AFC playoffs:
1) NE win + OAK loss or tie
2) NE tie + OAK loss

OAKLAND RAIDERS
Oakland clinches division title and a first-round bye:
1) OAK win + KC loss or tie
2) OAK tie + KC loss

PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Pittsburgh clinches division title:
1) PIT win

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Kansas City clinches a playoff berth:
1) KC win or tie
2) BAL loss or tie

HOUSTON TEXANS
Houston clinches a division title:
1) HOU win + TEN loss

MIAMI DOLPHINS
Miami clinches a playoff berth:
1) MIA win + DEN loss or tie
2) MIA tie + BAL loss + DEN loss + HOU loss or tie
3) MIA tie + BAL loss + DEN loss + TEN loss or tie

NFL Playoff Picture

December 13, 2016

The standings and playoff picture with three weeks to go, starting in the AFC:

  1. New England (11-2)
  2. Kansas City (10-3) (head to head tiebreaker on Oakland for division lead)
  3. Pittsburgh (8-5)
  4. Houston (7-6) (head to head on Tennessee for division lead)
  5. Oakland (10-3)
  6. Denver (8-5) (record vs opponents common with Miami)
  7. Miami
  8. Baltimore (conference record over Tennessee)
  9. Tennessee
  10. Indianapolis (6-7) (conference record over Buffalo)
  11. Buffalo
  12. Cincinnati (5-7-1)
  13. San Diego (5-8)
  14. New York (4-9)
  15. Jacksonville (2-11)
  16. Cleveland (0-13)

Remarkably with only 3 weeks to go no one in the conference has clinched a playoff spot, although New England can clinch the division, even a bye seed, this week while Oakland and Kansas City can both clinch playoff spots.  Barring something unforeseen we can bank on the Patriots getting a bye seed eventually along with the winner of the West with 2nd in the West being the #5 seed.

Pittsburgh can win the North division by beating Baltimore Christmas evening and winning either against Cincinnati this Sunday or against Cleveland the last day of the season.  Baltimore’s other games are against Philadelphia this Sunday and finishing with the Bengals, and the Ravens do still control their destiny for winning the North because a win at Heinz Field would complete a season sweep of the Steelers.  The Cincinnati 8-7-1 scenario survived thanks to the Ravens losing to the Patriots last night.  The Bengals need exactly the following to happen: win all 3 remaining games, the Ravens lose to Philadelphia but beat the Steelers, and the Steelers lose Week 17 to the Browns.

In the South Houston has the inside track because of a 4-0 division record.  Tennessee also now controls their destiny because winning out would include Week 17 against Houston (they needed the Colts to lose a game and got it last week).  However, if the Titans lose one more game in the next two than does Houston, the Texans would still have tiebreaker on division record.  The Colts are still alive but need a considerable amount of help seeing as how they are one game back and were swept by the Texans.

A race that could prove fascinating down the stretch in the AFC will be the one for the 2nd wildcard.  Right now Denver holds it by virtue of a better record vs opponents common with Miami.  However, the Broncos finishing schedule is brutal (New England, Kansas City, and Oakland).  Miami also has a game remaining with the Patriots, but also against the Jets and Bills which is seemingly easier.  However, the Dolphins will have to play with their backup quarterback for at least the next couple games.  If both lose once it could open the door for Pittsburgh if they are 10-6 but not winning the division.  The Steelers lost to Miami but if Denver is also in the tie Pittsburgh could win it on conference record.  Baltimore won’t be in the wildcard pool at 10-6, and 2nd place in the South can’t be as good as 10-6.  So while it seemed inconceivable really all season, given Denver’s schedule and Miami’s health, the 2nd wildcard slipping to a 9-7 team looks more plausible now.  If true a team that could favor is a Baltimore team that loses once down the stretch and has an 8-4 or 7-5 conference record.

And now for the NFC, which also remarkably only has one playoff spot clinched (Dallas) with three weeks to go:

  1. Dallas (11-2)
  2. Detroit (9-4)
  3. Seattle (8-4-1)
  4. Atlanta (8-5) (record vs opponents common with Tampa tiebreaker)
  5. New York (9-4)
  6. Tampa (8-5)
  7. Washington (7-5-1)
  8. Minnesota (7-6) (head to head over Green Bay)
  9. Green Bay
  10. Arizona (5-7-1)
  11. New Orleans (5-8) ([record vs opponents common with Carolina for division rank] conference record over Philadelphia)
  12. Carolina (conference record over Philadelphia)
  13. Philadelphia
  14. Los Angeles (4-9)
  15. Chicago (3-10)
  16. San Francisco (1-12)

Despite being swept by the Giants, Dallas seems likely to win the East division and the #1 seed.  Seattle can clinch the West division this weekend.  The Giants can clinch a playoff spot this weekend, and seem likely to sooner or later.

The race for the 2nd bye seed is wide open.  Detroit currently holds the advantage, but they have a tough finishing schedule with the Giants, Cowboys, and Packers.  One Lions loss puts the ball back in Seattle’s court.  Losses by both the Lions and Seahawks could put the ball in the court of the winner of the South.  Any tie with the Lions and either the Falcons or Bucs would come down to common games (or beyond).

In the North the Lions continue to hold a definite advantage and could clinch their first division title since I was in high school as soon as this weekend.  However, as I have written in previous weeks, one slip up and suddenly their Week 17 game against the Packers could be for the division title.  Minnesota, because of their poor division record, needs more considerable help.

The South division is pretty straightforward.  Atlanta has the tiebreaker and that won’t change if them and Tampa both win out.  If both lose once but the Falcons lose a division game while Tampa wins their remaining division games but loses to Dallas this Sunday night, that swings tiebreaking in the Bucs favor.

Assuming 2nd place in the East (New York) is a wildcard, that leaves a race for the 2nd wildcard spot.  Right now Tampa is guaranteed a playoff spot if they win out.  But losing once by them or Atlanta could let Washington back in; their finishing schedule of Carolina, Chicago, and then New York Week 17 when they could be locked into the #5 seed and coasting gives them a solid chance to end up 10-5-1.  One loss by both Tampa/Atlanta and Washington could also let 2nd place in the North back in the picture; Green Bay at 10-6 would have an 8-4 conference record.  Minnesota would need a couple losses by Atlanta or Tampa most likely because of a weaker conference record.

In conclusion, at the suggestion of a loyal reader, here is a list of “games to watch” the final 3 weeks of the season:

Week 15:

Tampa @ Dallas (Sunday Night)

Tennessee @ Kansas City (Titans push derailed or Raiders back in driver’s seat for #2 seed)

Indianapolis @ Minnesota (someone’s weak playoff chances end)

Detroit @ Giants

New England @ Denver

Week 16:

Minnesota @ Green Bay

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (NFL Network Christmas 4:30pm. Likely decides the North)

Denver @ Kansas City (Christmas night)

Detroit @ Dallas (Monday Night)

Week 17:

Green Bay @ Detroit

New England @ Miami

Houston @ Tennessee (could decide South)

Oakland @ Denver