NFL Playoff Picture After Week 13

The NFL regular season is now at the 3/4 pole and coming down the homestretch.  Below is the playoff picture in each conference and also some quick thoughts on the big picture.  As per usual, I’ll start in the AFC:

1. Tennessee, 2. Pittsburgh, 3. New York, 4. Denver, 5. Indianapolis (h2h wrt Bal) 6. Baltimore at 8-4

1 game back of 6th: 7. New England (div rec wrt Miami), 8. Miami

2 games back of 6th: 9. Buffalo

3 games back of 6th: 10. Houston

Playing for ’09: 11. San Diego (still technically alive in division race) 12. Cleveland, 13. Jacksonville, 14. Oakland, 15. Kansas City, 16. Cincinnati

Big picture: I included Buffalo and Houston as still alive because they technically are, but I see this as being down to 8 teams for 6 spots.  Tennessee and Denver will be able to clinch their divisions this weekend and obviously for the Titans at 11-1 making the playoffs is a fait accompli.  So that leaves 6 teams for 4 spots.  Either Pittsburgh or Baltimore will win the North.  The Steelers are one game up and their 8-1 conference record means they win the division for sure with a 3-1 record down the stretch, even if the loss is the Baltimore game.  Baltimore also has a very good 7-3 conference record with the other conference game (besides the Steelers) being Jacksonville they should finish either 8-4 or 9-3.  They did lose to the Colts who only have 2 conference losses.  Which is to say, New England and Miami are only one game back, but all of the Pats 5 losses are in conference, one of them being Indy, and 4 of Miami’s losses are in conference, one of them being Baltimore.  Those teams are not dead by any stretch but they might have to win out to get a wildcard spot.  As for the East race, New York is sitting well there, but that could change, especially if they lose their remaining game with Miami or Buffalo.  They only have 1 divisional loss right now, but taking a 2nd loss could even that mark with what New England and Miami have and kick the tiebreaking to record against opponents common to everyone in the division, and the Jets are currently one loss worse than both the Pats and Fins due in part to an early season loss to Oakland.  As things currently stand, the Jets would need the Steelers to lose twice and Baltimore once to get back into position for earning a bye seed, and New England, Miami, and Denver would need massive help to bypass wildcard weekend.

NFC:

1. New York, 2. Tampa Bay (h2h & div rec wrt Carolina) 3. Minnesota (conf rec wrt Arizona), 4. Arizona, 5. Carolina, 6. Atlanta (conf record wrt Dallas) at 8-4

tied for 6th: 7. Dallas

1 game back of 6th: 8. Washington

1.5 games back of 6th: 9. Philadelphia

2 games back of 6th: 10. Chicago (1 game back of div lead), 11. New Orleans

3 games back of 6th: 12. Green Bay (2 games back of div lead)

3 games back of div lead: 13. San Francisco

Playing for ’09: 14. Seattle, 15. St. Louis, 16. Detroit

Big Picture: The NFC is probably the more wide open conference with 4 weeks to go.  It is a fait accompli that New York and Arizona will win their divisions, with essentially leaves 10 teams for 4 spots.  Tampa and Carolina are both in strong positions with their 9-3 records and having only 2 and 3 conference losses respectively.  But the loser of their rematch this coming Monday night could find themselves in in the playoffs on tiebreaker only if Atlanta and Dallas both win.  Right now the Cowboys would watch the playoffs on TV with an 8-4 record.  While I doubt anyone that gets to 11 wins will be left out, it is certainly possible.  Certainly a 10-6 might get the fuzzy end of the lollipop.  Right now Atlanta has one less conference loss than the Cowboys but all of their remaining games are in the NFC so any losses they take would harm that.  Dallas still has games left with Pittsburgh and Baltimore so losing one of them would be less killer.  What looms large in a couple weeks is their rematch with the Giants.  They probably can’t catch New York, but losing that game, or their end of season battle with Philadelphia, would be a 3rd division loss and ruin the tiebreaking edge they have on the Redskins (remember, for wildcard spots you break division ties first and go from there.  If you’re not 2nd in your own division your only hope is the 6th seed if 2nd place is 5th).  The ‘Skins one game back might need to run the table, but if they do they would have an 8-4 conference record and that should work out for them, though no guarantees.  Philadelphia would certainly need to run the table to get to 10-5-1.  They would still need some help in pulling teams down to 10-6.  As for the NFC North, Minnesota’s win Sunday night puts them in the advantage position and would win at 10-6 unless the loss was remarkably the Lions game left on their schedule.  Assuming they win that game, their current one game edge in games common within the division and 2 game edge in conference games would hold off the Bears.  The Packers are still alive if they can get to 9-7 that would be a 5-1 division record so they would win any ties in the division.  It would include handing the Bears their 7th loss so basically they need the Vikings to lose 2 of their last 4.  It certainly looks like the Giants and whoever wins the South will get the bye seeds (Giants can clinch that this week with a win) but its not carved in stone yet.

I plan on hoisting a seperate posting later tonight on what can officially be clinched this coming weekend.  Enjoy the last month of the season!

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