NFL Playoff Picture

With Week 15 almost in the books save a Monday Night game where you figure you can probably guess the winner in advance (although this Eagles team did fail to beat the Bengals a month ago; the Browns seem rather enervated at this point), I figured I’d take a quick spin through the league, division by division.

AFC East:

3 teams are tied at 9-5 with the Bills out of it 3 games back.  The Jets and Dolphins play each other Week 17 after playing very winnable games in Week 16 and they control their destinies for the division.  The Jets would win a tie over New England at 11-5 on division record; Miami would on conference record.  The Patriots needs one of those teams to lose this coming Sunday then win the Week 17 showdown game (or for the Jets & Dolphins to end in a tie).  Of course, failing the division, New England is alive in the wildcard race; the most realistic scenario for them getting in is for Baltimore (who they also lose a tie to on conference record) to take a 6th loss this Saturday night at Dallas.  Any of these teams would be hurting for a wildcard at 10-6 unless Baltimore loses both remaining games, and Week 17 they host Jacksonville.

AFC North:

The Steelers clinched the division and a first round bye with yesterday’s win in Baltimore.  If they beat Tennessee and Cleveland they will snag the #1 seed in the conference.  As for the Ravens, they control their fate for a wildcard.  Win their last 2 games and they are in, probably as the 6th seed.  Lose a game, though, and they need not more than one team in the East to finish 11-5, or for the Colts to lose both remaining games.

AFC South:

Tennessee has clinched the division (the Colts could tie them but the Titans win that on records against opponents common) and clinch the #1 seed if they beat the Steelers Sunday.  The Colts at 10-4 are in excellent position to claim a wildcard; they should lock being the #5 seed by winning either remaining game; they have head to head wins over Baltimore and New England and would be 9-3 in the conference if ending 11-5 overall for multi-way ties.  Houston at 7-7 I believe is eliminated even if they get to 9-7 and Baltimore and 2/3 of the East collapse because of their mediocre conference record.

AFC West:

San Diego still has a chance to win this division at 8-8.  They must beat Tampa Sunday and have Denver to lose to Buffalo to set things up for their rematch with the Broncos Week 17.  The Chargers would win that tie on division record because Denver lost once to Oakland and Kansas City and the Chargers avoided that.  Any wins or ties by the Broncos and they do seal it up with some fashion of a winning record, or if the Chargers don’t win the Tampa game they can backdoor it.

NFC East:

Only division where all 4 teams are still alive, although the list of things that need to happen for Washington to make it at 9-7 is rather daunting.  New York has clinched the division and would clinch the #1 seed if they beat Carolina Sunday night.  On the other hand, if they lose to Carolina and Minnesota beats Atlanta, they would have to win or tie their Week 17 contest with the Vikings to get a bye seed.  Dallas would currently make the playoffs as the #5 seed because of their better record against opponents common with Atlanta (a head to head win over Tampa comes into play if the Bucs move back into 2nd in the South).  But its a precarious position as both remaining games are losable; home with Baltimore and at Philadelphia.  Speaking of the Eagles, if they win tonight they will be 8-5-1 with 2 games left, and winning out to 10-5-1 would involve putting Dallas behind them in the standings.  Basically, they need to win their remaining games and have either Tampa or Atlanta lose once.  Like I said, the Redskins are alive, but they have to win out, and then have all but one of the following happen: 1) Dallas loses out, 2) Philadelphia loses both of their remaining non-Dallas games, 3) Atlanta loses out, 4) Tampa loses out, 5) Chicago loses once

NFC North:

Minnesota is one more win or Chicago loss from clinching the division.  They can still clinch the #2 seed in the conference if they win both remaining games and New York loses to Carolina or Carolina loses to both New York and Week 17 to New Orleans.  Failing the division, the Bears are still alive for a wildcard but they would need to win both remaining games and get considerable help.

NFC South:

Carolina controls their destiny for the #1 seed; they have it if they beat the Giants Sunday night.  On the other hand, they technically have not even clinched a playoff spot, though to miss they would have to lose their last 2 games and have Dallas, Tampa, and Atlanta all win their last 2.  In that scenario they would be 3rd in their own division.  It is my understanding that Atlanta currently has tiebreaking advantage over Tampa, but if both win out to 11-5, they have identical division, opponents common, and conference records and it goes to strength of victory (I will need to crunch these numbers when my vacation starts later this week).  I am not sure you can say either Atlanta or Tampa controls their destiny fully, but at least one of them would get in at 11-5.  The Falcons and Bucs both lose tiebreakers with Dallas; Atlanta on record against opponents common (3 losses to 1 with Dallas only having one game factoring in that figure remaining) and Tampa on a head to head loss when Romo was out hurt.  Tampa has the softer remaining schedule of the two hosting San Diego and Oakland.  Atlanta plays Minnesota and then hosts St. Louis in what should be an easy one (but sometimes easy looking games in Week 17 prove not to be).  New Orleans can still get to 9-7 like Washington but their conference record is weaker which is why they cannot make the playoffs.

NFC West:

Arizona clinched this division and the only way they are seeded 3rd instead of 4th is if they win both remaining games and Minnesota loses out.

Hope that cleared it up for people.  I plan on hoisting my usual conference standings, clinch scenario, and coverage map posts in the next 24-48 hours and will put up other updates as necessary and prudent.

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