NFL Playoff Picture After Week 13

Here are the current playoff standings in the AFC:

BYES

1. New England (10-2)

2. Pittsburgh (9-3)

WILDCARD PAIRINGS

6. Baltimore (8-4) @ 3. Kansas City (8-4)

5. New York (9-3) @ 4. Jacksonville (7-5)

IN THE HUNT

7. Oakland (6-6) (head-to-head tiebreaking on San Diego for divisional ranking, conference record on Miami, conference record w/ Colts tied next tiebreaker common games record nfl.com lists Raiders ahead)

8. San Diego (conference record on Indianapolis & Miami)

9. Indianapolis (conference record on Miami)

10. Miami

MATHEMATICALLY ALIVE

11. Houston (5-7) (divisional tiebreaking on Tennessee, conference record on Cleveland)

12. Cleveland (conference record on Tennessee)

13. Tennessee

MATHEMATICALLY ELIMINATED

14. Denver (3-9)

15. Buffalo (2-10) (head-to-head on Cincinnati)

16. Cincinnati

A cautionary tale on the top seeds: Going into last weekend the national media hyped the primetime games as battles for the East and North divisions as if the winners would clinch those titles.  That of course is an over-simplification.  If Baltimore or New York had won they would’ve clinched tiebreaking with head-to-head sweeps and been in great shape.  To be sure, New England and Pittsburgh are in good shape with their wins and 1 game leads, but things could turn quickly.  The Steelers will clinch tiebreaking on division record if they beat both Cincinnati and Cleveland down the stretch; they can lose either the Jets game or Carolina game and still definitely win the division.  The Patriots margin is thinner; losing either remaining division game (which are their only 2 remaining conference games also) could definitely hand the edge back to the Jets.  Of course, both teams are in great shape for at least making the playoffs; indeed both the Pats and Steelers, along with the Jets, have scenarios in which they can clinch a playoff spot this weekend, and those formulas will be attached at the bottom of this post.

As a whole the conference remains very stratified.  One interesting thing is the Chiefs do have an outside shot at a bye seed though they aren’t likely to have tiebreaking advantage on the winners of the North or East.  There are a number of teams at 6-6 or 5-7 that still have a chance if one of the top teams has a horrible 4th quarter.  Oakland is in great shape to win the division if they can win their rematch with the Chiefs and get Kansas City to lose one of the other 3 games as the Raiders are still undefeated in division games.  The Colts would win the South if they win out as that would involve beating the Jaguars and my numbers show they would have tiebreaking advantage at 10-6.  Houston and Tennessee are also alive for the South if they win out and get a modicum of help.  Another scenario to keep in mind is that of the Browns.  If they could manage to win out and get to 9-7 and get the Ravens to go 1-2 in their other 3 games, they would be 2nd in the North.  Then it just takes some help for 2nd place in the South and West, and 3rd place in the East, to be either behind them or a combination tie they win.  Its not a terribly likely scenario, especially the longer Colt McCoy is out and Jake Delhomme is in, but it only takes one team really collapsing.

And now for the NFC picture:

BYES

1. Atlanta (10-2)

2. Chicago (9-3)

WILDCARD WEEKEND

6. New York (8-4) (conference record over Green Bay) @ 3. Philadelphia (8-4) (head-to-head tiebreaker over Giants for division)

5. New Orleans (9-3) @ 4. St. Louis (6-6) (head-to-head tiebreaker over Seattle for division)

IN THE HUNT

7. Green Bay (8-4)

8. Tampa Bay (7-5)

9. Seattle (6-6)

MATHEMATICALLY ALIVE

10. Minnesota (5-7) (conference record on Washington)

11. Washington

12. Dallas (4-8) (conference record on San Francisco)

13. San Francisco {“Mathematically Alive” in division race}

14. Arizona (3-9) {“Mathematically Alive” in division race}

MATHEMATICALLY ELIMINATED

15. Detroit (2-10)

16. Carolina (1-11)

A potentially crippling loss for Tampa on Sunday as it most likely relegates them to 3rd place in the division, which would mean their only hope of the playoffs would be as the 6th seed.  Still, if they can win out from here that could very well happen as someone would lose the Giants/Eagles rematch and the Packers could lose another game.  Tiebreaking advantage is not guaranteed but likely to favor the Bucs.  All 4 division races are far from settled with a remaining contest between the currently 1st and 2nd place teams.  Atlanta has scenarios by which they can clinch a playoff spot this weekend (see below).  The Bears have a very difficult finishing schedule as they play the Jets, Patriots, re-awakened Vikings, and Packers; I can easily see them tumbling out of the playoff picture, or at least down to a wildcard spot.  To me the Giants/Eagles race is a toss-up.  As it is the wonderful West which appears to be down to the Rams and Seahawks, though the 49ers could still win it at 8-8 as they would have tiebreaking advantage it would seem.  The Cardinals theoretically could win it at 7-9 but a quick glance at the numbers they have to have the Rams/Seahawks game end in a tie.

And now for the Week 14 clinching scenarios:

AFC

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
New England clinches a playoff spot with:
1) NE win or tie OR
2) MIA loss or tie + JAC loss or tie OR
3) MIA loss or tie + IND loss or tie
There are other scenarios in which New England may clinch a playoff spot if they clinch the strength of victory tiebreaker over certain teams this weekend.

NEW YORK JETS
New York Jets clinch a playoff spot with:
1) NYJ win + SD loss or tie + JAC loss or tie OR
2) NYJ win + SD loss or tie + IND loss or tie OR
3) NYJ tie + OAK loss or tie + SD loss + IND loss

PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Pittsburgh clinches a playoff spot with:
1) PIT win + JAC loss or tie + NE win or tie + MIA loss or tie OR
2) PIT win + IND loss or tie + NE win or tie + MIA loss or tie OR
3) PIT win + IND loss or tie + NE win or tie + OAK loss or tie + SD loss or tie OR
4) PIT win + IND loss or tie + MIA loss or tie + OAK loss or tie OR
5) PIT tie + MIA loss or tie + OAK loss or tie + SD loss or tie + IND loss
There are other scenarios in which Pittsburgh may clinch a playoff spot if they clinch the strength of victory tiebreaker over certain teams this weekend.

NFC

ATLANTA FALCONS
Atlanta clinches a playoff spot with:
1) ATL win + NYG loss + PHI loss OR
2) ATL win + NYG loss + GB loss OR
3) ATL win + PHI loss + GB loss OR
4) ATL tie + NYG loss + PHI loss + GB loss + TB loss or tie
There are other scenarios in which Atlanta can clinch a playoff spot if any of the games involving NYG, PHI or GB ends in a tie.

To quickly distill the Steelers scenario, its a combination of results that allows them to clinch no worse than 2nd in the North (clinch against the Browns), make sure the Patriots are not 2nd in the East at 10-6 or that they are tied for 5th and not 6th, and make sure they have survivable scenarios with 2nd in the South and 2nd/3rd in the West.  In other words, its hard to quickly distill.

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