NFL Standings After Week 16

Like a week ago I will include my projections for the TV schedule come playoff time; it is little changed from 7 days ago.  As usual we’ll start in the AFC:

BYES

1. New England (13-2) [clinched #1 seed] {Sunday January 16th at 4:30pm on CBS vs lowest remaining seed}

2. Pittsburgh (11-4) (division record tiebreaker on Baltimore) [clinched playoff spot] {Saturday January 15th at 4:30pm on CBS vs 2nd lowest remaining seed}

WILDCARD WEEKEND

6. New York Jets (10-5) [clinched wildcard] @ 3. Kansas City (10-5) [clinched division] {Sunday January 9th at 1pm on CBS}

5. Baltimore (11-4) [clinched playoff spot] @ 4. Indianapolis (9-6) {Saturday January 8th at 4:30pm on NBC}

IN THE HUNT (for AFC South title)

8. Jacksonville

MATHEMATICALLY ELIMINATED

7. San Diego (8-7) (head-to-head on Jacksonville)

9. Miami (7-8) (head-to-head on Oakland)

10. Oakland

11. Tennessee (6-9)

12. Houston (5-10) (conference record on Cleveland)

13. Cleveland

14. Denver (4-11) (strength of victory tiebreaker on Buffalo and Cincinnati)

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

16. Cincinnati

As you can see the AFC picture is relatively simple with just a few things left to iron out.  Indianapolis has the South division unless they lose and Jacksonville wins in Week 17.  Kansas City has won the West and will be the #3 seed unless they lose and Indianapolis wins, in which case the Colts are #3 and the Chiefs #4.  Pittsburgh is currently holding the North and the #2 seed, but if they have a worse Sunday than Baltimore the Ravens claim that #2 spot.  The North runner-up is the #5 seed unless Pittsburgh loses, Baltimore wins,  and New York wins, in which case the Jets move up to #5 and the Steelers drop to #6.

A couple quick oddities:  If the Dolphins win Sunday at New England, which could happen if the Patriots treat this like a preseason game, Miami would end up 8-8.  Not your normal 8-8, however, as they would be a stellar 7-1 on the road (losing to Baltimore) but a hideous 1-7 at home (beating Tennessee).  If Oakland beats Kansas City (and the Chiefs might very well treat the game like their bye week) the Raiders would be 6-0 in the division but finish 2nd or 3rd because they went 2-8 in non-division games.  Conversely, the Chiefs if they lose would win the division despite only being 2-4 against the West because they went 8-2 in outside games.  Two games can be explained by the fact the Chiefs got to play Cleveland and Buffalo while Oakland played Pittsburgh and Miami (with the misfortune of getting the Dolphins at home).  But even setting that aside it is a huge discrepancy.

Now for the NFC:

BYES

1. Atlanta (12-3) [clinched playoff spot] {Sunday January 16th at 1pm on Fox vs lowest remaining seed}

2. Chicago (11-4) [clinched bye seed] {Saturday January 15th at 8pm on Fox vs 2nd lowest remaining seed}

WILDCARD WEEKEND

6. Green Bay (9-6) (strength of victory tiebreaker on New York and Tampa) @ 3. Philadelphia (10-5) [clinched #3 seed] {Saturday January 8th at 8pm on NBC}

5. New Orleans (11-4) [clinched playoff spot] @ 4. St. Louis (7-8) {Sunday January 9th at 4:30pm on Fox}

IN THE HUNT

7. New York (record in common games on Tampa)

8. Tampa

9. Seattle (6-9) (conference record on Washington, record in common games vs Minnesota) (“In the Hunt” for West division only)

MATHEMATICALLY ELIMINATED

10. Minnesota (conference record on Washington)

11. Washington

12. Detroit (5-10) (conference record on Dallas and San Francisco [San Francisco has higher rank in division on Arizona via division record])

13. San Francisco (record in common games on Dallas)

14. Arizona (head-to-head on Dallas)

15. Dallas

16. Carolina (2-13) [clinched #1 pick in 2011 Annual Selection Meeting]

With one week to go the NFC playoff picture is a bit more fluid.  If Atlanta beats moribund Carolina they will clinch the #1 seed, lock Chicago in at #2, and lock New Orleans in at #5.  If the Falcons suffer a stunning loss the Saints get the #1 seed with at win, Chicago is again locked at #2, and Atlanta slips to #5.  If the Saints also lose and Chicago wins, the Bears are #1, Atlanta #2, and New Orleans #5.  If all three teams lose, the current standings hold.  The winner of the Rams @ Seahawks game Sunday night will “win” the West and the #4 seed.  Charlie Whitehurt will reportedly start because Matt Hasselback was injured Sunday against Tampa.  The ironic thing is the game was completely meaningless to Seattle.  Once San Francisco lost earlier in the day, the tiebreakers dictated that the winner of their game with the Rams in Week 17 would claim the West.

We have 3 teams alive for the #6 seed.  At either 10-6 (everyone wins) or at 9-7 (everyone loses) Green Bay has all the tiebreakers.   They have the strength of victory tiebreaker in the 3-way ties.  They have head-to-head if tied with just New York.  And they have it on record in common games against Tampa.  The Giants can claim the playoff spot with a win and a Packers loss, as they also have tiebreaking on Tampa.  The Bucs need to win and have both the Packers and Giants lose.  Both the Giants and Bucs could be hurt by the schedule.  If Atlanta beats Carolina in a 1pm start it will lock the Bears (who play the Packers) into the #2 seed, so its an open question on how motivated they would be to beat the Packers.  Historically speaking they will be motivated, but its not the same as needing the game for personal gain.  Its paradoxical, but when the Vikings beat the Eagles an hour ago it helped the Packers and hurt the Giants because it allowed the Bears to have the bye seed clinched before Week 17.

Attached below are the official clinching scenarios for Week 17 that I tried to elucidate in the above paragraphs:

NFC

ATLANTA FALCONS
Atlanta clinches NFC South division and home-field advantage:
1) ATL win or tie
2) NO loss or tie + CHI loss or tie

Atlanta clinches division and a first-round bye:
1) NO loss or tie

CHICAGO BEARS
Chicago clinches home-field advantage:
1) CHI win + ATL loss + NO loss or tie

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
New Orleans clinches NFC South and home-field advantage:
1) NO win + ATL loss

GREEN BAY PACKERS
Green Bay clinches a playoff spot:
1) GB win
2) GB tie + NYG loss or tie + TB loss or tie
3) NYG loss + TB loss

NEW YORK GIANTS
NY Giants clinch a playoff spot:
1) NYG win + GB loss or tie
2) NYG tie + GB loss + TB loss or tie

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Tampa Bay clinches a playoff spot:
1) TB win + NYG loss or tie + GB loss or tie
2) TB tie + NYG loss + GB loss

ST. LOUIS RAMS
St. Louis clinches NFC West division:
1) STL win or tie

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Seattle clinches NFC West division:
1) SEA win

AFC

PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Pittsburgh clinches AFC North division and a first-round bye:
1) PIT win
2) PIT tie + BAL loss or tie
3) BAL loss

BALTIMORE RAVENS
Baltimore clinches AFC North division and a first-round bye:
1) BAL win + PIT loss or tie
2) BAL tie + PIT loss

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Indianapolis clinches AFC South division:
1) IND win or tie
2) JAC loss or tie

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Jacksonville clinches AFC South division:
1) JAC win + IND loss

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