Final NFL Standings and Playoff Schedule

Here are the final standings.  Below each conference I will put that conference’s complete playoff schedule.  Keep in mind that the Pro Bowl will be Sunday January 30th at 7pm and that Super Bowl XLV is Sunday February 6th at 6:25pm.  As usual we’ll start in the AFC.

1. New England (14-2)

2. Pittsburgh (12-4) (tiebreaker for North title on Baltimore record in division games)

3. Indianapolis (10-6) (head-to-head tiebreaker on Kansas City)

4. Kansas City

5. Baltimore (12-4)

6. New York (11-5)

7. San Diego (9-7)

8. Jacksonville (8-8) (head-to-head on Oakland)

9. Oakland

10. Miami (7-9)

11. Houston (6-10) (division record on Tennessee)

12. Tennessee

13. Cleveland (5-11)

14. Denver (4-12) (strength of victory tiebreaker on Cincinnati & Buffalo)

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

16. Cincinnati

AFC PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

6. New York @ 3. Indianapolis Saturday January 8th at 8pm NBC

5. Baltimore @ 4. Kansas City Sunday January 9th at 1pm CBS

Highest WC winning seed @ 2. Pittsburgh Saturday January 15th 4:30pm CBS

Lowest WC winning seed @ 1. New England Sunday January 16th 4:30pm CBS

Lower seed @ higher seed Sunday January 23rd 6:30pm CBS

As it turns out Baltimore lost the North division back in September when they lost at Cincinnati, causing a worse division record (4-2) than what Pittsburgh ended up with (5-1).  Basically, the bad luck of playing the Bengals when they started the season 2-1 and not during their 10 game losing streak.  On the other hand, the ranking of the two wildcard teams was determined back on the first Monday night of the season when the Ravens beat the Jets.  Kansas City won the West division despite going 2-4 in division games and only 6-6 in all conference games; they took care of business against the NFC West whereas everyone else took at least one loss in cross-conference play.  Oakland became the first team since the merger (1970) to miss the playoffs despite going undefeated in division games.  Oakland lost all 6 conference games played outside the division and went only 2-2 against the NFC West.  Also impressively, if that is the right word, Miami went 6-2 in road games but missed the playoffs by a substantial margin due to going only 1-7 at home.

And the NFC:

1. Atlanta (13-3)

2. Chicago (11-5)

3. Philadelphia (10-6) (division record tiebreaker on New York)

4. Seattle (7-9) (division record tiebreaker on St. Louis)

5. New Orleans (11-5)

6. Green Bay (10-6) (strength of victory tiebreaker on New York and Tampa)

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

8. Tampa

9. St. Louis (7-9)

10. Detroit (6-10) (division record tiebreaker on Minnesota; conference record on Dallas <ranked ahead of Washington within division on record in division games> and San Francisco)

11. Minnesota (conference record on Dallas and San Francisco)

12. San Francisco (record in common games with Dallas)

13. Dallas

14. Washington

15. Arizona (5-11)

16. Carolina (2-14)

NFC PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

5. New Orleans @ 4. Seattle Saturday January 8th 4:30pm NBC

6. Green Bay @ 3. Philadelphia Sunday January 9th 4:30pm Fox

Lowest WC winning seed @ 1. Atlanta Saturday January 15th 8pm Fox

Highest WC winning seed @ 2. Chicago Sunday January 16th 1pm Fox

lower seed @ higher seed Sunday January 23rd 3pm Fox

Obviously the topic du jour is Seattle being the first team in NFL history in a non-strike shortened season to make the playoffs with a losing record.  Then add to that they will get a home game against New Orleans, a full 4 games better record, because they qualified by winning their division.  I have not weighed in publicly on this topic over the past few weeks, but it has long been my feeling that division winners should make the playoffs regardless of record.  However, I would like to see a system where the teams are seeded based on record (one could use division champion status as a tiebreaker with teams at the same record).  In other words, let Seattle in but seed them 6th and send them on the road.  But that is not the system we have and now the Saints will try and contend with the “12th Man” in the Pacific Northwest Saturday afternoon.  Of course, those that lobby for leaving the Seahawks out entirely can look at the fact two teams with 10 wins are left out of the playoffs entirely.  The NFC had 7 “good” teams, basically, and then little mediocrity, as no one finished 9-7 or 8-8, and only the Seahawks and Rams finished 7-9.  Fully 9 of the 16 teams in the conference finished either 10-6 or 6-10.  Tampa missed on having weak tiebreakers and that Week 17 against New Orleans was the only time all season they beat a “good” team.  However, what really kept them out was losing a home game late season to Detroit; if they beat the Lions they are 11-5 and in the playoffs.  Carolina was the only team in the NFL to fail to win a division game.  San Francisco, like their Bay Area brethren, miss the playoffs despite doing well in division games.  The 49ers, like the Raiders, went 0-6 in non-division conference games, and in the case of San Fran that included a loss to lowly Carolina.  Theoretically, if they beat the Panthers and you change nothing else, the 49ers are the team that wins that division.

What I would like to conclude this blog post with is a piece of supposition.  What I will do is rank each conference purely based on record but using the same tiebreaking rules used to rank the division winners 1-4 and the rest of the conference 5-16 currently.  It might make for some interesting food for thought.  We’ll start with the AFC.

1. New England (14-2)

2. Pittsburgh (12-4) (divisional tiebreaker on Baltimore)

3. Baltimore

4. New York (11-5)

5. Indianapolis (10-6) (head-to-head on Kansas City)

6. Kansas City

7. San Diego (9-7)

8. Jacksonville (8-8) (head-to-head on Oakland)

9. Oakland

10. Miami (7-9)

11. Houston (6-10) (division record on Tennessee)

12. Tennessee

13. Cleveland (5-11)

14. Denver (4-12) (strength of victory tiebreaker on Cincinnati & Buffalo)

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

16. Cincinnati

As you can see it moved the wildcards into the home on wildcard weekend positions but nothing else changed.  Lets check the NFC

1. Atlanta (13-3)

2. New Orleans (11-5) (conference record on Chicago)

3. Chicago

4. Green Bay (10-6) (conference record on Philadelphia <division record tiebreaker on New York>, record in common games on Tampa

5. Tampa (conference record on Philadelphia)

6. Philadelphia

7. New York

8. Seattle (7-9) (divisional record on St. Louis)

9. St. Louis (7-9)

10. Detroit (6-10) (division record tiebreaker on Minnesota; conference record on Dallas <ranked ahead of Washington within division on record in division games> and San Francisco)

11. Minnesota (conference record on Dallas and San Francisco)

12. San Francisco (record in common games with Dallas)

13. Dallas

14. Washington

15. Arizona (5-11)

16. Carolina (2-14)

A little illustration of the importance of achieving the higher ranking in your division.  The Giants have tiebreaking advantage on Tampa but they don’t get to use it because they are behind the Eagles and the Eagles lose their tie with Tampa.  Or, we could go with what I suggested above and use division title as a tiebreaker and guaranteed playoff entry:

1. Atlanta (13-3)

2. Chicago (11-5) (division title status on New Orleans)

3. New Orleans

4. Philadelphia (10-6) (divisional record tiebreaker on New York; division title status on Green Bay and Tampa)

5. Green Bay (strength of victory tiebreaker on New York and Tampa)

6. Seattle (7-9) (division title status)

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

8. Tampa

9. St. Louis (7-9)

10. Detroit (6-10) (division record tiebreaker on Minnesota; conference record on Dallas <ranked ahead of Washington within division on record in division games> and San Francisco)

11. Minnesota (conference record on Dallas and San Francisco)

12. San Francisco (record in common games with Dallas)

13. Dallas

14. Washington

15. Arizona (5-11)

16. Carolina (2-14)

Bottom line is: methodology matters!  Enjoy the playoffs!

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