NFL Picture After Week 15

We are down to two weeks remaining in the season.  At this point, the scenarios are simple enough that it is more possible to wrap the brain around them, so I am going to post the conference standings as I have been doing, then the analysis will be more extensive, basically explaining the scenarios for each team that is still alive.  Teams currently out of the playoffs in both conferences still control their destiny; indeed the teams currently seeded 8th & 9th in the NFC do so while the team seeded 6th does not.  I shall start in the AFC:

1. Houston <clinched division> (12-2)

2. Denver <clinched division> (11-3)

3. New England <clinched division> (10-4)

4. Baltimore <clinched playoffs> (9-5)

5. Indianapolis (9-5)

6. Cincinnati (8-6)

In The Hunt

7. Pittsburgh (7-7)

9. Miami (6-8)

Eliminated

8. New York (6-8) (division record on Miami for division rank)

10. Cleveland (5-9) (conference record drops Buffalo & Tennessee from tie, then head-to-head on San Diego)

11. San Diego (conference record on Buffalo & Tennessee

12. Tennessee (head-to-head on Buffalo)

13. Buffalo

14. Oakland (4-10)

15. Jacksonville (2-12) (conference record on Kansas City)

16. Kansas City

Houston has clinched the South Division and winning either of their remaining two games would clinch the #1 seed in the conference.

Denver has clinched the West Division and can clinch a 1st round bye with two wins, or one win and one New England loss.  The Patriots have head-to-head tiebreaking on Denver should the Broncos lose an extra game.  They need Houston to lose twice to get up to the #1 seed.

New England has clinched the East Division and could clinch a 1st round bye if they win one more game than Denver.  They could get the #1 seed if they win twice, Houston loses twice, and Denver loses at least once.

Baltimore has clinched a playoff spot.  They can clinch the division by winning either remaining game or if the Steelers lose Week 17 to Cleveland.  Basically, the Ravens need to avoid a 3 way tie at 9-7 between themselves, the Steelers, and the Bengals, as the Steelers would win that tie on head-to-head-to-head tiebreaker.  The Ravens cannot get a bye seed but they could move up to the #3 seed with more wins than the Patriots.

Indianapolis clinches a playoff spot if they win either of their remaining games or if the Steelers loses either remaining game or if they clinch strength of victory tiebreaker on Cincinnati (the Colts currently have a 2 win advantage).  The Colts nightmare scenario is described in the Ravens paragraph above: if the Ravens are in the wildcard pool at 9-7 the Colts lose that tie on conference record, then the tie for the 2nd wildcard with the Bengals would go down to strength of victory.  But seeing as how their Week 16 opponent is Kansas City, the Colts can save themselves unnecessary worry by winning that game.

The Bengals control their destiny for making the playoffs; if they beat the Steelers Sunday they’re in.  If they lose that game they can still get in if the Steelers lose to Cleveland Week 17 or if the Colts lose twice and the Bengals clinch the above described strength of victory tiebreaker on the Colts.  The Bengals can win the North if they win Sunday, the Ravens lose to the Giants Week 16, and they beat the Ravens Week 17.

The Steelers also control their destiny for making the playoffs.  If they win twice they are in.  Conversely, if they lose to the Bengals Sunday they are eliminated.  They could get in by beating the Bengals then losing to the Browns if Cincinnati loses to Baltimore and Miami is not 2nd in the AFC East at 8-8 (either the Dolphins lose a game or the Jets win both games).  The Jets are eliminated because they would lose a tie with the Steelers in that scenario on head-to-head.  The Steelers could still win the North if they win twice, the Ravens lose to the Giants, then the Bengals beat the Ravens.  In that event all 3 teams would be 9-7.  The Steelers would be 3-1 in the head-to-head-to-head matchup, whereas the Ravens would be 2-2 and the Bengals 1-3, thus giving the spot to the Steelers.

Miami is a longshot to make the playoffs, but they do still have a chance.  They must win both games, have the Steelers beat the Bengals then lose to Cleveland, have the Bengals lose to Baltimore, and they need the Jets to lose 1 of their remaining games so they can move up to 2nd in the East division.

Projected Playoff Schedule

Cincinnati @ New England Saturday January 5th at 8pm on NBC

Indianapolis @ Baltimore Sunday January 6th at 4:30pm on CBS

Lower wildcard winner @ Houston Saturday January 12th at 4:30pm on CBS

Higher wildcard winner @ Denver Sunday January 13th at 4:30pm on CBS

Lower seed @ Higher seed Sunday January 20th at 6:30pm on CBS

NFC

1. Atlanta <clinched division> (12-2)

2. San Francisco <clinched playoffs> (10-3-1)

3. Green Bay <clinched division> (10-4)

4. Washington (8-6)

5. Seattle (9-5)

6. Minnesota (8-6) ([division record tiebreaker on Chicago for division rank] conference record on Dallas [division record on New York for division rank])

In The Hunt

7. Chicago (head-to-head tiebreaker on Dallas)

8. Dallas

9. New York

10. St. Louis (6-7-1)

11. New Orleans (6-8) (head-to-head on Tampa

Eliminated

12. Tampa

13. Carolina (5-9) (conference record on Arizona)

14. Arizona

15. Detroit (4-10) (head-to-head on Philadelphia)

16. Philadelphia

Atlanta has clinched the South Division and can clinch the #1 seed by winning either of its remaining games.

San Francisco has clinched a playoff spot and can clinch the division by winning either of its remaining games.  They clinch a bye by winning both remaining games or matching Green Bay’s record in the last two games.  They can clinch the #1 seed if Atlanta loses both remaining games.

Green Bay has clinched the North Division and can clinch a bye seed by winning more games than San Francisco the last 2 weeks.  They can clinch the #1 seed if they win both games, Atlanta loses both, and the 49ers lose once.

Washington is in control of its destiny for winning the East.  If they win both remaining games they clinch the division.  They can also win the division by losing Week 16 but then beating Dallas Week 17 and the Giants losing once.  If they lose a game and do not win the division they could get a wildcard if the Vikings and Bears both lose a game and the Giants are either 1st or 3rd in the division.  If they lose twice they could get a wildcard if the Vikings, Bears, and Giants all lose twice.

Seattle clinches a wildcard by winning either of its remaining games (even if the 8-6 pack catches them at 10-6 they have solid tiebreakers).  They could also get a wildcard despite losing both remaining games unless two of the following 3 things happens: Chicago gets to 10-6, Minnesota gets to 10-6, New York is 2nd in the East at either 10-6 or 9-7.  Seattle can claim the West Division if they win both remaining games and the 49ers lose Week 17.

Minnesota is currently in the 6th seed position, but the Vikings do not control their destiny.  The Giants are currently mired in 3rd in the East.  However, the Redskins and Cowboys play each in Week 17, which means at least one of those teams will take a negative result.  If the Giants win both remaining games they will end up no worse than 2nd in the East, and if the Giants are 2nd at 10-6 they will win that tie with the Vikings for the playoff spot.  Therefore the Vikings need to either have the Giants lose a game or for Seattle to lose both remaining games.  The Vikings could get in at 9-7 if their loss is Week 16 to Houston if the Bears lose a game, the Redskins win the East, and the Giants are 3rd in the East or if the loss is to Green Bay Week 17, the Bears lose a game, the Redskins win the East, the Giants are 3rd in the East, and the Vikings clinch strength of victory tiebreaking on Dallas.  The Vikings can get in the playoffs at 8-8 if Washington wins the East, Chicago, Dallas, and New York all lose both remaining games, and St Louis and New Orleans loses a game.

Chicago also does not control their destiny.  They can make the playoffs if they win both remaining games, the Vikings lose a game, and New York loses a game.  They can make the playoffs at 9-7 if the Vikings lose both remaining games and Dallas is 2nd in the East at 9-7.

Dallas controls their destiny for winning the East; if they win both remaining games that would include beating Washington Week 17 and they have tiebreaker on the Giants.  It is unlikely therefore that the Cowboys would end up with a wildcard (taking a tie with the Redskins that leaves them 9-6-1 out of the equation) but it is possible if the Vikings & Bears lose both remaining games and the Giants lose a game, or if the Vikings lose Week 17 to Green Bay, Chicago loses once, the Cowboys clinch strength of victory tiebreaker on the Vikings, and the Giants lose once.  Dallas could win the division at 9-7 if the win is the Redskins game, Washington loses Week 16, and New York loses once.

New York controls their destiny for making the playoffs.  Two wins and they will move to 2nd in the East and they hold tiebreaking advantage on Minnesota or Chicago (would also on Seattle if the Seahawks finish 10-6).  They can make the playoffs at 9-7 if the loss is to Baltimore Week 16 and two of the following 3 things happen: Minnesota loses a game, Chicago loses a game, and/or Seattle loses twice.  New York cannot make the playoffs at 8-8 as they would be mired in 3rd in the division.  New York can win the division if they win both remaining games and whoever wins the Dallas v Washington game had previously lost their Week 16 game.

St Louis can make the playoffs if they win both remaining games, the Dallas v Washington loser had also lost Week 16, New York loses twice, Minnesota loses twice, and Chicago loses twice.  It can also be noted that Tampa could tie for the 6th seed at 8-8 if the Rams scenario happened plus the Rams lost a game.  However, they would not survive the tiebreakers.

For New Orleans to make the playoffs they must have the Cowboys, Giants, Vikings, and Bears all lose both games plus win both of their games.  In that scenario, Dallas and Minnesota are 2nd in their divisions and tied with New Orleans.  Conference record drops the Cowboys from the tie, then the Saints advance over Minnesota on record vs common opponents.

Projected Playoff Schedule

Seattle @ Washington Saturday January 5th at 4:30pm on NBC

Minnesota @ Green Bay Sunday January 6th at 1pm on Fox

Higher wildcard winner @ San Francisco Saturday January 12th at 8pm on Fox

Lower wildcard winner @ Atlanta Sunday January 13th at 1pm on Fox

Lower seed @ Higher seed Sunday January 20th at 3pm on Fox

And below are the official Week 16 playoff scenarios from nfl.com:

HOUSTON TEXANS (vs. Minnesota)
Houston clinches a first-round bye with:
1) HOU win or tie OR
2) NE loss or tie OR
3) DEN loss

Houston clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1) HOU win OR
2) HOU tie + DEN loss or tie OR
3) NE loss or tie + DEN loss

DENVER BRONCOS (vs. Cleveland)
Denver clinches a first-round bye with:
1) DEN win + NE loss or tie OR
2) DEN tie + NE loss

BALTIMORE RAVENS (vs. NY Giants)
Baltimore clinches AFC North division with:
1) BAL win OR
2) BAL tie + CIN loss or tie

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (at Kansas City)
Indianapolis clinches a playoff spot with:
1) IND win or tie OR
2) IND clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over CIN OR
3) PIT loss or tie

CINCINNATI BENGALS (at Pittsburgh)
Cincinnati clinches a playoff spot with:
1) CIN win

NFC

CLINCHED: Atlanta (South); Green Bay (North); San Francisco (playoff berth)

ATLANTA FALCONS (at Detroit)
Atlanta clinches a first-round bye with:
1) ATL win or tie OR
2) GB loss or tie OR
3) SF loss

Atlanta clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:
1) ATL win OR
2) ATL tie + SF loss or tie OR
3) GB loss or tie + SF loss

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (at Seattle)
San Francisco clinches NFC West division with:
1) SF win or tie

San Francisco clinches a first-round bye with:
1) SF win + GB loss or tie OR
2) SF tie + GB loss

WASHINGTON REDSKINS (at Philadelphia)
Washington clinches a playoff spot with:
1) WAS win + NYG loss + CHI loss + MIN loss

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (vs. San Francisco)
Seattle clinches a playoff spot with:
1) SEA win OR
2) CHI loss + MIN loss + DAL loss or tie + WAS tie
3) SEA tie + NYG loss + CHI loss or tie OR
4) SEA tie + NYG loss + MIN loss or tie OR
5) SEA tie + CHI loss or tie + MIN loss or tie OR
6) SEA tie + DAL loss + WAS loss + CHI loss or tie OR
7) SEA tie + DAL loss + WAS loss + MIN loss or tie OR
8) CHI loss + MIN loss + WAS loss OR

NEW YORK GIANTS (at Baltimore)
New York clinches a playoff spot with:
1) NYG win + CHI loss + MIN loss + DAL loss + WAS loss or tie OR
2) NYG win + CHI loss + MIN loss + WAS loss + DAL tie

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