Archive for November, 2013

NFL Playoff Picture

November 19, 2013

With 6 weeks to go (where did the time go?) it seems overdue for me to revive this blog to start offering the NFL standings and a few thoughts on the playoff picture, including a nerdy prediction of not only the playoff matchups as currently constituted, but of the actual schedule.  I will start with the current standings in the very muddled and mediocre AFC.  Please keep in mind of course that division leaders are automatically the top 4 seeds, and also that breaking ties within a division are paramount; a team that is 3rd in its division cannot be ranked within the conference for wild card consideration ahead of the team that is 2nd in the same division for example.

1. Denver (9-1) (head-to-head tiebreaker on Kansas City for division lead)

2. Indianapolis (7-3) (conference record on New England)

3. New England

4. Cincinnati (7-4)

5. Kansas City (9-1)

6. New York (5-5) (division record tiebreaker on Miami)

In the Hunt

7. Miami

8. Oakland (4-6) ([head-to-head on San Diego for division rank] conference record on Tennessee and Pittsburgh [record against opponents common/will be common with Cleveland & Baltimore for division rank])

9. Tennessee (conference record drops San Diego from 3-way tie, then reevaluation head-to-head tiebreaker on Pittsburgh)

10. Pittsburgh (conference record on San Diego)

11. Cleveland ([record against opponents common/will be common with Baltimore to break division tie] conference record tiebreaker on San Diego)

12. Baltimore (conference record tiebreaker on San Diego)

13. San Diego

14. Buffalo (4-7)

Alive Only Mathematically

15. Houston (2-8)

16. Jacksonville (1-9)

While nothing is mathematically clinched and nothing can be clinched this weekend, it seems reasonable to surmise that the Patriots, Bengals, and Colts are in good to great shape to win their divisions, and that both Denver and Kansas City will be playoff teams.  Which then leaves a battle for seeding.  Denver will play New England this coming Sunday night in a game that will help sort this picture.  The Bengals are currently in 4th and have one more loss than both the Patriots and Colts, but they could draw even while on bye this weekend, and they beat the Patriots head-to-head earlier in the season.  The race for the 6th and final playoff spot currently looks like chaos theory with literally half the conference somewhere between 5-5 & 4-7.  Someone could get hot and change the equation, but it seems likely that the eventual playoff spot grabber will be 9-7, perhaps alone or in a clean two way tie, perhaps a messy multi-way tie that can, as evidenced above in the sorting of the gaggle of teams at 4-6, can be very difficult to sort.  The Jets are currently in playoff position, but they have literally been on a win/lose/win/lose pattern all season.  They have both games remaining with the Dolphins, who are also 5-5.  The Steelers have both games remaining with the Browns and beat the Ravens in their first encounter.  They beat the Jets and have the Dolphins left on their schedule.  On the negative, they have lost to both Tennessee and Oakland.  Cleveland probably wishes they hadn’t played any games with Brandon Weeden at quarterback, as their record gets better if you excise those contests.  The Ravens are scuffling but still capable of regaining their form.  The Titans seem to be faltering with Jake Locker lost for the season.  The Raiders are the only team in this tie with a winning record in conference games, a key factor in tiebreaking.  They are winless against the mediocre NFC East but only have the game with Dallas remaining.  Even amongst this mediocre group the Chargers are a hard team to figure, and with 5 of their losses being in conference they probably need to win their remaining conference games to have a realistic chance.  Back to the Jets; all 5 of their losses are conference games which doesn’t bode well for them in the long run either.  The Steelers and Browns, however, at 9-7 would be either a solid 7-5, or an excellent 8-4, in conference games so they are perhaps better positioned.  The next couple weeks could help thin the pack a bit and make it easier to see what we are looking at.  Or not.

Projected AFC Playoff Schedule

6. New York @ 3. New England Saturday January 4th at 8pm on NBC

5. Kansas City @ 4. Cincinnati Sunday January 5th at 1pm on CBS

Lowest wildcard winning seed @ 1. Denver Saturday January 11th at 8pm on CBS

Highest wilcard winning seed @ 2. Indianapolis Sunday January 12th at 1pm on CBS

Lower surviving seed @ Higher surviving seed Sunday January 19th at 3pm on CBS

And now for the NFC

1. Seattle (10-1)

2. New Orleans (8-2)

3. Detroit (6-4) (head-to-head tiebreaker on Chicago for division rank)

4. Philadelphia (6-5)

5. Carolina (7-3)

6. San Francisco (6-4) ([head-to-head on Arizona for division rank] conference record tiebreaker on Chicago)

In the Hunt

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

8. Chicago

9. Dallas (5-5) (conference record tiebreaker on Green Bay)

10. Green Bay

11. New York (4-6) (conference record tiebreaker on St. Louis)

12. St. Louis

Alive Only Mathematically

13. Washington (3-7)

14. Tampa Bay (2-8) ([record against opponents common/will be common with Atlanta for division rank] conference record tiebreaker on Minnesota)

15. Atlanta (conference record on Minnesota

16. Minnesota

The division races are less settled in the NFC to be sure with the exception of Seattle’s safe 3.5 game lead in the West.  Philadelphia is tied in the loss column with Dallas, and the Cowboys can reclaim the top spot from the idle Eagles by beating New York this coming Sunday.  On the other hand, a Giants victory Sunday would have those 3 teams within a game of each other.  Philadelphia plays Dallas Week 17, an early guess as to who the Sunday Night game will be to close the regular season.  In the North the Lions have already swept the Bears, so they are in decent shape.  The Packers beat the Lions once, but seem to be stumbling with a 3rd string quarterback leading the way.  In the South the Saints are strong for a playoff spot at least, but with both games against Carolina still remaining, the division is up for grabs.  Carolina has a 1 game lead in the wildcard race, but that could disappear in a couple bad weeks.  The 49ers are hanging on for dear life right now with the Cardinals right here.  But Arizona has an 0-3 record in division games, and its very hard to make the playoffs with a losing division record.  The Bears are also in the mix but a head-to-head loss to Arizona could sandbag them.  Green Bay could easily factor if Aaron Rodgers can discount double check his way back onto the field by December.  It seems currently unlikely that 2nd place in the East will wind up in wildcard position, especially if someone in the 6/7/8 tie takes the 2nd wildcard out to a 10-6 mark as I currently suspect happens.

Projected NFC Playoff Schedule

6. San Francisco @ 3. Detroit Saturday January 4th at 4:30pm on NBC

5. Carolina @ 4. Philadelphia Sunday January 5th at 4:30pm on Fox

Lowest wildcard seed @ 1. Seattle Saturday January 11th at 4:30pm on Fox

Highest wildcard seed @ 2. New Orleans Sunday January 12th at 4:30pm on Fox

Lower surviving seed @ Higher surviving seed Sunday January 19th at 6:30pm on Fox

As always, it figures to be a fun final 6 weeks!