Archive for December, 2014

Final NFL Standings, Thoughts, and Playoff Schedule

December 30, 2014

Here are the final conference standings and random observations, starting with the AFC:

1. New England (12-4) (head to head over Denver)

2. Denver

3. Pittsburgh (11-5) (head to head over Indianapolis)

4. Indianapolis

5. Cincinnati (10-5-1)

6. Baltimore (10-6)

Planning for 2015

7. Houston (9-7) (conference record on Kansas City [head to head over San Diego for division rank] and Buffalo)

8. Kansas City (head to head over Buffalo)

9. San Diego (head to head over Buffalo)

10. Buffalo

11. Miami (8-8)

12. Cleveland (7-9)

13. New York (4-12)

14. Jacksonville (3-13) (record vs opponents common with Oakland)

15. Oakland

16. Tennessee (2-14)

Buffalo went 4-0 against the NFC North and 4-2 within their own division.  What ultimately caused them to miss the playoffs is they went only 1-5 in non-divisional conference games (the win was Cleveland).  Their losses included Houston, San Diego, and Kansas City.  If they win just one of those games they might have made the playoffs; winning one of them plus against Oakland Week 16 and they definitely would have.

Houston had the opposite problem hold them back.  They went 8-4 against the AFC but went just 1-3 against the NFC East.  No one thought much of them losing to the Giants when it happened back in Week 3, but if they had won that game they would have been in the playoffs.  For that matter, all you have to do is flip the outcome of their midseason Monday Night game in Pittsburgh and you would have the Texans in the playoffs as the #5 seed, the Bengals win the North, and the Ravens out.

San Diego ultimately of course rues the fact they lost both games to Kansas City.  The Chiefs were hurt by the fact they lost both “power match” games; Week 16 to Pittsburgh was a game changer for both teams.  But back in Week 1 they got pummeled at home by Tennessee, a fact that is both hard to swallow for Chiefs fans and hard to comprehend in hindsight.

Miami is the quintessential mediocre team.  Not only did they go 8-8, but they went 3-3 in the division, 7-7 in the 14 games common within the division, and 6-6 in conference games.

Denver and Indianapolis were the only two teams in the NFL to go 6-0 in division games.

Jacksonville went a paltry 3-13, but that was good enough to be 3rd place in their division, not last place, which means they have to play a playoff team, Baltimore, and a near-playoff team, San Diego, as their “power match” games in 2015.

And for the NFC:

1. Seattle (12-4) (conference record on Green Bay and Dallas)

2. Green Bay (conference record on Dallas)

3. Dallas

4. Carolina (7-8-1)

5. Arizona (11-5) (head to head over Detroit)

6. Detroit

Planning for 2015

7. Philadelphia (10-6)

8. San Francisco (8-8)

9. New Orleans (7-9) (head to head over Minnesota)

10. Minnesota

11. Atlanta (6-10) (conference record over St. Louis and New York)

12. New York (head to head over St. Louis)

13. St. Louis

14. Chicago (5-11)

15. Washington (4-12)

16. Tampa Bay (2-14)

Minnesota went 7-9, including 6-6 in the conference.  However, they were merely 1-5 in division games while being a strong 5-1 in non-division conference games.  They could have been a factor later into the season with a better division record.

The four NFC South teams ended up going 10-29-1 in games against teams outside the division.  Atlanta went 1-9, worse even than Tampa’s 2-8 record outside the division.  If the Falcons had managed even a still anemic 3-7 they would have been 8-8 overall and won the division.

Philadelphia has the horrible luck of being the only team in either conference to win 10 games and miss the playoffs.  The NFC East as a whole was 10 games under .500 in conference games, with both Dallas and Philadelphia taking all of their losses within the NFC while going 4-0 against the AFC South.  Dallas faces the potential of having to go to Seattle for the NFC Championship Game despite having the same record as the Seahawks and having won against them in the regular season.  The nature of multi-way tiebreaking works against the Cowboys.

Tampa was the only team in the NFL that lost all 6 of its division games.

The AFC went 33-30-1 against the NFC in 2014, which is remarkably close.

And now for the complete playoff schedule:

Saturday January 3rd:

Arizona @ Carolina 4:30pm ESPN

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh 8:15pm NBC

Sunday January 4th:

Cincinnati @ Indianapolis 1pm CBS

Detroit @ Dallas 4:30pm Fox

Saturday January 10th:

Lowest remaining AFC seed @ New England 4:30pm NBC

Lowest remaining NFC seed @ Seattle 8:15pm Fox

Sunday January 11th:

Higher remaining NFC seed @ Green Bay 1pm Fox

Higher remaining AFC seed @ Denver 4:30pm CBS

Sunday January 18th:

NFC Championship Game 3pm Fox

AFC Championship Game 6:30pm CBS

Sunday February 1st:

Super Bowl XLIX at Arizona 6:25pm NBC

Happy New Year!

NFL Picture with One Week to Go

December 26, 2014

Hopefully everyone had a Merry Christmas!  Below are the conference standings with quick run downs of what every team still alive for the playoffs is playing for this coming Sunday and what they need to have happen, starting in the AFC:

1. New England {clinched #1 seed} (12-3)

2. Denver {clinched division} (11-4)

3. Cincinnati {clinched playoff spot} (10-4-1)

4. Indianapolis {clinched division} (10-5)

5. Pittsburgh {clinched playoff spot} (10-5)

6. San Diego (9-6) (head to head tiebreaker on Baltimore)

In the Hunt

7. Baltimore

8. Houston (8-7) (conference record tiebreaker on Kansas City & Miami [conference record on Buffalo for division rank])

9. Kansas City (head to head on Miami)

Playing for 2015

10. Miami

11. Buffalo

12. Cleveland (7-8)

13. New York (3-12) (conference record on Jacksonville & Oakland)

14. Jacksonville (record vs opponents common with Oakland)

15. Oakland

16. Tennessee (2-13)

New England, by virtue of its one game lead over and head to head victory against Denver, has clinched the #1 seed in the conference.  Denver will end up with the #2 seed unless they lose to Oakland and Cincinnati beats Pittsburgh, in which case the Bengals get the #2 seed.  If Denver loses and Pittsburgh wins there would be a tie for the #2 seed that could also involve Indianapolis.  A worse conference record would drop the Colts from the tie.  Ultimately, the Broncos would hold onto the #2 spot with a superior strength of victories tiebreaker over the Steelers.  Indianapolis, given the fact the Bengals/Steelers game will have an outcome, that they are currently 1/2 game behind the Bengals, and given that they lost to the Steelers, are locked into the #4 seed unless the Colts win and the North title game is tied.  In this scenario, the Colts at 11-5 would be essentially tied with the Bengals at 10-4-2 and the Colts win the head to head tiebreaker for the #3 seed.

The Bengals game at the Steelers, as referenced above, will decide who wins the North division.  The Bengals again as already mentioned would most likely be the #3 seed with a win, but they could be 2nd.  If they win the division by tying they would be the 4th or 3rd seed.  The loser of the division will be the #5 seed regardless of other outcomes: the Bengals at worst would be 1/2 game ahead of the Chargers and Ravens and the Steelers at worst would be tied with either/both the Chargers and Ravens and holding a better conference record.  The Steelers, if they win, will be the #3 seed.

The Chargers are in the crystal clear position of definitely being in the playoffs as the #6 seed if they beat Kansas City Sunday, and also definitely missing the playoffs if they lose.  A loss would put them behind the Chiefs in the division standings with no chance of surviving an “everyone loses” type of scenario.

For Baltimore to make the playoffs, given they lost to San Diego head to head, they need to win Sunday over Cleveland and have the Chargers lose.

Houston can make the playoffs, given their superior conference record, if they beat Jacksonville while the Chargers and Ravens both lose (their conference record would be 8-4 at 9-7 overall while no one else would be better than 7-5).

The Chiefs can make the playoffs if they win and both Baltimore and Houston lose.  With Houston out of the equation, Kansas City is ahead of San Diego with a head to head sweep, Baltimore has a worse conference record, and the Chiefs beat both Miami and Buffalo head to head.  That last fact, by the way, is why there is no scenario that Miami or Buffalo can make the playoffs even though they are also 8-7.

NFC

1. Seattle {clinched playoffs} (11-4) ([head to head on Arizona for division rank] conference record drops Dallas from 3-way tie, then record vs opponents common with Detroit [head to head tiebreaker on Green Bay])

2. Detroit {clinched playoffs} (conference record on Dallas)

3. Dallas {clinched division}

4. Carolina (6-8-1)

5. Green Bay {clinched playoffs} (11-5) (record vs opponents common with Arizona)

6. Arizona

Playing for 2015

7. Philadelphia (9-6)

8. San Francisco (7-8)

In the Hunt NFC South Edition

9. Atlanta (6-9) ([head to head on New Orleans for division rank] conference record on New York, Minnesota, & St. Louis)

Playing for 2015

10. New Orleans (conference record drops New York & St. Louis from 4 way tie, then head to head on Minnesota)

11. Minnesota (conference record on New York & St. Louis)

12. New York (head to head on St. Louis)

13. St. Louis

14. Chicago (5-10)

15. Washington (4-11)

16. Tampa Bay (2-13)

The winner of the Carolina at Atlanta game will “win” the South division and claim the #4 seed in the conference.  New Orleans is eliminated; even if they win and the Panthers tie Atlanta to finish 6-8-2, the same as being 7-9, Carolina then wins the tiebreaker with New Orleans by having a 1/2 game better division record.

We know the 5 playoff teams other than the South winner, but with all 5 teams being 11-4 entering the final day, its a bit chaotic to know how teams will end up seeded.  Dallas is the one in the group that has clinched their division, so their floor is the #3 seed, whereas the other 4 could fail to win their division and end up 5th or 6th.

Dallas beat Seattle head to head so they could be the #1 seed even if the Seahawks won Sunday, but only if the Packers v Lions game ended in a tie to prevent the North winner from being in the tie.  With the North winner in a 3-way tie Dallas’ inferior conference record drops them from the #1 consideration.  Furthermore, Seattle wins the #1 spot over Detroit on record vs common opponents or on Green Bay on head to head, so the Seahawks get the #1 spot, then the North winner gets #2 over Dallas on conference record, leaving the Cowboys the #3 seed.  Arizona winning the West would not help Dallas as the Cardinals also have a better division record.  Dallas can be the #2 seed if Seattle & Arizona both lose, or if Seattle loses while Arizona wins and the North game ends in a tie.

The winner of the North will do no worse than the #2 seed unless its Detroit at 11-4-1 and both Dallas along with at least one West team wins.  Green Bay can be the #1 seed if Seattle loses as they have the common opponents tiebreaker on Arizona.  Detroit lost head to head against Arizona and loses a common opponents tiebreaker to Seattle, so the Lions would need both West teams to lose to be the #1 seed.

Seattle clinches the #1 seed by winning Sunday against St. Louis unless Dallas wins and the North game ends in a tie, as their loss to the Cowboys is the only negative tiebreaker they have.  Arizona can be the #1 seed if they win and Seattle loses and Detroit wins the North.  The Cardinals are the #2 seed if they win, Seattle loses, and Green Bay wins the North.  If both the Seahawks and Cardinals lose, Seattle wins the division and would be the #3 seed.

As far as seeding the two wildcards 5th and 6th is concerned, Detroit would definitely be #6 if they lost.  The Packers would be #5 if Arizona loses but otherwise would be #6.  The 2nd place team in the West would be the #5 seed unless Arizona and Green Bay both lose, in which case the Cardinals are #6.  Also, the West loser is #6 if the North game ends in a tie and the West loser had lost their game.  And keep in mind, this is not a small matter as the #5 seed gets to play the South “winner” whereas the #6 seed has to play a 12-4 or 11-5 team on the road!

I’m not going to project the playoff schedule this week.  The current standings may very well not end up being the final standings.  Instead, I’ll make a few general predictions:

The Dallas involved wildcard game will be the Saturday 8pm game on NBC.  If Dallas gets a bye seed, then the Green Bay involved game will be.  If they are the two bye seeds, then it will be the Seattle involved game.  In any event, its going to be an NFC game on NBC wildcard weekend after they took an AFC game in Week 17.

The AFC wildcard game that does not involve Pittsburgh will be the game on ESPN.  The AFC wildcard game that involves the Steelers will be on CBS sometime Sunday, again given that the Steelers were taken off of the CBS menu for Week 17.

This year NBC gets a Divisional round game.  After taking an NFC game wildcard weekend it’ll be an AFC game in the divisional round.  My hunch is they’ll let CBS keep the New England involved game and that NBC would be more than happy to take a Denver involved game (will involve the Broncos if they’re the #2 seed or if they’re the #3 seed and win at home wildcard weekend).  This will probably get slotted before the wildcard games are actually played.

And below are the official clinching scenarios copy/pasted from NFL.com:

NFC

The Cowboys clinch home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with: a win plus a Cardinals loss or tie and a LionsPackers tie.

Dallas clinches a first-round bye with:
1) a win plus a Seahawks loss or tie plus a Cardinals loss or tie
2) a win plus a LionsPackers tie
3) a tie plus a Seahawks loss and a Cardinals loss
4) a tie plus a Seahawks tie, a Cardinals loss or tie and LionsPackers does not end in a tie

The Lions clinch the NFC North with: a win or a tie.

The Lions clinch home-field advantage with:
1) a win plus a Seahawks loss or tie and a Cardinals loss or tie
2) a tie plus a Seahawks loss, a Cardinals loss and a Cowboys loss or tie

The Lions clinch a first-round bye with:
1) a win
2) a tie plus a Cowboys loss or tie
3) a tie plus a Seahawks loss and a Cardinals loss

The Packers clinch the NFC North and a first-round bye with a win. They clinch home-field with: a win and a Seahawks loss or tie.

The Seahawks clinch the NFC West with:
1) a win
2) a tie plus a Cardinals loss or tie
3) a Cardinals loss

The Seahawks clinch home-field advantage with:
1) a win plus LionsPackers game does not end in a tie
2) a win plus a Cowboys loss or tie
3) a tie plus a Cardinals loss or tie, a Cowboys loss and a LionsPackers tie

The Seahawks clinch a first-round bye with:
1) a win
2) a tie plus a Cardinals loss or tie and a Cowboys loss
3) a tie plus a Cardinals loss or tie and a LionsPackers tie

The Cardinals clinch NFC West with:
1) a win plus a Seahawks loss or tie
2) a tie plus a Seahawks loss

The Cardinals clinch home-field advantage with:
1) a win plus a Seahawks loss or tie and a Packers loss or tie
2) a tie plus a Seahawks loss, a Cowboys loss or tie and a PackersLions tie

The Cardinals clinch a first-round bye with:
1) a win plus a Seahawks loss or tie
2) a tie plus a Seahawks loss and a Cowboys loss or tie
3) a tie plus a Seahawks loss and a LionsPackers tie

he Panthers clinch NFC South with win over Falcons.

The Falcons clinch NFC South with win over Panthers.

AFC

Denver clinches a first-round bye with:
1) a win or tie
2) a Bengals loss
3) a Bengals tie plus Colts win

Bengals clinch AFC North with a win or tie in Week 17.

Cincinnati clinches first-round bye with:
1) a win plus a Broncos loss or tie
2) a tie plus a Broncos loss and a Colts loss or tie

Steelers clinch AFC North with win.

Chargers clinch playoff spot with:
1) a win
2) a tie plus a Ravens loss or tie

Ravens clinch playoff spot with:
1) a win plus a Chargers loss or tie
2) a tie plus a Chargers loss

The Chiefs clinch a playoff spot with: a win plus a Ravens loss and a Texans loss or tie.

The Texans clinch a playoff spot with: a win plus a Ravens loss and a Chargers loss.

Enjoy and Happy New Year!

NFL Picture at the 1/8th Pole

December 17, 2014

Some things are starting to come into focus with two weeks to go in the season, but many things are also still up in the air.  In the AFC we know 3 of the 4 division winners for certain with a still muddled, albeit stratified, wildcard picture.  In the NFC, we essentially have two teams each in the East, North, and West for a total of 5 spots while the mediocre South remains a 3 team race for a home game.  Below are the standings, analysis, clinching scenarios, and projected playoff schedule, starting in the AFC:

1. New England {clinched division} (11-3) (head to head on Denver)

2. Denver {clinched division}

3. Indianapolis {clinched division} (10-4)

4. Cincinnati (9-4-1)

5. Pittsburgh (9-5) (division record on Baltimore)

6. Baltimore

In the Hunt

7. Kansas City (8-6) ([head to head on San Diego for division rank] head to head on Buffalo)

8. San Diego (head to head on Buffalo)

9. Buffalo

10. Houston (7-7) (conference record on Miami & Cleveland)

11. Miami (conference record on Cleveland)

12. Cleveland

Playing for 2015

13. New York (3-11)

14. Tennessee (2-12) ([head to head on Jacksonville for division rank] conference record on Oakland)

15. Oakland (strength of victory tiebreaker on Jacksonville)

16. Jacksonville

The Patriots, Broncos, and Colts have all clinched their divisions, with the Patriots and Broncos having the inside track on getting the two byes into the divisional round.  The Patriots definitely get the #1 seed with two wins having beaten Denver head to head; the Broncos conversely can lose once and still be no worse than the #2 seed having beaten the Colts.

In the AFC North the Bengals and Steelers both control their destiny for winning the division; Baltimore can win the North by winning its last two games and having the Bengals or Steelers lose in Week 16, then beat the other in Week 17.  The Bengals make the playoffs by winning one of their last two.  The Steelers clinch a playoff spot if they beat Kansas City this coming Sunday.  If they lose to the Chiefs and beat the Bengals they would need the Bengals to have lost in Week 16 or the Ravens to lose once or the Chiefs to lose in Week 17 to the Chargers to make the playoffs at 10-6.  The Ravens get in the playoffs for sure with two wins; if they lose once down the stretch they need some help to get in as they would have at 10-6 a weak 6-6 conference record including losing to the Chargers.  All three have scenarios where they get in at 9-6-1 or 9-7 with considerable help.

Of the 8-6 teams Kansas City is in the best shape; they control their destiny.  If they get to 10-6 they would beat the Steelers, beat San Diego twice, have beaten Buffalo, and have a better conference record than Baltimore.  Their conference record also means they have ways they could get in at 9-7 but it takes a good deal of help.

San Diego gets in at 10-6 if Baltimore loses at least once.  They could also get in if Cincinnati or Pittsburgh loses twice.  Buffalo is in the weakest position because all 6 of their losses are conference games.  They need to win out, and have either one team in the North lose twice plus the Week 17 Kansas City v San Diego winner to have lost in Week 16 or for two North teams to lose out.

The teams at 7-7 are in a very weak position but can still get in with two wins and massive amounts of help.  Miami and Houston are in relatively better shape because of decent conference records.  For Cleveland, who at 9-7 would only be 5-7 in the conference they have to have the following all play out:

1. Win their two remaining games.

2. Baltimore loses Week 16 to Houston

3. Houston loses Week 17 to Jacksonville

4. San Diego loses to San Francisco in Week 16

5. Kansas City loses to Pittsburgh in Week 16

6. Buffalo loses its two remaining games

7. Miami loses one of its two remaining games (Minnesota & New York Jets)

8. The Week 17 game between San Diego and Kansas City ends in a tie.

And now for the NFC:

1. Arizona {clinched playoff spot} (11-3)

2. Detroit (10-4) ([head to head on Green Bay for division lead] conference record on Dallas)

3. Dallas

4. New Orleans (6-8)

5. Seattle (10-4) (head to head on Green Bay)

6. Green Bay

In the Hunt

7. Philadelphia (9-5)

Playing for 2015

8. San Francisco (7-7)

9. Minnesota (6-8) (head to head on St. Louis)

10. St Louis

In the Hunt NFC South Edition

11. Carolina (5-8-1)

12. Atlanta (5-9) (conference record on Chicago & New York)

Playing for 2015

13. Chicago (conference record on New York)

14. New York

15. Washington (3-11)

16. Tampa Bay (2-12)

Arizona is the only team in the conference that has clinched a playoff spot with two weeks to go.  They can clinch the West and the #1 seed by beating the Seahawks this Sunday night.  Of course, they will be starting their 3rd string quarterback against the defending champs.  If Seattle wins out they win the West as that will give them a season sweep of the Cardinals.

Detroit and Green Bay both control their destiny for winning the North as they play each other in Week 17 and both have scenarios where they can clinch a playoff spot this week.  The Lions, Packers, and Seahawks all make the playoffs at 11-5 if it is Dallas that wins the East as they are all in good tiebreaking shape vs Philadelphia, either on head to head or on conference record.  However, if Dallas goes 1-1 down the stretch and the Eagles win their last two games, the Eagles win the East and Dallas is in the wildcard mix at 11-5.  Dallas beat Seattle head to head.  Assuming the Cowboys are 11-5 because they lose to the Colts in Week 16 then beat Washington in Week 17, Detroit would still win a tie on conference record, but a Dallas v Green Bay tie would goto record vs common opponents wherein Dallas has a 4-1 vs 3-2 advantage.  So basically, for the Eagles to get in they probably need a Dallas loss so they can win the East.  Otherwise they need someone of the Packers, Lions, or Seahawks to lose twice for a wildcard.  Dallas’ best bet is to win twice and win the East, but they can be a wildcard over Seattle or over Green Bay (if the loss is the Colts game).  Dallas could also, if they win at Washington but lose to Indianapolis, be a team that posts an 8-0 road record but misses the playoffs!

And all of this shiftable math which applies to who would get the two wildcards also applies to who gets the bye seeds.  Dallas can be the #1 if they win out, Seattle wins out and the North is won at 11-5.  Seattle is the #1 seed if they win out and the North is won at 12-4 or the East is not won by Dallas at 12-4.  For the North winner to the be the #1 seed they would need the West winner to be 11-5, but they would be the #2 seed at 12-4 unless Dallas is the #1 seed and the West winner is Seattle at 12-4.  This chaotic math, of course, could end up applying to determining which wildcard is the #5 seed and gets to play the South winner and which wildcard is the #6 seed and has to play whichever division winner has the above mentioned math work against them into being the #3 seed.

As for the South division, a week after New Orleans and Atlanta became the first two 5-8 teams in NFL history to control their destiny for making the playoffs, Atlanta is now the first 5-9 team in NFL history to control their destiny.  They win the South at 7-9 as winning their last two games would be beating New Orleans and Carolina; they would post a 6-0 division record.  New Orleans of course wins the division if they win their last two games over Atlanta and Tampa and finishes 8-8.  Carolina can win the division at 7-8-1 if they win their last two games over Cleveland and Atlanta and New Orleans loses (or ties) one of its last two games.  The worst this division could be won at is by Carolina at 6-9-1.  For this to happen Carolina would have to lose to Cleveland but beat Atlanta, Atlanta beats New Orleans, and Tampa beats New Orleans.  In that case, the Panthers are 6-9-1 while the Saints and Falcons are 6-10.

And now for a projected playoffs schedule, based on current standings:

Saturday January 3rd:

Baltimore @ Indianapolis 4:30pm

Green Bay @ Dallas 8:15pm

Sunday January 4th

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati 1pm

Seattle @ New Orleans 4:30pm

Saturday January 10th:

Higher AFC wildcard winner @ Denver 4:30pm

Lower NFC wildcard winner @ Arizona 8:15pm

Sunday January 11th:

Higher NFC wildcard winner @ Detroit 1pm

Lower AFC wildcard winner @ New England 4:3opm

Sunday January 18th:

AFC Championship Game 3pm

NFC Championship Game 6:30pm

And here are the official Week 16 clinching scenarios, copy/pasted from NFL.com:

NFC

ELIMINATED: New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers

The Cardinals clinch NFC West and home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with win over Seahawks.

The Lions clinch a playoff spot with:
1) a win
2) a tie plus an Eagles loss or tie
3) an Eagles loss

The Lions clinch the NFC North with: a win and a Packers loss.

The Lions clinch a first-round bye with a win, a Packers loss and a Cowboys loss.

The Cowboys clinch a playoff berth with: a win plus a Packers loss or tie plus a Lions loss or tie as long as both results don’t tie.

The Cowboys clinch the NFC East with:
1) a win plus an Eagles loss or tie
2) a tie plus an Eagles loss.

The Seahawks clinch a playoff spot with:
1) a win plus an Eagles loss or tie
2) a win plus a Lions loss or tie
3) a win plus a Packers loss or tie
4) a tie plus an Eagles loss
5) a tie plus a Lions loss and a Packers loss
6) or an Eagles loss and a Cowboys win or tie.

The Packers clinch a playoff spot with:
1) a win plus an Eagles loss or tie
2) a win plus a Cowboys loss or tie
3) a tie plus an Eagles loss
4) a tie plus an Eagles tie and a Cowboys win or tie
5) an Eagles loss plus a Cowboys win or tie.

The Saints clinch the NFC South with a win plus a Panthers loss.

AFC

ELIMINATED: Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, New York Jets

The Patriots can clinch a first-round bye with:
1) a win
2) a tie plus a Colts loss or tie
3) a Colts loss plus a Bengals loss or tie, a Steelers loss or tie and a Ravens loss or tie.

The Patriots clinch home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with a win plus a Broncos loss.

The Broncos clinch a first-round bye with:
1) a win
2) a tie plus a Colts loss or tie.

The Bengals clinch a playoff spot with:
1) a win
2) a tie plus a Ravens loss
3) a tie plus a Chiefs loss or tie and a Chargers loss or tie
4) a Chiefs loss plus a Chargers loss and a Bills loss or tie.

The Bengals clinch the AFC North with a win plus a Steelers loss and a Ravens loss or tie.

The Steelers clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Chiefs.

The Ravens clinch a playoff spot with:
1) a win plus a Steelers loss and a Bengals loss
2) a win plus a Chiefs loss or tie and a Chargers loss or tie
3) or a tie plus a Chiefs loss, a Chargers loss and a Bills loss or tie.

Enjoy!

 

NFL Picture with 3 Weeks To Go

December 10, 2014

Last weekend’s games shuffled the order of teams in the AFC wildcard race but didn’t really eliminate anyone.  A few teams have moved to the verge of clinching a playoff spot, finally.  Buckeyenewshawk cannot remember the last season no one was clinched with only 3 weeks to go.  Below are the standings and comments as usual.  New twists this week as I will also include a projected playoff schedule and at the end of the column a copy/paste job from NFL.com of the official clinching scenarios in Week 15.

AFC

1. New England (10-3) (head-to-head on Denver)

2. Denver

3. Indianapolis (9-4)

4. Cincinnati (8-4-1)

5. Pittsburgh (8-5) ([division record tiebreaker on Baltimore for division rank] conference record on San Diego)

6. San Diego (head-t0-head on Baltimore)

In the Hunt

7. Baltimore

8. Houston (7-6) (conference record on Miami [division record tiebreaker on Buffalo for division rank], Kansas City, and Cleveland

9. Miami (conference record tiebreaker on Kansas City {more wins} and Cleveland)

10. Kansas City (conference record tiebreaker on Buffalo and Cleveland

11. Buffalo (head-to-head tiebreaker on Cleveland)

12. Cleveland

Playing for 2015

13/14. New York/Tennessee (2-11) ([Tennessee has head-to-head tiebreaker on Jacksonville for division rank] conference record tiebreaker eliminates Oakland from tie {equal conference record teams play head-to-head in Week 15})

15. Oakland (strength of victory tiebreaker on Jacksonville)

16. Jacksonville

Pittsburgh made a significant move up in the conference standings due in equal parts them winning last week, Miami losing last week, and also Cleveland losing, thus breaking the 3-way tie in the AFC North.  As I wrote a couple weeks ago, the Steelers have tiebreaking on both Baltimore and Cleveland in a head-up situation, but the Ravens had it in the 3-way tie.  The Steelers are now in a position where they would win the North by winning out to 11-5.  If they lose once in their last three games they could still win the division or they could get a wildcard; there are scenarios where they could be left out at 10-6 but with a conference record of either 9-3 or 8-4 at 10-6 they would generally be in solid shape.

Cincinnati is currently leading the division and can obviously maintain that to the end of the season.  However if they fall out of 1st place they could quickly be in a precarious position for getting a wildcard.  If they go 10-4-2 or 10-5-1 they’re probably okay, but 9-6-1 (they play Cleveland, Denver, and Pittsburgh to finish) might not cut it.

Baltimore is currently on the outside at 8-5 with all 5 losses being in the conference, including to San Diego a couple weeks ago.  However a finishing schedule of Jacksonville, Houston, and Cleveland gives them a real chance of finishing 11-5, and its hard to imagine that not getting them in.  With a small amount of help it could win them the division.

Can Johnny Football lead the Browns to the playoffs?  Playing Cincinnati, Carolina, and Baltimore is not an easy path to 10-6 but it’s what Cleveland must do to make it in.  All 6 of their losses are in the conference, including to Buffalo and to Houston.  The one good thing is if they do win out they would finish ahead of Baltimore in the all important division standings; they would really need the Bengals to lose to Denver or Pittsburgh or for Pittsburgh to lose to Cincinnati so they can move up to 2nd.  They can still win the division with an even greater degree of help.

Miami is in decent shape of the 7-6 teams looking at tiebreaking, however they still have to play New England this coming Sunday, a probable 7th and crippling loss.  If they somehow upset the Patriots, however, their last 2 games are with Minnesota and the Jets, both imminently winnable.

Buffalo has 6 conference losses and they have to play Green Bay this weekend and a finish with New England looms.

Houston would be in great shape if they can beat the Colts this coming Sunday.  It would actually leave them alive for the division.  They would have the chance to beat the Ravens in Week 16.  If the Texans win out to 10-6 they really don’t need much help, as that would be a 9-3 conference record.  They would only need San Diego to lose once or for Cincinnati to lose twice or for Pittsburgh to lose a conference game and them to not be the only 2 teams at 10-6 or for Pittsburgh to lose twice.  That might sound like a lot, but it’s really not.

At the top of the conference, New England continues to have the inside track on the #1 seed with them and Denver looking good to win their divisions and get the bye seeds.  The Colts can clinch the division this Sunday by beating (or tying) Houston.

NFC

1. Arizona (10-3) (conference record on Green Bay)

2. Green Bay

3. Philadelphia (9-4) (head-to-head on Dallas)

4. Atlanta (5-8) (head-to-head on New Orleans)

5. Seattle (9-4) (conference record drops Dallas from 3-way tie, then record vs opponents common with Detroit)

6. Detroit (conference record on Dallas)

In the Hunt

7. Dallas

8. San Francisco (7-6)

Playing for 2015

9. Minnesota (6-7) (head-to-head on St. Louis

10. St. Louis

11/12. Chicago (5-8) (same conference record as New Orleans. Teams play each other this coming Sunday)

In the Hunt NFC South Edition

11/12. New Orleans

13. Carolina (4-8-1)

Playing for 2015

14. New York (4-9)

15. Washington (3-10)

16. Tampa (2-11)

The order of the 6 playoff teams has not really changed from last week.  Philadelphia’s position is a bit more perilous after losing to Seattle last Sunday.  They still win the division if they win out.  However, if the lose to Dallas this coming Sunday night they would drop out of the playoffs and their losses would be to Arizona, Seattle, San Francisco, and Green Bay, ie, the very teams they’re competing with.

Green Bay currently leads the North but only by one game and they lost their first encounter with Detroit, which means the Lions still control their destiny for winning the division should they win out including Week 17 in Lambeau.  Assuming this weekend’s game between the Cowboys and Eagles does not end in a tie, it looks like the Lions can guarantee a wildcard by winning against Chicago and Minnesota the next two weeks.

Arizona continues to lead the West and stabilized things by beating Kansas City last weekend.  A win against St. Louis tomorrow night all but guarantees a playoff spot for the Cardinals.  Seattle however also controls their destiny for winning the West having won the first encounter with the Cardinals.  The rematch is Week 16 on NBC.  San Francisco is still alive, but last week’s loss to Oakland was confounding, inexcusable, and crippling.  They must win out and have all but one of the following things happen: 1) The Philadelphia/Dallas loser loses at least one other game. 2) Detroit loses at least twice or Green Bay loses every remaining game. 3) Seattle loses at least one game besides to the 49ers this Sunday. 4) Arizona loses out.  Another possibility for the 49ers is that: 1) They win out. 2) Arizona loses out. 3) Seattle’s only win is against Arizona.  If my figuring is correct, this would let the 49ers win the division.

Minnesota and St. Louis are mathematically alive with 3 weeks remaining, but the best they can do is 9-7 and that’s just not going to cut it.  It’s especially long odds for the Vikings who cannot finish better than 3rd in their division and so need a tremendous amount of help from 2nd place in both the East and West collapsing.  The Rams at least can get up to 2nd in their division; Seattle losing out, San Francisco losing to either San Diego or Arizona, and the Philly/Dallas loser losing their last two games would potentially get the job done.

And then there is the NFC South.  Atlanta currently “leads” at 5-8.  The Falcons not only control their destiny, but they actually are playing a game they don’t need this coming Sunday (hosting Pittsburgh).  If the Falcons lose to the Steelers they would be 5-9 but knowing that if they beat the Saints and Panthers the final two weeks they definitely win the division.  However this Sunday’s game would give them room to lose to New Orleans and still recover from it.  The Saints also control their destiny; if they win out they would beat Atlanta in the process and be the only team standing at 8-8.  Like Atlanta, they also have scenarios where 7-9 or perhaps even 6-10 could get it done.  As for Carolina, at 4-8-1 they are in the thick of it.  If they could win out to 7-8-1 they would beat Atlanta in the process, so all they need of outside help is for New Orleans to lose at least once.  6-9-1 could work but takes more help.

Below is my projected playoff schedule based on current standings:

Saturday January 3rd:

Seattle @ Atlanta 4:30pm

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati 8:15pm

Sunday January 4th:

San Diego @ Indianapolis 1pm

Detroit @ Philadelphia 4:30pm

Saturday January 10th:

Higher AFC Wildcard winner @ Denver 4:30pm

Lower NFC Wildcard winner @ Arizona 8:15pm

Sunday January 11th:

Higher NFC Wildcard winner @ Green Bay 1pm

Lower AFC Wildcard winner @ New England 4:30pm

Sunday January 18th:

AFC Championship Game 3pm

NFC Championship Game 6:3opm

And here are the Week 15 clinching scenarios:

NFC

ELIMINATED: Giants, Redskins, Bears, Buccaneers

ARIZONA CARDINALS

Arizona clinches a playoff spot:

  1. ARI win + DAL/PHI game does not end in a tie
  2. ARI win + DET loss + ARI clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over GB
  3. ARI win + DET loss + GB win or tie

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Green Bay clinches a playoff spot:

  1. GB win + DAL loss + GB clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over DAL

AFC

ELIMINATED: Oakland, Jacksonville, Tennessee, NY Jets

DENVER BRONCOS

Denver clinches AFC West division:

  1. DEN win or tie

Denver clinches a first-round bye:

  1. DEN win + IND loss + CIN loss + PIT loss or tie
  2. DEN win + IND loss + CIN loss + DEN clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over PIT

Denver clinches a playoff spot:

  1. MIA loss or tie + HOU loss or tie + CIN loss + PIT loss
  2. MIA loss or tie + HOU loss or tie + BAL loss + CLE loss or tie
  3. MIA loss or tie + HOU loss or tie + BAL loss + PIT win

New England Patriots

New England clinches AFC East division:

  1. NE win or tie

New England clinches a first round bye:

  1. NE win + IND loss + PIT loss or tie + CIN loss or tie
  2. NE win + IND loss + PIT loss or tie + DEN loss

New England clinches a playoff spot:

  1. BUF loss or tie + CIN loss + PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss or tie
  2. BUF loss or tie + CIN loss + PIT loss + KC loss or tie + SD loss
  3. BUF loss or tie + HOU loss or tie + KC loss or tie + SD loss + BAL loss

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Indianapolis clinches AFC South division:

  1. IND win or tie

Enjoy the games!

 

NFL Landscape at the 3/4 Pole

December 3, 2014

The NFL season, unbelievably, is already 75% complete.  Also, I didn’t fall asleep in my chair until 2am.  So, this would seem to be a good time to take a more exhaustive look at the playoff picture in both conferences.  Remarkably after Week 13 not only does no one yet have a playoff spot clinched, but there are not even any clinching scenarios for Week 14!  Usually by now we at least have a couple pace-setters that have a convoluted way to clinch, but everyone is still at least two weeks away.  As usual I’ll start with the AFC, which is the more muddled, especially when it comes to the wildcard picture and a 6 way tie for the 6th seed (as always please keep in mind that breaking ties within a division are of paramount importance; a team cannot be ranked higher in conference standings than a team that it is behind in division standings):

1. New England (9-3) (head to head tiebreaker on Denver)

2. Denver

3. Cincinnati (8-3-1)

4. Indianapolis (8-4)

5. San Diego (8-4)

6. Miami (7-5) ([division record tiebreaker on Buffalo for division rank] conference record tiebreaker on Kansas City & Baltimore [head to head to head tiebreaker on Pittsburgh & Cleveland for division rank])

In the Hunt

7. Kansas City (conference record tiebreaker on Buffalo & Baltimore)

8. Buffalo (conference record tiebreaker {more wins} on Baltimore)

9. Baltimore

10. Pittsburgh (common opponents record tiebreaker {more wins} on Cleveland)

11. Cleveland

12. Houston (6-6)

Playing for 2015

13/14. New York & Tennessee (2-10) (Tennessee has head to head tiebreaker on Jacksonville for division rank, New York also has tiebreaker on Jacksonville via conference record {more wins})

15. Jacksonville

16. Oakland (1-11)

Starting at the top New England is currently in decent shape to win their division, holding a two game lead on the Dolphins and Bills.  They then also are in good shape to be the #1 seed based on the fact they beat the other 3 current division leaders in head-to-head matchups.  Denver can hold off San Diego even if they lose the upcoming rematch based on a better division record (Chargers lost to Kansas City whereas the Broncos swept the Chiefs).  A Week 16 Monday Night trip to Cincinnati could help determine a bye seed.  The Colts are a game back having already lost to Denver and New England, so they would need help to get a bye seed.  However they are in solid shape to at least win their division.

A critical Week 14 game in the wildcard chase is Miami v Baltimore, as the winner of that game will obviously improve their standing.  The Dolphins have a game with New England looming also; if they were to end up 10-6 it would likely be with a strong 9-3 conference record.  Kansas City has critical remaining games with both San Diego and Pittsburgh.  San Diego has the advantage of being a game clear of the field, but they have a brutal remaining schedule that includes Denver, New England, and San Francisco along with that Chiefs game.

Pittsburgh is currently 10th in the conference, but they actually control their destiny for winning the division.  They still have both games left with the Bengals, so winning out would put Cincinnati a 1/2 game behind them.  And, while they are behind Baltimore right now, the fact is they would win a 2 way tie with either Baltimore or Cleveland at 11-5.  If the Steelers go 10-6 and don’t win the division they would still likely win a tie with either Baltimore or Cleveland.  A tie with San Diego could be problematic if one of the Chargers losses was the San Francisco game.  The Steelers have a stronger conference record than the Ravens or Browns because they have been doing more losing to the NFC South than they should.  A potential problem would be a tie with Miami; odds are that tie would come down to record against common opponents, and, in that eventuality, the Steelers loss to the lowly Jets, whom the Dolphins beat twice, could be crippling.

The Ravens are in better shape to go 11-5; that doesn’t guarantee them the division but almost certainly a wildcard.  After Miami their remaining games are Houston, Jacksonville, and Cleveland.  But at 10-6 they won’t be well-positioned for most tiebreakers, especially if the loss is Miami or Cleveland.  They just took a loss to San Diego and they would be 6-6 in the conference, the weakest possible mark for a 10-6 team.

Cleveland is in a similar predicament with all of their losses thus far being conference games.  They do get to play Carolina and can impact Baltimore by beating them Week 16, but they also still have games left with Indianapolis and Cincinnati.  Of course, the fact they play the Bengals once more still means they would not need much help to win the division should they win out to 11-5.  But at 10-6 they would also only be 6-6 in the conference including losses to Buffalo and Houston.

I haven’t mentioned Buffalo yet; at 7-5 they are in the thick of the race.  However, they also do not have a good conference record.  Also, they still have games remaining with New England, Denver, and Green Bay, so my hunch is they’ll end up around 8-8 and out of it.

Houston is also still alive 1 game back.  If they were to win out they would be 10-6 with a 9-3 conference record.  They have beaten Cleveland and would have to beat Baltimore to get to that mark.  They do have a loss to Pittsburgh.

And now for the NFC

1. Arizona (9-3) (conference record tiebreaker on Philadelphia & Green Bay)

2. Green Bay (head to head tiebreaker on Philadelphia)

3. Philadelphia

4. Atlanta (5-7) (head to head tiebreaker on New Orleans for division lead)

5. Seattle (8-4) (conference record drops Dallas from 3-way tie involving Detroit, then record against opponents common with Detroit to break 2-way tie)

6. Detroit (conference record tiebreaker on Dallas)

In the Hunt

7. Dallas

8. San Francisco (7-5)

In the Hunt NFC South Edition

9/10. New Orleans (5-7) (conference record drops St. Louis from tie involving Chicago [head to head tiebreaker on Minnesota for division rank]. Chicago & New Orleans have same conference record and will play each other later in season)

Playing for 2015

9/10. Chicago (conference record on St. Louis)

11. Minnesota (head to head tiebreaker on St. Louis

12. St. Louis

In the Hunt NFC South Edition

13. Carolina (3-8-1)

Playing for 2015

14. New York (3-9) (head to head on Washington)

15. Washington

16. Tampa Bay (2-10)

The top of the NFC is very tight with 3 division leaders sporting the same record and three 2nd place teams also sporting the identical records that trail their leader by 1 game.  Philadelphia has lost to both the Packers and Cardinals.  However, Arizona is now only leading the division by 1 game after losing the past two weeks.  In the last 4 weeks we still have one matchup each of Philadelphia v Dallas, Green Bay v Detroit, Arizona v Seattle, Arizona v San Francisco,  Seattle v San Francisco, and Philadelphia v Seattle to help either settle some things or muddle the picture even more.  At this moment Dallas would have the extreme bad luck of missing the playoffs at 8-4 which suggests its very possible that 10-6 will not be good enough for one or two teams in the NFC, maybe not even 11-5.

Then there is the NFC South.  Atlanta and New Orleans did pick up wins outside the division in Week 13, improving the division’s record in said games to 8-25-1.  The Saints and Falcons have a showdown remaining in Week 16 that will likely settle things.  Carolina still has the chance to win out to 7-8-1 having 3 division games and a home game with Cleveland remaining so they, at 3-8-1, are not completely out of it yet.

Enjoy the last month of the season!