NFL Picture with 3 Weeks To Go

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 of the official clinching scenarios in Week 15.


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.


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:


ELIMINATED: Giants, Redskins, Bears, Buccaneers


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 clinches a playoff spot:

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


ELIMINATED: Oakland, Jacksonville, Tennessee, NY Jets


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 clinches AFC South division:

  1. IND win or tie

Enjoy the games!



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