NFL Standings and Playoff Picture

Starting with the standings in the AFC:

  1. New England (clinched division) (11-2)
  2. Cincinnati (10-3) (conference record tiebreaker on Denver)
  3. Denver
  4. Indianapolis (6-7) (head-to-head tiebreaker on Houston for division lead)
  5. Kansas City (8-5) (conference record tiebreaker on New York & Pittsburgh)
  6. New York (conference record tiebreaker on Pittsburgh)
  7. Pittsburgh
  8. Oakland (6-7) (conference record tiebreaker on Houston & Buffalo)
  9. Buffalo (head-to-head tiebreaker on Houston)
  10. Houston
  11. Jacksonville (5-8) (head-to-head tiebreaker on Miami)
  12. Miami
  13. Baltimore (4-9)
  14. San Diego (3-10) (conference record tiebreaker on Cleveland & Tennessee)
  15. Cleveland (head-to-head tiebreaker on Tennessee)
  16. Tennessee

Excluding the AFC South we appear to have a clear race of 6 teams for 5 playoff spots, with only New England being completely clinched at this point.  The Chiefs, Jets, and Steelers all winning last week means nothing has changed in the wildcard race.  New York is still currently ranked ahead of Pittsburgh because the Jets have one more conference win.  However, it is the Steelers that still control their destiny at this point because, if both teams win out to 11-5 they will end up at the same conference record, and Pittsburgh would then win a tiebreaker of record vs common opponents.  However, if they end up tied at 10-6 it would become of critical importance who the loss was for each team: if New York is going to lose a game this Saturday night against Dallas would be their best choice as they then would have a better conference record at 10-6 than the Steelers.  If the Steelers win the next two weeks and New York beats Dallas but loses to New England, that record in common games tiebreaker would be clinched by the Steelers.  However, if both win the next two weeks but then stumble in Week 17, which for Pittsburgh would be a loss to Cleveland, the record vs common opponents would be evened, taking the tie to strength of victory.  Sitting even prettier in this is Kansas City who would win any relevant tie for a playoff spot.  3 wins clinches it for them also, and one loss simply means they need the Jets or the Steelers to lose a game without regard to which one.

As far as that goes, the Chiefs still have a chance at winning the AFC West division.  They need Denver to lose twice down the stretch and to win out.  If that happens, Kansas City would win a tie at 11-5 on a better division record, again regardless of where the Denver losses come from.  The Steelers are also alive still to win the AFC North, however their odds are much longer.  If Cincinnati loses to San Francisco and Denver the next two weeks, but then beats Baltimore in Week 17, the Bengals would win the North on division record tiebreaker even if the Steelers win out.  If the Bengals lose twice and its to San Francisco and Baltimore they would edge out the Steelers on conference record.  If the Bengals lose to Denver and Baltimore and the Steelers win out, then the tie would go to strength of victory which the Steelers probably do win.

New England moved back into the driver’s seat for getting the #1 seed in the conference by winning last weekend.  But if they lose once down the stretch their loss to Denver could again haunt them.  Cincinnati plays Denver in Week 16 on Monday Night Football in what could be a pivotal showdown to see who gets the other bye seed and who is playing at home wildcard weekend (or even in peril of not winning their division).

As for the AFC South, Indianapolis plays Houston in what is obviously a critical game.  The winner will move 1 game ahead of the other with two games remaining.  If the Colts win they will also hold tiebreaking advantage by sweeping the Texans.  If Houston wins they would have a better division record, but that could be lost by losing one of their final two games.  Also, don’t forget about Jacksonville.  Their win last weekend got them within 1 game of the front runners.  However, what is really hurting them is they lost one of their games against Tennessee.  They are going to need this Sunday’s winner to lose their last two games because they will lose a tiebreaker on division record.  The Jaguars have to win out and be the only team at 8-8 to win the South.

Also alive but just barely, in this case in the wildcard race, are Buffalo and Oakland.  At 6-7 both would have to win out and both would need considerable help.  Oakland is the one team out there that could potentially win a tiebreaker with Kansas City at 9-7 and they would win a tie with the Jets while Buffalo would win a tie with either New York or Pittsburgh at that record.  Oakland plays the Chiefs and Buffalo plays the Jets down the stretch which does mean they’re hoping for less than a miracle.

And now for the NFC

  1. Carolina (clinched bye) (13-0)
  2. Arizona (clinched playoff spot) (11-2)
  3. Green Bay (9-4)
  4. Washington (6-7) (head-to-head-to-head on Philadelphia & New York for division lead)
  5. Seattle (8-5) (head-to-head on Minnesota)
  6. Minnesota
  7. Tampa Bay (6-7) ([head-to-head on Atlanta for divisional rank] head-to-head on Philadelphia [head-to-head on New York for divisional rank])
  8. Atlanta (head-to-head on Philadelphia)
  9. Philadelphia
  10. New York
  11. St Louis (5-8) (conference record tiebreaker on New Orleans & Chicago)
  12. New Orleans (conference record tiebreaker on Chicago)
  13. Chicago
  14. Detroit (4-9) (conference record tiebreaker on San Francisco & Dallas)
  15. San Francisco (conference record tiebreaker on Dallas)
  16. Dallas

Outside of the East division there isn’t a ton of drama left in the NFC, or so it would seem.  Carolina has clinched no worse than the #2 seed.  Arizona has clinched a playoff spot and will probably get the 2nd bye; even losing all 3 games probably wouldn’t lose the division for them.  The Cardinals do still play Green Bay, so losing to them does put them at some peril of dropping to the #3 seed.  Green Bay is now definitely likely to win the North; even if they lost the next two weeks but beat Minnesota in Week 17 they would win the North on head to head tiebreaking.  Seattle and Minnesota are now two games clear in the wildcard race with only 3 weeks to go, with Atlanta and Tampa both needing to win out just to get to 9-7 and hope someone stumbles badly.  Neither play Seattle and Atlanta lost to Minnesota.  Remember when the Falcons were 5-0?

As for the East race, it now definitely looks like a 3 team race.  Philadelphia and Washington play each other in Week 16 in what looks like a critical game.  Both of them know that 3 wins and they claim the title at 9-7.  New York would likely prefer the Eagles win that game, as the Giants can then take care of Philly in Week 17.  The Giants would lose a tie with Washington at 9-7 on division record.  Remarkably for a 6-7 team still in the playoff race, Philadelphia does *not* need to win this weekend against Arizona.  If they lose to the Cardinals but beat Washington and New York they would for sure win the division at 8-8.  Washington is by no means out of it if they lose to Buffalo this coming weekend; two wins to finish and they win the division at 8-8 if New York loses once down the stretch.  The Giants could also make 8-8 work if the loss is not the Philadelphia game Week 17.  However, if they lose to Carolina this weekend the fact is they would lose a tie with the Eagles based on record vs common opponents and would lose a tie with the Redskins based on conference record.  An upset of the Panthers but then a loss to Minnesota in Week 16 and they could then win a tie at 8-8 with the Eagles on conference record.  And, at 4-9 Dallas is not eliminated completely yet.  If they win out to 7-9 and have the other 3 teams all lose at least 2 of their remaining 3 games (Philly must lose to Arizona or Washington & New York must both lose in Week 15) the Cowboys would win that tie with a 4-2 division record.  And, let’s face it.  Defending two time conference champion Seattle playing at 7-9 Dallas would be poetic justice for the year the Seahawks won the West at 7-9 and got to beat defending champion New Orleans in Seattle lol.

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