NFL Playoff Picture

The NFL is now at the 3/4 pole with every team having 4 games remaining.  Dallas has clinched a playoff spot and remarkably can clinch the #1 seed with 3 weeks to go.  In the AFC, New England and Oakland have scenarios where they can clinch playoff spots this week.  Still, there is much that is as of yet still be determined.  Lets take a look at the picture, starting in the AFC:

  1. Oakland (10-2) (record vs opponents common with New England)
  2. New England
  3. Baltimore (7-5) (head to head with Pittsburgh for division lead)
  4. Houston (6-6) (head to head to head with Indianapolis & Tennessee for division lead)
  5. Kansas City (9-3)
  6. Denver (8-4)
  7. Miami (7-5) (head to head with Pittsburgh)
  8. Pittsburgh
  9. Indianapolis (6-6) ([head to head with Tennessee for divisional rank] conference record over Buffalo
  10. Tennessee (record vs opponents common with Buffalo)
  11. Buffalo
  12. San Diego (5-7)
  13. Cincinnati (4-7-1)
  14. New York (3-9)
  15. Jacksonville (2-10)
  16. Cleveland (0-16)

Oakland plays a pivotal game this Thursday against Kansas City in Arrowhead.  If the Raiders win they will have a two game lead in their division with 3 games remaining; once they clinch the division they should also at least clinch a bye seed.  The tiebreaker with New England for the #1 seed could come down to the wire.  However, a Kansas City win would move the Chiefs into first place in the West with a sweep of the Raiders giving them the tiebreaker advantage and the inside track on a bye seed.

New England can clinch the division this weekend; doing so sooner or later seems to be a given at this point.

In the North both Pittsburgh and Baltimore control their destiny for winning the division given that they play each other Christmas evening.  The Ravens can afford to lose one game if they beat the Steelers since they would have the head to head sweep; this fact could come in handy considering they play the Patriots this coming Monday Night.  If both teams win out other than the matchup, the loser would have a theoretical shot at a wildcard at 10-6; again Baltimore is in better shape since they beat Miami this past Sunday whereas the Steelers lost to the Dolphins earlier in the season.  This scenario also requires Denver to go no better than 2-2 down the stretch, or for Kansas City or Oakland to really fall flat to end the season.  The Bengals do still have a chance at the division by winning out to 8-7-1, but they would need the winner of the Steelers/Ravens game to lose both of their remaining non-Bengals games (Pittsburgh finishes with Cleveland) and even the loser to lose at least one other game.

The South division is a legit 3 way race with Houston, Indianapolis, and Tennessee all sitting at 6-6.  The Texans control their destiny as they have a game remaining with both of the other clubs.  The Colts also control their destiny as they have a game left with Houston and already swept the Titans.  Tennessee needs the Colts to lose at least once more than they do down the stretch to win the division.  The Titans theoretically could get a wildcard at 10-6 with a 7-5 conference record but that is asking for a lot.

Right now both wildcards come out of the West division.  Miami is one game behind Denver and would probably have a similar conference record than the Broncos.  Buffalo is at 6-6 and could factor if they win out and get some help.

And now for the NFC:

  1. Dallas (11-1)
  2. Seattle (8-3-1)
  3. Detroit (8-4)
  4. Atlanta (7-5) (division record tiebreaker over Tampa)
  5. New York 8-4)
  6. Tampa (7-5)
  7. Washington (6-5-1)
  8. Minnesota (6-6) (head to head over Green Bay)
  9. Green Bay
  10. Arizona (5-6-1)
  11. New Orleans (5-7) (conference record over Philadelphia)
  12. Philadelphia
  13. Carolina (4-8) (head to head over Los Angeles)
  14. Los Angeles
  15. Chicago (3-9)
  16. San Francisco (1-11)

Dallas can clinch the division by beating New York Sunday night.  Furthermore, they can clinch a bye seed if they win and either Detroit or Seattle lose (both losing clinches the #1 seed).  Seattle can clinch their division also this weekend if they win and Arizona loses.  Detroit has a two game lead in their division and they swept Minnesota.  However, they did lose their first game with Green Bay, so a stumble down the stretch could leave them vulnerable to the Packers.  In the South Atlanta and Tampa are tied and they split the head to head; both are currently undefeated in other division games.  If both win their last 4, Atlanta would have the edge via a one game lead in record vs common opponents.

Despite losing last Sunday New York is currently in good shape to get a wildcard spot; they have a 1.5 game lead on the outside.  Washington losing to Arizona did tighten the race for the 2nd wildcard.  As I wrote last week, the Cardinals have a viable scenario now that they beat Washington.  However, they do need either Atlanta or Tampa to go at best 2-2 down the stretch, along with having Washington and 2nd/3rd in the North lose at least once more.  2nd place in the North is also very much in the mix.  Especially Green Bay could be a real factor here; if they would get to 10-6 but fail to catch the Lions they would have an 8-4 conference record.  If the Lions are 10-6 but not winning the North they also would be 8-4 in conference games.  Detroit could be catching a break in the timing of the schedule; they have to play Dallas but the game is not until the Monday Night of Week 16 at which point the Cowboys will quite probably have the #1 seed clinched and be coasting.

There are several key games this coming weekend; enjoy the action!

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One Response to “NFL Playoff Picture”

  1. Brian Saxton Says:

    You know what would be cool (and you did it in this post) is call out a couple of key games to keep an extra eye on — that’s a big value-add for me.

    Thanks, man!

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