Archive for November, 2017

NFL Playoff Picture Entering December

November 30, 2017

Last week’s games maybe helped winnow the list of playoff contenders a little bit in each conference, but there weren’t many seismic shifts.  Below is the current standings and some analysis, starting as usual with the AFC:

  1. Pittsburgh (9-2) (strength of victory over New England [+3])
  2. New England
  3. Tennessee (7-4) (head to head over Jacksonville for division lead)
  4. Kansas City (6-5)
  5. Jacksonville (7-4)
  6. Baltimore (6-5) (conference record over Buffalo)
  7. Buffalo
  8. Cincinnati (5-6) (conference record over LA Chargers [head to head over Oakland for division rank])
  9. Los Angeles Chargers (head to head over Oakland)
  10. Oakland
  11. New York (4-7) ([division record winning percentage over Miami for division rank] conference record over Houston)
  12. Miami (conference record over Houston)
  13. Houston
  14. Indianapolis (3-8) (conference record tiebreaker over Denver)
  15. Denver
  16. Cleveland (0-11)

New England and Pittsburgh are now two games clear of the pack and therefore seem to be in strong position to get the two bye seeds in the playoffs, although nothing is clinched yet.  They play each other December 17th at Heinz Field in a game that figures to go a long way to deciding the top seed in the conference.  Tennessee and Jacksonville look good to both make the playoffs; both teams have head to head wins over Baltimore if they end up in a tie for a wildcard spot and both have strong conference records, especially Jacksonville at 7-2.  The Titans won the first head to head matchup with the rematch being Week 17.

Baltimore and Buffalo both won last week and so continue to be tied for the 2nd wildcard spot; both have 3 conference losses so while the Ravens have the tiebreaker right now with more conference wins that advantage could disappear depending on what games they win (and lose) to ultimately end up at, say, 10-6 or 9-7.  Cincinnati is also in a decent position one game behind.  They lost their first game against Baltimore but could have a huge re-match with them Week 17.  It would help the Bengals immensely for tiebreaking purposes if they could beat the Steelers this coming Monday Night or if the Ravens would inexplicably lose their remaining game with Cleveland.  The Bengals have a head to head advantage on Buffalo.

The Chargers and Raiders are also very much alive in the wildcard picture, but they are even more alive at this point in the West division race as the Chiefs continue to free-fall.  Both have a game remaining with the Chiefs and with each other so have a large measure of control over their fate, especially the Raiders who won their first contest with Kansas City.

The teams at 4-7 are still alive for a playoff spot but would need to win out to 9-7 and get a certain amount of help.  If anyone is in a better spot it’s Miami simply because they still have both games left with Buffalo and so can deal the Bills the two losses it would take to draw even with them.  They and the Jets both would be a relatively strong 8-4 in the conference at 9-7 which would also help in tiebreaking.

And now for the NFC:

  1. Philadelphia (10-1)
  2. Minnesota (9-2)
  3. Los Angeles Rams (8-3) (head to head tiebreaker over New Orleans [head to head tiebreaker on Carolina for division lead])
  4. New Orleans (head to head tiebreaker on Carolina for division lead)
  5. Carolina (8-3)
  6. Atlanta (7-4) (head to head over Seattle)
  7. Seattle
  8. Detroit (6-5)
  9. Green Bay (5-6) ([conference record drops Arizona from 3 way tie then] head to head over Dallas {head to head over Washington for division rank})
  10. Dallas ([head to head over Washington for division rank] head to head over Arizona)
  11. Washington (conference record over Arizona)
  12. Arizona
  13. Tampa (4-7)
  14. Chicago (3-8)
  15. New York (2-9)
  16. San Francisco (1-10)

Philadelphia is the one team that can clinch a playoff spot in Week 13, either by Washington beating Dallas on Thursday Night or by winning their game against Seattle Sunday Night.  The Eagles figure to win the division sooner or later.  But it actually would not take much of a stumble to drop from the #1 seed or even a bye position with the Vikings only one game behind them and the Rams and South leaders only two games back.  The Vikings also established a stranglehold on the North when they beat the Lions Thanksgiving afternoon.

New Orleans will play Carolina this coming Sunday with the winner moving/staying in first place in the South; if the Saints win that would complete a season sweep of the Panthers.  The Falcons are also still very much a factor only one game behind; they lost their first game against Carolina but still have both games with the Saints remaining to be played.  Unless teams stumble in their games other than the ones with each other the South does figure to get at least one wildcard.  All of those games with each other, however, makes it unlikely the South ends up placing both wildcards like it would right now.

In the West the Rams continue to lead Seattle by one game.  However, the Seahawks won the first matchup (in LA) so they also control their fate for trying to win the West.  Neither team can afford too many stumbles down the stretch with the NFC being as competitive at the top; as it is even 6 losses could be too many to make the playoffs.

Currently on the outside but still very alive is a group of teams lead by the Lions at 6-5.  Detroit may very well need to win out to 11-5 to make the playoffs however, as their resume includes losses to all 3 good South division teams.  They will attempt a Wayne Fontes-esque December charge starting this Sunday with a game at Baltimore that has sizeable implications for the wildcard races in both conferences.  The four teams at 5-6 are also still alive if they can win out to 10-6 and get a certain amount of help.  Again, the teams in the South division have a number of games left with each other so that could provide at least some of the help.  The Cowboys and Redskins play Thursday Night in essentially an elimination game.  For the winner, tiebreaking could be tricky as Dallas already lost to Atlanta and Washington already lost to New Orleans.  At 10-6 the Cowboys would have an 8-4 conference record which is better than most would probably have provided they are not tied with the wrong teams.  Green Bay would also be 8-4 in the conference at 10-6; if they can beat Tampa and Cleveland the next two weeks and get to 7-6 it would set up a potentially huge showdown with Carolina in Week 15 and then they could get Aaron Rogers back with a chance.


NFL Picture Entering Turkey Day

November 23, 2017

It’s that time of year again for me to dust off this blog and start taking a look at the NFL landscape.  At the time of this writing everyone in the league has cleared their bye week and played 10 games with six weeks remaining.  Below will be the conference standings and then some brief analysis.  Remember for tiebreakers divisional ties are broken first.  For purposes of my standings I will use the tiebreakers in the order they will be relevant at the end of the season, for example when appropriate I will use record vs common opponents even if less than 4 such games have been played at this point, knowing that after the full season a minimum of 5 such games will be played.  So without further preamble, here are the standings in the AFC:

  1. Pittsburgh (8-2) (conference record over New England)
  2. New England
  3. Jacksonville (7-3)
  4. Kansas City (6-4)
  5. Tennessee (6-4)
  6. Baltimore (5-5) (conference record over Buffalo)
  7. Buffalo
  8. Miami (4-6) ([division record over New York] conference record over Cincinnati, Houston, and Los Angeles [head to head over Oakland])
  9. New York (conference record over Cincinnati, Houston, and Los Angeles [head to head over Oakland])
  10. Cincinnati (conference record over Houston {winning percentage} and over Los Angeles [head to head over Oakland])
  11. Houston (conference record over Los Angeles [head to head over Oakland])
  12. Los Angeles (head to head over Oakland)
  13. Oakland
  14. Indianapolis (3-7) (conference record over Denver)
  15. Denver
  16. Cleveland (0-10)

While nothing is clinched, New England, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City (unless the Chiefs can’t arrest the skid they are on) look very good for winning their divisions.  The Steelers and Patriots play Week 15 at Heinz Field in a game that could end up going a long way towards deciding the #1 seed in the conference.  In the South both Jacksonville and Tennessee appear to be in good shape for making the playoffs; the Titans won the first meeting and the rematch is a current contender to be the NBC final game of the regular season Week 17.  If the Jaguars win the division they are currently only one game behind the Steelers and beat them in early October so are very much in contention for a bye seed.  Despite their recent funk, the Chiefs have a two game lead in the West division.

That then leaves the complete muddled mess for the last playoff spot.  Currently two teams are tied at .500 with then a half dozen teams one game behind at 4-6.  The AFC is currently a net -10 in games against the NFC which is why these records are so mediocre whereas, as I will detail below, better records would miss the playoffs in the NFC.  It’s really hard to say at this point who, if anyone, has a clear advantage.  Baltimore, Cincinnati, and the LA Chargers all have a game remaining with Cleveland.  The Ravens also (along with Buffalo) are at 5-5 instead of 4-6.  The Ravens, along with Buffalo and also Miami of the 4-6 group currently only have 3 conference losses whereas everyone else in the picture has 4 or 5.  Ultimately the last playoff spot will almost certainly go to a team that is at best 9-7 (I wouldn’t rule out 8-8) so everyone in the conference except the Browns still is very alive if they get hot down the stretch.  And yes, I know, there is even a 45 point scenario where Cleveland can get in at 6-10.  It involves a couple games ending in a tie.  Look it up if you dare lol.

And now for the NFC:

  1. Philadelphia (9-1)
  2. Minnesota (8-2) (head to head vs New Orleans)
  3. New Orleans
  4. Los Angeles (7-3)
  5. Carolina (7-3)
  6. Atlanta (6-4) (conference record over Detroit and Seattle)
  7. Detroit (conference record over Seattle)
  8. Seattle
  9. Green Bay (5-5) (head to head vs Dallas)
  10. Dallas
  11. Washington/Arizona (4-6) (same conference record and will play each other Week 15 {conference record winning percentage over Tampa})
  12. Arizona/Washington
  13. Tampa
  14. Chicago (3-7)
  15. New York (2-8)
  16. San Francisco (1-9)

Other than Philadelphia having the East division all but wrapped up, there is little clarity in the NFC at this point with 8 teams above .500 and two others at 5-5.  Minnesota can put themselves in great shape to win the North if they beat the Lions this afternoon.  And certainly the Vikings and Saints are both in good shape to at least make the playoffs.  But the Saints cannot relax at all with Carolina and Atlanta both with strong records.  Atlanta’s win over Seattle this past Monday night was huge; it moved the Falcons back into a playoff spot and also gave them a head to head advantage on the Seahawks should they be in a 2 way tie at the end.  Also, in a year where, as stated above, the NFC is +10 on the AFC, the Falcons are the counter-example.  They went only 1-3 playing the AFC East but have only one conference loss, which means they are in great shape for most tiebreakers outside their division.

In the West, the LA Rams currently have a one game lead but they did lose their first meeting against Seattle (at the Coliseum) so it does not take much stumbling for them to be in a perilous position.

Overall probably the Top 13 are still alive for a playoff spot with the teams at 5-5 or 4-6 needing to get hot down the stretch.  If any of them can it’s probably Dallas, although it might be a struggle the next month without Ezekiel Elliot.  Green Bay is even in worse shape though without Aaron Rogers.  On paper Washington would seem to have what it takes, but they have been finding ways to lose.  And with 5 conference losses already, even at 10-6 they might get left out.  Arizona on their 3rd string quarterback, and Tampa, feel like even longer shots.  It will almost certainly take 10-6 to make the playoffs, and it might even take 11-5 unless that disparity against the AFC narrows the next few weeks.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!