Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

NFL Situation at the 3/4 Pole

December 7, 2017

With four weeks to go in the NFL season it would seem that the playoff picture is starting to take shape.  However, an NFL season usually is full of twists and turns and I assume this year will be no different; while a number of teams can clinch playoff spots this coming weekend, no one has cinched a spot yet.  Below are the current standings and analysis, starting with the AFC:

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

At this point I would say the top 12 teams are all still alive for a playoff spot as the 2nd wildcard ending up 9-7 cannot be ruled out.  The Patriots and Steelers have win and clinch division scenarios this weekend; Jacksonville actually has a convuluted six games involved scenario to clinch a playoff spot in Week 14.  Each week that goes by continues to reinforce the thought that New England and Pittsburgh will likely end up with the two bye seeds with the December 17th game at Heinz Field likely going a long way to determining the #1 seed.  And each week that goes by continues to reinforce the notion that both the Titans and Jaguars will make the playoffs; one as the division winner and probably the #3 seed and the other as a wildcard.

The Chiefs continued free fall, losing 6 of 7 games after a 5-0 start, has pulled the West division race back wide open.  Kansas City, Oakland, and Los Angeles all have one game remaining with each other (the Chiefs and Raiders play each other this Sunday afternoon) so all 3 of them have complete control of their fate.  In their first matchups the Chiefs beat the Chargers but lost to the Raiders while the Raiders lost to the Chargers.

Baltimore is in great shape for getting a wildcard (can still win the division if they win at Pittsburgh this coming Sunday night).  They have a one game lead on Buffalo; if they end up tied it will also be with the same conference record but the Ravens currently have an advantage in the next tiebreaker, record vs common opponents.  If I am not missing something, if Baltimore loses to Pittsburgh but wins their last 3 games (their other 3 games are Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati) they will make the playoffs even if Buffalo wins out (2nd place in the West cannot be 10-6 because of the 3 tied teams all playing each other down the stretch).  Even a 3 way tie involving 2nd place in the South should not mess it up for Baltimore.  However, if the Ravens would lose at least 2 games and the Bills at least 1 more game, then that does bring the 2nd wildcard down to 9-7.  This could be advantage Jets or Dolphins as either of them would be 8-4 in the conference at 9-7 whereas Buffalo, Baltimore, and Kansas City would be 7-5 and Cincinnati, LA, and Oakland only 6-6.  This would be a bit of a chaos scenario figuring out which team wins the West and then interdependent scenarios of certain teams winning head to head ties but losing others vs multi-way ties that go to conference record, breaking ties for 2nd place in the division first, etc.

And now for the NFC:

  1. Minnesota (10-2) (strength of victory vs Philadelphia [+11])
  2. Philadelphia
  3. Los Angeles Rams (9-3) (head to head vs New Orleans)
  4. New Orleans
  5. Seattle (8-4) (conference record vs Carolina)
  6. Carolina
  7. Atlanta (7-5)
  8. Detroit (6-6) ([head to head over Green Bay for division rank] record vs opponents common with Dallas)
  9. Green Bay (head to head over Dallas)
  10. Dallas
  11. Washington (5-7) (conference record over Arizona)
  12. Arizona
  13. Tampa (4-8)
  14. Chicago (3-9)
  15. San Francisco (2-10) (head to head over New York Giants)
  16. New York Giants

In the NFC I would say 10 teams are still alive for a playoff spot and the 3 teams at 6-6 are hanging by the thread of a hope that the 2nd wildcard spot ends up at 10-6.  Of that group it continues to be true that Green Bay would be in the best position, as they have games left with Detroit who they need to climb ahead of, have already beat Dallas, and have a game left with Carolina which is a team they are trying to catch.  But if it ends up taking 11-5 to make the playoffs we are already down to 7 teams for 6 spots.

Atlanta is currently on the outside looking in, but they actually still control their fate for winning the South division.  A quirk of the schedule is that all of their remaining games are within the division including both games with New Orleans (Thursday Nigh football this week).  At 11-5 they would win the South.  On the other hand, even one loss down the stretch and they are going to need help to make it as a wildcard.  At this point the most likely scenario is that Los Angeles and Seattle both make the playoffs out of the West and that two teams from the South get in.

At the top the battle for bye seeds (and in fact the division itself in the South and West) figures to come down to the wire.  Minnesota is currently #1 by virtue of a much stronger strength of victory than Philadelphia (both have 1 conference loss and are undefeated against opponents they share in common).  At 13-3 New Orleans would only have 2 conference losses, which is what the Eagles or Vikings would likely also have at that record.  The Rams have 3 conference losses, however one of their wins was over the Saints.  Which is why I say this could really come down to the wire to see who maybe has a slip up or two with a lot of ties potentially coming down to record vs common opponents or strength of victory.  Obviously at this point Philadelphia and Minnesota control their fates for getting a bye seed, and they also have the luxury of having their divisions more or less salted away (with straightforward win and in clinching scenarios this weekend).  Los Angeles and New Orleans also have convoluted multi-step scenarios for clinching a playoff spot this weekend.

Below are the official clinching scenarios for Week 14 copy/pasted from NFL.com:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-2) (at Miami, Monday night)

New England clinches AFC East division with:

1. NE win or tie OR

2. BUF loss or tie

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (10-2) (vs. Baltimore, Sunday night)

Pittsburgh clinches AFC North division with:

1. PIT win or tie

Pittsburgh clinches a playoff berth with:

1. BUF loss or tie

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (8-4) (vs. Seattle, Sunday)

Jacksonville clinches a playoff berth with:

1. JAX win + BUF loss + MIA loss or tie + NYJ loss or tie + LAC loss or tie + OAK-KC game does not end in a tie

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-2) (at Los Angeles Rams, Sunday)

Philadelphia clinches NFC East division with:

1. PHI win or tie OR

2. DAL loss or tie

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-2) (at Carolina, Sunday)

Minnesota clinches NFC North division with:

1. MIN win or tie OR

2. DET loss or tie + GB loss or tie

LOS ANGELES RAMS (9-3) (vs. Philadelphia (10-2), Sunday)

Los Angeles Rams clinch a playoff berth with:

1. LAR win + DET loss or tie + GB loss or tie + DAL loss or tie + CAR loss + ATL loss

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (9-3) (at Atlanta, Thursday night)

New Orleans clinches a playoff berth with:

1. NO win + CAR loss or tie + DAL loss or tie OR

2. NO win + CAR loss + DET loss or tie OR

3. NO win + DET loss or tie + GB loss or tie OR

4. NO win + CAR loss + NO clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over DAL OR

5. NO win + CAR tie + NO clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over DAL and GB OR

6. NO win + CAR tie + GB loss or tie + NO clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over DAL

Advertisements

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!

NFL Playoff Picture at the Dawn of 2017

December 28, 2016

Last week did a lot to clarify things, as we went from having only 4 teams having clinched a playoff spot to 10, including all 6 in the AFC.  Let’s take a look at the parts of the picture that will be crystallized the 1st day of 2017, starting with the AFC standings:

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

New England is guaranteed a bye seed and will get the #1 seed if they win (or tie) or Oakland loses (or ties).  However, a Patriots loss coupled with a Raiders win would make Oakland the #1 seed as they would have a 5-0 to 4-1 advantage vs common opponents (Patriots lost to Buffalo while Brady was suspended).  The flip side of the coin for the Raiders is if they lose and Kansas City wins the Chiefs snag the division title and the #2 seed because they swept the Raiders in the head to head matchup.  Kansas City is currently #5 but could slip to #6 if they lose and Miami wins because the Dolphins would have a 4-1 to 3-2 advantage on the Chiefs against common opponents.  Pittsburgh is locked into the #3 seed; even if they lose and Houston wins in Week 17, the Steelers have an apparently insurmountable lead in strength of victory.  By my math it is currently +3 on Houston, and if that can be no better than tied, the Steelers would have an advantage on strength of schedule.

To summarize, possible final seeds are as follows: New England = 1 or 2.  Oakland = 1, 2, or 5. Pittsburgh = 3. Houston = 4. Kansas City = 2, 5, or 6. Miami = 5 or 6.

And now for the NFC:

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

The most interesting team in this is Detroit.  The Lions currently sit in the #6 spot.  If they beat the Packers at home Sunday night they win the division.  They can move as high as the #2 seed and a first round bye that goes with it if they win and both Seattle and Atlanta lose (a tie suffices vis a vis the Seahawks) as they would have the record vs common opponents tiebreaker over the Falcons 4-1 vs 3-2.  However, if they lose and Washington wins, they miss the playoffs completely.

Green Bay cannot get the #2 seed because they lost head to head to Atlanta, but a win or a tie gives them the division title, and a Seahawks loss or tie would move them up to the #3 seed.  However, they also miss the playoffs completely if they lose and Washington wins.  Where it gets complicated is if Washington ties to finish at 8-6-2, which is considered the same as being 9-7.  The Lions would be fine with a Washington tie as they win that tiebreaker on conference record.  But if it is Green Bay that loses on Sunday night, Washington wins that tie on a head to head victory over the Packers unless Tampa is also 9-7.  This is where we get into the fun scenario.

Green Bay and Tampa would be 7-5 in the conference while Washington would be 6-5-1, so the Redskins would be out.  The tie between the Packers and Bucs then goes to strength of victory.  Currently the Packers hold the advantage but it is not insurmountable.  The Bucs can overtake the advantage if, beyond them winning, Green Bay losing, and Washington exactly tying (the Washington tie is necessary because, while they cannot have the Redskins win to be 9-6-1, a New York win over Washington would make Green Bay’s strength of victory prohibitively strong) the following four things happen.  Tennessee beats Houston (this denies Green Bay a boost to their strength of victory for having beat Houston).  Indianapolis beats Jacksonville (this denies Green Bay a boost to their strength of victory for having beat Jacksonville).  Dallas beats Philadelphia (this denies Green Bay the boost to their strength of victory for having beat Philadelphia).  And San Francisco beats Seattle (this boosts Tampa’s strength of victory as, while both them and Green Bay beat Seattle [so that is a wash], only Tampa played/beat San Francisco).  If all those things happen, Tampa wins the strength of victory.  And they must win this tie, as if this breaker is tied the Packers have clinched having the stronger schedule.

For Washington, things are simple; win and they are in unless the Green Bay v Detroit game ends in a tie, in which case they lose the tiebreaker with Detroit on conference record.

So, to summarize, here are the possible seeds by team.  Dallas = 1.  Atlanta = 2, 3, or 4.  Seattle = 2, 3, or 4.  Green Bay = 3, 4, 6, or out.  New York = 5.  Detroit = 2, 3, 4, 6, or out.  Washington = 6 or out.  Tampa = 6 or out.

Games to watch: basically any game I mentioned above.  Buffalo v New York, Baltimore, v Cincinnati, Cleveland v Pittsburgh, Minnesota v Chicago, and Arizona v Los Angeles can be safely ignored.  The two AFC South games are only a factor for the Tampa scenario.

And finally a fun fact that may interest only me: Dallas is 13-2 with their only losses being getting swept by the Giants while San Francisco is 2-13 with their only wins being sweeping Los Angeles.  Happy New Year everyone!

NFL Playoff Picture at Christmastime

December 21, 2016

With two weeks to go we still only know for sure four of the 12 playoff participants; New England and Seattle have clinched division titles while Dallas and Oakland have clinched at least a playoff spot.  We are at the point now where some things are fairly clear, but there are still a number of scenarios, so let’s dive in, starting as usual in the AFC.

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

It continues to be the case that two teams control their destiny for winning both the North & South divisions.  In the North the Steelers would clinch the division by beating Baltimore Christmas evening.  However, the Ravens if they win would have a sweep of the head to head and so would definitely clinch by winning Sunday and their final game against Cincinnati.  That is also to say that, while currently listed as best team out, the Ravens really aren’t a serious factor in the wildcard race because at 10-6 they would win the division.  If the Steelers do lose to Baltimore but beat Cleveland and are failing to win the North at 10-6 however they would then be in the thick of the wildcard race.  Their main problem is they would need Miami to lose at least once and couldn’t be in a two way tie with the Dolphins because of head to head.  However, if Denver wins twice to make a 3-way tie (remember, 2nd place in the South cannot be 10-6 because Houston plays Tennessee in Week 17), conference record would drop Miami from the tie, then the Steelers edge Denver on record vs common opponents.  Alternately, if Kansas City loses twice they would stay ahead of Denver in the division standings; in a 3-way tie conference record again dismisses Miami and the Steelers get the #5 seed because of a head to head win over the Chiefs.  Or, even if Miami wins out to 11-5 if the Chiefs lose twice the Steelers win a head to head tie for the #6 seed.  If Baltimore loses once and is in the wildcard mix at 9-7 they would have a chance at the #6 seed if Miami loses twice and Denver at least once since they would have the superior conference record, or if Denver loses twice the Ravens have head to head over Miami.  The only complication here is if Houston is in the wildcard mix at 9-7 as they would also have a 7-5 conference record.  If applicable we’ll explore this scenario next week.

In the South division Houston can clinch this week if they win and Tennessee loses; the Texans would have tiebreakers on the Titans and/or the Colts.  Otherwise their Week 17 matchup can be for the division title.  For the Colts to win the division they need to win both remaining games, have both Houston & Tennessee lose in Week 16, then have the Titans beat the Texans.  This way, Houston is dropped to 8-8 and the Colts win a tie with the Titans on having swept them.  The Colts may have a shot at a wildcard if the Dolphins lose twice, neither Pittsburgh nor Baltimore is 2nd in the North at 9-7, Denver is no better than 9-7, and the Colts clinch strength of victory over Miami (and Denver if at 9-7).

In the East New England has clinched a bye seed and can clinch the #1 this weekend with a win and an Oakland loss.  Miami is in control of getting a wildcard; they would not be displeased if the Patriots do clinch the #1 this weekend and so are less worried about winning the Week 17 matchup.  If Miami ends up 10-6 because they lost to Buffalo but beat New England they should be fine if Pittsburgh is not involved in the tie because of record vs opponents common with Denver.  But if they’re 10-6 because they lose to the Patriots, their potential tie with the Broncos comes down to strength of victory.  Buffalo is still mathematically alive for the 2nd wildcard; they need two wins plus considerable help.

In the West Oakland is now back in the driver’s seat for winning the division and a bye seed; two wins and they have it.  However, if they lose to either Indianapolis or Denver it would let the Chiefs get back to the top given that Kansas City swept them in the head to head.  Short of winning the division, the Chiefs can clinch a playoff spot this weekend by winning or if Baltimore does not win (clinches that Pittsburgh would not be in the wildcard mix at 10-6).  Denver is still alive; it’s not as hopeless as it may look right now being listed 9th in the conference because at 10-6 they would jump 2nd place in the South and potentially 2nd place in the North.  But since they cannot end up ahead of Kansas City (division record tiebreaker at 10-6) they can only get the #6 seed and only if Miami loses the New England game and the Broncos have strength of victory tiebreaker (and Pittsburgh is not 2nd in the North at 10-6) or if Miami loses twice (and Pittsburgh is not 2nd in the North at 10-6).  This could be a year that a team, perhaps even two, in the AFC go 10-6 but miss the playoffs; a +3 over the NFC in cross-conference games plus teams padding records with wins over Cleveland and Jacksonville being among the culprits.

And now for the NFC:

  1. Dallas (12-2)
  2. Seattle (9-4-1)
  3. Atlanta (9-5) (strength of victory on Detroit)
  4. Detroit
  5. New York (10-4)
  6. Green Bay (8-6) (strength of victory on Tampa)
  7. Tampa
  8. Washington (7-6-1)
  9. Minnesota (7-7)
  10. New Orleans (6-8) (record vs opponents common with Carolina)
  11. Carolina
  12. Arizona (5-8-1)
  13. Philadelphia (5-9)
  14. Los Angeles (4-10)
  15. Chicago (3-11)
  16. San Francisco (1-13)

Green Bay is currently listed in a wildcard spot, but they will almost certainly not end up as a wildcard.  If they win their two remaining games they would win the North division title.  So Tampa with two wins is still likely to end up in the playoffs; the only thing that could block them is if Detroit beats Dallas but loses to Green Bay (after the Packers beat Minnesota) as Detroit would have a superior record vs opponents common with Tampa.  This is why the scenarios that have Tampa clinch a playoff spot this weekend all involve both the Lions and Packers losing this weekend so that 2nd in the North would then be 9-7.  It can also be noted that Tampa could survive Detroit being 2nd in the North at 10-6 if New York loses both remaining games.  Washington still has a chance at the wildcard if they win out to 9-6-1; they need Tampa to lose once (or Atlanta twice) and for Detroit to not be 2nd in the North at 10-6.

Dallas will clinch the East division and the #1 seed once they win once more or New York loses once more.  New York clinches a playoff spot with one more win or if someone of Detroit, Green Bay, Atlanta, or Tampa loses this weekend to ensure at least one of those divisions won’t have its 2nd place team be 10-6.

Atlanta, to use a baseball term, has a Magic Number of 2 to win the South division.  However, if they lose once more than Tampa down the stretch the Buccaneers would win a tie on division record.  If you watched Monday Night Football the infinitesimal scenario for Carolina to make the playoff was outlined.  If they’re still alive in a week we’ll explore it then.

Minnesota can still make the playoffs, but they need two wins plus Tampa losing twice and Washington losing once.  New Orleans needs two wins plus what Minnesota needs plus the Vikings losing to the Bears after beating the Packers and the Packers losing to the Lions.

Seattle should be able to lock up the #2 seed with games with Arizona and San Francisco remaining.  However, if they do lose it could open the door for Atlanta or Detroit.  Two losses could even open the door for Green Bay or Tampa Bay to jump all the way up to the #2 seed.

And now for Games to Watch in the coming dozen days:

Thursday December 22nd: Giants @ Eagles.  New York can clinch a playoff spot.  A loss clinches the #1 seed for Dallas, which could be great news for Detroit and bad news for anyone hoping Detroit loses to Dallas.

Saturday December 24th: Miami @ Buffalo.  Minnesota @ Green Bay. Tampa @ New Orleans. Indianapolis @ Oakland.

Sunday December 25th: Baltimore @ Pittsburgh.  Either the Steelers clinch the North or Baltimore retains control of its destiny (and teams that don’t want Pittsburgh 2nd in the North at 10-6 get nervous).  Denver @ Kansas City.  Either the Chiefs clinch a wildcard and keep hope alive to win the West and Denver is eliminated or the Broncos keep hopes alive while perhaps handing the West to the Raiders.

Monday December 26th: Detroit @ Dallas.  Cowboys perhaps trying to lock down the #1 seed.  Lions can clinch the North if Green Bay lost, or can be trying to preserve their 10-6 wildcard scenarios.

Sunday January 1st: Green Bay @ Detroit. New England @ Miami. Houston @ Tennessee. Perhaps other games as well, but the Green Bay and the Houston games seem at this time to be the two candidates for being flexed into Sunday Night Football.

And finally the official clinching scenarios for Week 16 copy/pasted from nfl.com:

NFC

DALLAS COWBOYS
Dallas clinches division title and home field advantage throughout playoffs:
1) DAL win or tie
2) NYG loss or tie

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Seattle clinches a first-round bye:
1) SEA win + DET loss + ATL loss or tie

NEW YORK GIANTS
NY Giants clinch a playoff berth:
1) NYG win or tie
2) DET loss or tie
3) GB loss or tie
4) TB loss or tie
5) ATL loss

DETROIT LIONS
Detroit clinches division title:
1) DET win + GB loss or tie
2) DET tie + GB loss

Detroit clinches a playoff berth:
1) DET win + TB loss or tie
2) DET tie + TB loss
3) DET tie + TB tie + ATL win
4) WAS loss or tie + TB loss + ATL win or tie

ATLANTA FALCONS
Atlanta clinches division title:
1) ATL win + TB loss or tie
2) ATL tie + TB loss

Atlanta clinches a playoff berth:
1) ATL win + ATL clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over DET
2) ATL win or tie + GB loss or tie
3) ATL win + DET loss or tie
4) ATL tie + DET tie
5) WAS loss or tie + GB loss
6) WAS loss or tie + GB tie + DET loss

GREEN BAY PACKERS
Green Bay clinches a playoff berth:
1) GB win + WAS loss or tie + TB loss + ATL win or tie + GB clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over TB

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Tampa Bay clinches playoff berth:
1) TB win + GB loss + DET loss + WAS loss
2) TB win + GB loss + DET loss + WAS tie + TB clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over DET

AFC

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
New England clinches home field advantage throughout AFC playoffs:
1) NE win + OAK loss or tie
2) NE tie + OAK loss

OAKLAND RAIDERS
Oakland clinches division title and a first-round bye:
1) OAK win + KC loss or tie
2) OAK tie + KC loss

PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Pittsburgh clinches division title:
1) PIT win

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Kansas City clinches a playoff berth:
1) KC win or tie
2) BAL loss or tie

HOUSTON TEXANS
Houston clinches a division title:
1) HOU win + TEN loss

MIAMI DOLPHINS
Miami clinches a playoff berth:
1) MIA win + DEN loss or tie
2) MIA tie + BAL loss + DEN loss + HOU loss or tie
3) MIA tie + BAL loss + DEN loss + TEN loss or tie

NFL Playoff Picture

December 13, 2016

The standings and playoff picture with three weeks to go, starting in the AFC:

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

Remarkably with only 3 weeks to go no one in the conference has clinched a playoff spot, although New England can clinch the division, even a bye seed, this week while Oakland and Kansas City can both clinch playoff spots.  Barring something unforeseen we can bank on the Patriots getting a bye seed eventually along with the winner of the West with 2nd in the West being the #5 seed.

Pittsburgh can win the North division by beating Baltimore Christmas evening and winning either against Cincinnati this Sunday or against Cleveland the last day of the season.  Baltimore’s other games are against Philadelphia this Sunday and finishing with the Bengals, and the Ravens do still control their destiny for winning the North because a win at Heinz Field would complete a season sweep of the Steelers.  The Cincinnati 8-7-1 scenario survived thanks to the Ravens losing to the Patriots last night.  The Bengals need exactly the following to happen: win all 3 remaining games, the Ravens lose to Philadelphia but beat the Steelers, and the Steelers lose Week 17 to the Browns.

In the South Houston has the inside track because of a 4-0 division record.  Tennessee also now controls their destiny because winning out would include Week 17 against Houston (they needed the Colts to lose a game and got it last week).  However, if the Titans lose one more game in the next two than does Houston, the Texans would still have tiebreaker on division record.  The Colts are still alive but need a considerable amount of help seeing as how they are one game back and were swept by the Texans.

A race that could prove fascinating down the stretch in the AFC will be the one for the 2nd wildcard.  Right now Denver holds it by virtue of a better record vs opponents common with Miami.  However, the Broncos finishing schedule is brutal (New England, Kansas City, and Oakland).  Miami also has a game remaining with the Patriots, but also against the Jets and Bills which is seemingly easier.  However, the Dolphins will have to play with their backup quarterback for at least the next couple games.  If both lose once it could open the door for Pittsburgh if they are 10-6 but not winning the division.  The Steelers lost to Miami but if Denver is also in the tie Pittsburgh could win it on conference record.  Baltimore won’t be in the wildcard pool at 10-6, and 2nd place in the South can’t be as good as 10-6.  So while it seemed inconceivable really all season, given Denver’s schedule and Miami’s health, the 2nd wildcard slipping to a 9-7 team looks more plausible now.  If true a team that could favor is a Baltimore team that loses once down the stretch and has an 8-4 or 7-5 conference record.

And now for the NFC, which also remarkably only has one playoff spot clinched (Dallas) with three weeks to go:

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

Despite being swept by the Giants, Dallas seems likely to win the East division and the #1 seed.  Seattle can clinch the West division this weekend.  The Giants can clinch a playoff spot this weekend, and seem likely to sooner or later.

The race for the 2nd bye seed is wide open.  Detroit currently holds the advantage, but they have a tough finishing schedule with the Giants, Cowboys, and Packers.  One Lions loss puts the ball back in Seattle’s court.  Losses by both the Lions and Seahawks could put the ball in the court of the winner of the South.  Any tie with the Lions and either the Falcons or Bucs would come down to common games (or beyond).

In the North the Lions continue to hold a definite advantage and could clinch their first division title since I was in high school as soon as this weekend.  However, as I have written in previous weeks, one slip up and suddenly their Week 17 game against the Packers could be for the division title.  Minnesota, because of their poor division record, needs more considerable help.

The South division is pretty straightforward.  Atlanta has the tiebreaker and that won’t change if them and Tampa both win out.  If both lose once but the Falcons lose a division game while Tampa wins their remaining division games but loses to Dallas this Sunday night, that swings tiebreaking in the Bucs favor.

Assuming 2nd place in the East (New York) is a wildcard, that leaves a race for the 2nd wildcard spot.  Right now Tampa is guaranteed a playoff spot if they win out.  But losing once by them or Atlanta could let Washington back in; their finishing schedule of Carolina, Chicago, and then New York Week 17 when they could be locked into the #5 seed and coasting gives them a solid chance to end up 10-5-1.  One loss by both Tampa/Atlanta and Washington could also let 2nd place in the North back in the picture; Green Bay at 10-6 would have an 8-4 conference record.  Minnesota would need a couple losses by Atlanta or Tampa most likely because of a weaker conference record.

In conclusion, at the suggestion of a loyal reader, here is a list of “games to watch” the final 3 weeks of the season:

Week 15:

Tampa @ Dallas (Sunday Night)

Tennessee @ Kansas City (Titans push derailed or Raiders back in driver’s seat for #2 seed)

Indianapolis @ Minnesota (someone’s weak playoff chances end)

Detroit @ Giants

New England @ Denver

Week 16:

Minnesota @ Green Bay

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (NFL Network Christmas 4:30pm. Likely decides the North)

Denver @ Kansas City (Christmas night)

Detroit @ Dallas (Monday Night)

Week 17:

Green Bay @ Detroit

New England @ Miami

Houston @ Tennessee (could decide South)

Oakland @ Denver

NFL Playoff Picture

December 6, 2016

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!

NFL Playoff Picture

November 29, 2016

The current conference standings and a few quick thoughts, starting in the AFC:

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

Not much is settled at this point.  New England has a two game lead in their division, but they have one game remaining with Miami, so a loss in that game could tighten things.  Assuming the Patriots do win the East they should be good for a bye seed.  The winner of the West will almost certainly get the other bye.  Oakland and New England both have one conference loss, so at the end of the year a tie could very well come down to record vs common opponents or even strength of victory.  But of course the Raiders are in a fight for the division with Kansas City and Denver and have games remaining with both.  Both wildcards ultimately could come out of the West but right now the Dolphins are in wildcard position.  Them and Denver both have 3 conference losses, so this is not a commanding tiebreak lead.  Buffalo is also in the wildcard mix.

The South and North divisions figure to only send their winners to the playoffs, and in turn most likely as the 3 and 4 seeds that play at home wildcard weekend.  Houston is in decent shape in the South with only 5 losses to 6 for the Titans and Colts.  Also being 3-0 so far in division games means the Texans can lose a head to head game and still have tiebreaking advantage.  In the North both the Ravens and Steelers control their fate being tied with a Christmas evening contest in Pittsburgh looming.  If Pittsburgh wins the rematch but loses a different game the Ravens would likely hold the tiebreaker.  Both have tough games the next couple weeks; Baltimore hosts Miami then goes to New England while Pittsburgh hosts the Giants then goes to Buffalo.  With 7 losses and a tie the Bengals are probably done.  If they won out to 8-7-1 that would involve beating the Ravens and the Steelers along the way.  But they would need the Ravens v Steelers winner to lose at least two of their other three games (and even the loser at least one other game) to have a chance.

And now the NFC:

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

The closest competition for Dallas in getting the #1 seed is actually in merely winning their division, as New York has the 2nd best record in the conference at 8-3.  But of course non-division winners cannot be seeded in the top 4.  While the NFL has not published official clinching scenarios as of yet, the Cowboys would clinch a playoff spot this weekend if they beat Minnesota and either Washington or Tampa Bay lose.  Seattle is also in comfortable shape for making the playoffs given the fact they have a 3 game lead in their own division.  They presently hold the other bye seed.  However, a mediocre final month and the North and/or South winner could overtake them.

The North division is a legitimate three team race.  The Lions are obviously in the best shape having the best record.  And they completed a season sweep of the Vikings on Thanksgiving.  However, they did lose to the Packers, so if Green Bay can be in position entering the last two weeks of the season when they play Minnesota and Detroit they can yet win the division.  They have two fewer division losses than Minnesota, so winning the rematch would give them tiebreaker advantage, and sweeping the Lions would also give them that breaker.

The South is also still up for grabs.  Atlanta, like Detroit, is in the best position having a clear lead at the moment and a 3-1 record in division games.  They split with Tampa and currently have a 2 game lead in the loss column in opponents common to them and the Buccaneers, and that is the primary tiebreaker after division record.  The Saints are two games back with a game remaining with Atlanta and both games still remaining with Tampa.  The defending conference champions Carolina are 3 games back and even winning out to 9-7 their division record would only be 3-3 so they would need a lot of things to break their way.

The wildcards are currently both held by East division teams.  New York looks very good to make the playoffs.  Washington has a 1/2 game lead on Tampa and Minnesota for the 2nd wildcard.  In the Redskins favor is the fact that anyone in the North or South doing well enough to catch them could very well end up winning the division.  So long as they stay ahead of Philadelphia and ahead of 2nd place in the other divisions they are fine.  2nd place in the West is not likely to factor in the wildcard picture since Arizona can at best finish 9-6-1, Los Angeles 9-7.  That having been said, Arizona plays Washington this weekend.  If the Cardinals win that game, Washington loses at least one of their last 4, and 2nd place in both the North & South finish no better than 9-7, Arizona would sneak in.  It sounds like a lot, but with 5 weeks to go it wouldn’t take as much losing as it seems.

NFL Picture & Playoff Scenarios

December 31, 2015

Here are the conference standings, followed by playoff scenarios for every team either clinched or at least mathematically alive, starting in the AFC:

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

New England has clinched a bye.  They clinch the #1 seed if they beat Miami in Week 17.  However, if they should lose and Denver wins, Denver would clinch the #1 seed based on their head-to-head win over the Patriots.  Cincinnati also winning would not mess things up for Denver because the Broncos also beat the Bengals, and having a perfect record against all tied teams, having played all tied teams, grants tiebreaking preference.  Cincinnati cannot get the #1 seed, even if Denver loses: them and New England at 12-4 would both be 9-3 in conference games. However, the Patriots would edge out Cincinnati on record vs common opponents 4-1 to 2-3.  Cincinnati is currently the #3 seed but they actually have a scenario where they can move up to the #2 seed without winning.  If Denver loses and Kansas City wins, then the Chiefs would win the division at 11-5, and Cincinnati has the head-to-head tiebreaker on the Chiefs.  Of course, if the Bengals win and the Broncos lose, then the Bengals are cleanly in the 2nd spot at 12-4.

As mentioned above, although the Broncos could still be the #1 seed, and are guaranteed at least the #2 seed if they win, they could still lose the division to the Chiefs if they lose and Kansas City wins.  The Chiefs would win a tie at 11-5 on division record.  Denver as a wildcard would be the #6 seed if New York wins to get to 11-5, as they would lose a conference record tiebreaker to the Jets.  Or they would be the #5 seed if the Jets lost.  Basically, if Denver wins they will be the #1 or #2 seed.  If the Broncos lose they could be #2, #3, #5, or #6.

If Kansas City wins the division they will be the #3 seed.  If they win Sunday over Oakland they will be no worse than the #5 seed, as they have conference record tiebreaker on the Jets.  If they lose and the Jets win, the Chiefs drop to #6.  If both lose they stay #5, as they have the conference record tiebreaker on the Jets and potentially the Steelers.

If the Jets win they will make the playoffs as either the #5 or #6 seed (see above).  If the Jets lose and the Steelers win, the Steelers get the #6 seed and the Jets are out.  They would both be 7-5 in conference games.  Against common opponents the Steelers would be 4-1 vs 3-2 for the Jets (the key being the Jets lost to Oakland).

The winner of the AFC South will be the #4 seed.  It will almost certainly be Houston.  If the Texans lose and the Colts win, both would be 8-8 having split against each other, being 4-2 in division games, .500 against common opponents, and 6-6 in conference games.  The next tiebreaker is strength of victory.  The strength of victory numbers are such that Indianapolis has 5 games that have to all break the right way simply to level this factor.  The next factor is strength of schedule.  There are two games that factor here, the outcome of which would decide whether Houston’s schedule was 1 game harder, they’re the same, or Indianapolis’ schedule was 1 game harder.  If this factor is level, the next tiebreaker is points for/against ranking amongst all AFC teams.  Entering Week 17, Houston’s ratio is 83 points better than Indianapolis’.  So barring a blowout loss of the Texans and a blowout win by the Colts, Houston will hold this tiebreaker.  So the bottom line is the Colts have to win their game and have wins by Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Denver, and Miami, then also have Oakland win or tie and Pittsburgh win or tie (as long as both teams don’t tie).  Or have Oakland or Pittsburgh win (or both tie) and gain 84 points in points for/against ratio on the Texans on Sunday.

Now that you have a headache, let’s ponder the NFC, which already knows its 6 playoff teams:

  1. Carolina (14-1)
  2. Arizona (13-2)
  3. Green Bay (10-5) (head-to-head tiebreaker on Minnesota for division rank)
  4. Washington (8-7)
  5. Minnesota
  6. Seattle (9-6)
  7. Atlanta (8-7)
  8. St Louis (7-8)
  9. Detroit (6-9) ({head-to-head tiebreaker on Chicago for division rank} conference record drops Philadelphia {head-to-head on New York for division rank} from 3 team tie, then record vs opponents common with Tampa {division record tiebreaker on New Orleans for division rank})
  10. Tampa Bay ({division record tiebreaker on New Orleans for division rank} conference record tiebreaker on Philadelphia {head-to-head tiebreaker on New York for division rank} & Chicago)
  11. New Orleans (conference record tiebreaker on Philadelphia {head-to-head tiebreaker on New York for division rank} & Chicago)
  12. Chicago (record vs opponents common with Philadelphia {head-to-head on New York for division rank})
  13. Philadelphia (head-to-head on New York)
  14. New York
  15. San Francisco (strength of victory tiebreaker on Dallas)
  16. Dallas

Carolina and Arizona have clinched the two bye seeds.  Carolina will be the #1 seed unless they lose and Arizona wins, in which case they are both 14-2; the Cardinals would win that tie with an 11-1 vs 10-2 conference record.

The winner of the NFC North will be the #3 seed.  Green Bay and Minnesota play each other on Sunday Night football; the Packers won the first meeting, so a tie is to their benefit.  The Packers if they lose would be the #5 seed even if Seattle wins in Week 17 as they beat the Seahawks.  Minnesota, on the other hand, would fall to the #6 seed if they lose and Seattle wins as they lost to the Seahawks; a tie or a Seattle loss would give the Vikings the #5 seed.  Even if Seattle loses, Atlanta cannot make the playoffs because the Seahawks would have a better record vs opponents common with the Falcons (3-2 vs 2-3 with the key difference being Atlanta lost to San Francisco).  And Washington, as winners of the NFC East, will be the #4 seed.

A couple random observations that might interest only me: I can’t remember a season where so many of the Week 17 matchups are meaningful, so far as playoff positioning is concerned, for exactly 1 team.  Excluding the Indianapolis scenarios, there are 11 games with playoff impact, but Minnesota v Green Bay and Seattle v Arizona are the only games where it matters for both teams (and only slightly for Seattle in the latter example).  The 8 AFC matchups all have meaning, or potential meaning, for exactly 1 of the 2 teams playing in the game.

The NFC will finish the season with a +6 against the AFC.  However, it is the AFC that will potentially have a 10-6 team (Pittsburgh or New York) miss the playoffs whereas the best record that will miss the playoffs in the NFC will at best be 9-7, and there could be a 9-7 wildcard.  Which is to say the AFC has more teams with solid records, whereas the NFC is very top-heavy.

 

NFL Standings and Playoff Picture

December 16, 2015

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.