NFC teams are eager to learn where they’ll begin the postseason. For the first time this year, the NFC playoff picture is the bigger mess. Yes, we know the six playoff qualifiers, but seeds two through five are undecided. I venture into the chaos with hopes of providing some clarity. (I’m pretty sure I failed.)
Only a few changes to the charts this week. For a number of reasons, I think the Bengals will essentially forfeit Sunday night’s contest against the Jets. Therefore, I’ve changed that pick to New York. I was tempted to change my Chargers pick as well. Then I remembered the Redskins have no heart and can’t wait to hit the greens. In the NFC, I stayed with the Panthers despite Steve Smith’s absence because the Saints may only play their starters for a half or less. I did change the NY/Minn pick to the Vikings. The Giants are eliminated from playoff contention and, as they demonstrated in week 16, are not interested anymore. For the final time this season (tear), let’s get to the projections.
The top seeds are clinched and the three and four seeds will probably remain unchanged after the final week.
The race for the two Wildcard berths got a little less crowded but remains up for grabs. The Jets and Ravens control their own destinies. If the Jets win, they’re in the playoffs. According to the chart’s projections, New York would defeat Baltimore and Denver for the 5th seed based upon their record in common games. (Remember, only the highest rated team from a division is eligible for a tiebreaking scenario. Therefore, Pittsburgh would be excluded here.) Baltimore would then win the 6th seed with a head to head victory over Denver. The Jets and Ravens would round out the AFC playoff participants.
The Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers can both look to a late season defeat to the Oakland Raiders if they’re left out of the playoffs. Denver can still reach the postseason with a win and a loss by either the Jets or Ravens. However, the Broncos must also avoid a two way tie with Pittsburgh because they lose the tiebreaker due to a head to head defeat in midseason. (For example, if the Jets lose, the Broncos would also need either the Texans or Ravens to win to create a three way tie, thus eliminating the head to head tiebreaker with Pittsburgh.) The Texans’ surprise victory over the Dolphins on Sunday really hurt the Steelers. Now, Pittsburgh needs the Texans to lose (because they would own common game tiebreaker), and either the Ravens or Jets to fall as well. Obviously, a Steeler win is also necessary.
As for the Houston Texans, they’ll need to win and get help from some unlikely places. In order to reach the postseason for the first time in franchise history, the Texans will need two losses from the trio of Baltimore, Denver, and New York. In week 17, the aforementioned teams face (in order); Oakland, Kansas City, and Cincinnati. Needless to say, Houston fans shouldn’t be too optimistic.
Just in case you were wondering, the Jacksonville Jaguars can still advance if only one of the 8-7 teams wins this week. With a win of their own, Jacksonville and a several other teams would stand at 8-8. The Jaguars would then own the best conference record and advance to the playoffs.
If I could choose, I would put the Steelers and Ravens in the playoffs. My beef with the Jets is this: First, they’re going to get in because their final two victories came against second and third stringers. Second, they start a rookie quarterback who has struggled immensely over the last two-three months. Third, I don’t want to watch Mark Sanchez. It’s painful. With that said, New York does boast the NFL’s best running game and top defense. Both make for a tough out come playoff time, so I guess it could be worse.
Some notes to clear up the tiebreakers on the current chart:
*Jets win tiebreaker for 5th seed vs Ravens and Broncos based on record in common games
*Ravens win tiebreaker for 6th seed vs Broncos based on head to head victory
*Steelers win tiebreaker for 7th seed vs Broncos with head to head victory
*Jaguars win tiebreaker for 9th seed vs Texans and Titans based on division record
*Titans win tiebreaker for 10th seed vs Texans based division record
The six NFC playoff teams are set. With one week to go, many of their playoff positions have yet to be determined. Now the chaos ensues. I’ll try to provide as much clarity as possible, so try to keep up.
The Saints are entrenched as the top seed. The Cardinals, Cowboys, Eagles, and Vikings all have a shot at the second seed.
The Cardinals can finish second, third, or fourth. At first glance, I thought the Arizona/Green Bay late afternoon game would prove meaningless to Arizona if Minnesota were to win earlier on Sunday. I was wrong. A Vikings win would eliminate the Cardinals from contention for the bye, but the third seed would still be available with a win and an Eagles loss (AZ owns common game tiebreaker over DAL).
The Cowboys can finish second, third, fourth, or sixth. Obviously, they finish sixth with a loss to Philadelphia. A Dallas win and wins by Minnesota and Arizona would place the Cowboys fourth (AZ owns common game tiebreaker). Dallas can grab the third seed with a win and either a Cardinals or Vikings defeat (own conference record over Minnesota). A Dallas first round bye would require a win and losses by both Arizona and Minnesota.
The Eagles can finish second, fifth, or sixth. Clearly, the Eagles have the most to lose in week 17. As mentioned above, a win gives them the second seed and a first round bye. Conversely, a loss to the Cowboys paired with a Packers victory would drop Philadelphia from second to the sixth spot. If the Packers and Eagles were both to lose, Philadelphia would finish fifth and Green Bay sixth. Again, congratulations to the NFL for selecting the wrong Flex game.
The Packers can finish fifth or sixth. Green Bay’s final game also matters regardless of the early results because only Philadelphia can alter the Packers’ fate. A Philadelphia win would keep the Packers at five, as would an Eagles loss and Packers win. If the Packers and Eagles were both to lose, Philadelphia would finish fifth and Green Bay sixth.
The Vikings can finish second, third, or fourth. A win and a Philadelphia loss would return the second seed to Minnesota. If both Minnesota and Philadelphia win, Minnesota would remain in the third spot. If the Cowboys win and both the Cardinals and Vikings lose, the Vikings would remain at three also. A Minnesota loss and an Arizona win would drop Minnesota down to the fourth seed, as would a Vikings loss combined with a Dallas and Arizona win.
All we know for sure is this: The Saints are the top seed, the Packers will travel to Arizona, Dallas, or Minnesota on Wildcard Weekend, and the NFC playoffs will be exciting. Everything else is yet to be determined. Enjoy.
Some notes to clear up the tiebreakers on the current chart:
*Panthers win tiebreaker for 8th seed vs 49ers and Giants based on conference record
*49ers win tiebreaker for 9th seed vs Giants based on conference record