Can the Jacksonville Jaguars fend off their AFC foes long enough to make a surprising playoff appearance? Will the Minnesota Vikings lose their first round bye? While the NFC playoff pieces are falling into place, the AFC is a wild, wild mess. Don’t wait until January, get the scoop on who’s in now.
Normally, I would remind you that I’ve picked the remaining games based upon how I feel about each team RIGHT NOW. This week I didn’t make any changes to the projection charts. Here’s why: 1. Christmas Tree shopping and decorating the house. 2. The NFC chart is looking good and the conference, for the most part, is progressing as planned. 3. I have no feel for how to project the AFC. It’s getting out of control there, so I didn’t even pretend like I could project what will happen. Maybe next week I’ll give it another shot. Ok, let’s breakdown the playoff picture.
Not too much to discuss here. However, Minnesota’s loss to Arizona last week did create the slight possibility of Arizona or Philadelphia passing the Vikings for the second seed. If the Cardinals were to win out and the Vikings lose two more as projected, then Arizona would receive the two seed based upon last week’s head to head victory. Likewise, if Philadelphia was to win out and Minnesota loses as projected, the tiebreaker would boil down to record in common games. The Eagles would get the first round bye with a projected (in this scenario) 5-0 record vs. CAR, CHI, NYG (Twice), and SF, while the Vikings would finish 4-1. This scenario would make the Vikings’ final regular season game against the Giants critical to their playoff seeding. Whoa, this is getting exciting. FYI: I know you’re asking this, so I will explain. Dallas cannot beat Minnesota for the second seed unless the Cowboys win out and the Vikings lose three out of four. OR, they can finish with the same record, but the Cowboys would need the Vikings to have dropped all three of their final conference games in order to overtake the Vikings for the second seed.
Unless the Giants win their remaining four games, they’ll need other teams to lose to make the playoffs. The Falcons are also still alive but their playoff hopes are slim. It would take a collapse by the Cowboys, Eagles, or Packers for Atlanta to get in. Even then, they’ll need to finish a game ahead of the Giants as they’ll lose any tiebreaker due to their head to head defeat to New York in week 11. The NFC playoffs essentially boil down to this: There are three undetermined spots. One of those spots will go to the NFC East champion. Three teams are still in contention for that division title (DAL, NYG, PHI). After eliminating the division champion, two wild card spots remain. Four teams will battle for those two spots; Atlanta, Green Bay, and Dallas, New York, and Philadelphia (less the division winner).
Some notes to clear up the tiebreakers on the current chart:
*Eagles win tiebreaker for 3rd seed vs Cardinals – record in common games (PHI: 4-1, AZ: 2-3)
*Packers win tiebreaker vs Cowboys for 5th seed based on head to head victory in Week 10
*Giants win tiebreaker vs Falcons for 7th seed based on head to head victory in Week 11
The AFC is messy. Four weeks is more than enough time for the playoff picture to clear up, so I won’t waste 2,000 words to make sense of it all. Instead, I’ll give you a quick rundown of where things may be headed.
The Cincinnati at San Diego showdown next Sunday will almost certainly determine the second seed in the AFC. I hope this makes the Flex game. I don’t want any distractions.
The way things are shaping up, it will be nearly impossible for both the Steelers and Ravens to advance to the playoffs. This is great news for football fans because, according to my projections, their week 16 battle will determine who reaches the postseason. The loser will go home, a loser.
The Jaguars are sitting pretty right now. How long will it last? That question will be answered over Jacksonville’s next three games. The Jaguars welcome the Dolphins and division champion Colts before traveling to Gillette Stadium to take on the Patriots. I would be shocked if they muster one win in that span.
The Dolphins and Jets are hanging tough. Unfortunately, it will take a mammoth collapse by the Patriots (looking like more of possibility each and every day) for either team to take the division. Of the three, New England has the easiest remaining schedule while both Miami and New York face a tough slate to close the year. Finishing 3-1 may be enough to claim a wildcard, but even that is doubtful. Going undefeated may be the only way into the playoffs.
The New England Patriots choked away a very real chance at the second seed last week. Now, the Patriots will likely host the Pittsburgh Steelers or Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the playoffs. Tom Brady can’t be thrilled about facing either defense. Although, if he had to choose, I’m sure he’d pick the lousy secondary of the Ravens.
Notes to clear up the tiebreakers on the current chart:
*Chargers win tiebreaker for 2nd seed vs Bengals based on head to head victory
*Steelers win tiebreaker for 5th seed vs Broncos based on head to head victory in Week 9
*Ravens win tiebreaker for 7th seed vs Titans with better conference record
*Dolphins win tiebreaker for 9th seed vs Jaguars based on head to head victory
*Jets win tiebreaker for 11th seed vs Texans based on head to head victory in Week 1