First and foremost we learned that I wasted a hell of a lot of my valuable (and I use that term loosely) time breaking down what week 17 scenarios meant in regards to the playoff race. Following week 14, I gave you a piece on here “NFL Playoff Race…Contenders and Predictions” which you can read here. Basically, I rode the chalk at that time and for the most part, look to be in pretty good shape to hit on most of my picks, with the lone exception being the 49ers which I said myself I didn’t expect to happen, but based on how I saw the games playing out, I was forced to go that route. The other spot I might miss is the NFC 2nd WC spot but we’ll get to that in a bit. But otherwise, most of the spots were clinched this week, so in essence all those tie-breakers and week 17 matchups I had to go through were a waste (I’m looking at you SD). SO what the hell am I writing about now? Well, just what the title says. Here’s a quick recap running through the divisions and wildcards after this weekend of what we know already and what we still have to learn following next week’s action, and the two games left this week.
The New England Patriots have clinched the division as well as home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Pats are 8-1 with Brady and Belichick at home in the playoffs, with the lone loss coming last year in the Wild Card round vs. Baltimore.
The New York Jets clinched a playoff spot when the Jaguars lost this afternoon. They will be the #5 seed if the Ravens win the AFC North and the #6 seed if the Steelers win the AFC North.
The Steelers control their destiny in the AFC North, by virtue over a better division record (4-1) than the Ravens (3-2) and will earn the #2 seed along with a bye if they win next weekend at Cleveland. Lose and they will be the #6 seed if the Jets beat Buffalo.
The Ravens with their win over Cleveland stayed alive for a division title in the AFC North and clinched at least a playoff spot. They will need to beat Cincinnati and have Pittsburgh lose to get the #2 seed and a first-round bye. Anything other than that and they will be the #5 seed by virtue of owning a H2H win over the Jets if they finished tied.
The Colts went to Oakland this weekend and won a tough game to keep control of their AFC South destiny. Win next week at home vs. Tennessee and they are the AFC South champs. They will be the 3 seed if they win and Kansas City loses by virtue of a H2H win over the Chiefs. A Chiefs win gives them the 4 seed with a win.
The Jaguars despite a brutal loss in OT to Washington can still make the playoffs as AFC South champs with a win over Houston and an Indy loss to Tennessee at home. I wouldn’t put too much stock into this happening. The Jaguars are locked into the 4th seed if they win the AFC South as KC possesses a H2H win over them. The Jaguars would win the AFC South by virtue of a better division record since the teams split their two meetings.
Tennessee was eliminated from playoff contention in Week 16.
The Kansas City Chiefs clinched the AFC West this week with a dominant home win over a Tennessee team who probably has quit and a Chargers loss at Cincinnati. Know what’s even crazier than the Chiefs winning the division? The fact that here I started talking about it after only 2 weeks. Did I pick it? Not exactly, but I put it out there and in recent weeks have been on record as sticking with KC when nobody else would. So I’m taking credit for it. BOOM!! (Like that Coley?)
The Chargers inexplicably were eliminated from playoff contention this week with a loss to Cincy on the road. Is Norv Turner done? One has to think so. If not, I’d love to hear A.J Smith’s rationale on that one.
The Oakland Raiders were eliminated from playoff contention as soon as Kansas City closed out their win over Tennesee, but for good measure followed it up with a loss to Indy.
Good day to be Michael Vick, Andy Reid, or an Eagles fan. You’ve clinched the NFC East without even playing. By the Giants going down in Green Bay, the Eagles assured themselves of no worse than a tie for the division lead and since they swept the season series, they would win that tie-breaker. To get a first-round bye and #2 seed, the Eagles would have to win out and have the Bears lose once. To get home-field throughout the playoffs, the Eagles would need to win out and have Atlanta lose their remaining two games at home vs. New Orleans and Carolina, a place they haven’t lost all year. Yea, the #2 seed seems like Philly’s ceiling.
The Giants didn’t respond well coming off that ugly loss to Philly and now finds themselves on the outside looking in come Week 17. They need a win and loss by GB to get a Wildcard spot.
The Bears have clinched the NFC North title. They can be no lower than the #3 seed in the NFC playoffs. If they beat GB in Week 17, they will clinch a first-round bye by virtue of a H2H win over Philly (should the two tie). If Atlanta loses their last two, then strength of victory would break the tie between the two for homefield advantage. If they lose to GB and Philly wins out, they will be the #3 seed.
The Packers kept their playoff hopes alive with a win over New York today at home. With the H2H tie-breaker over the Giants, a win next week vs. Chicago would put the Packers in the playoffs as the #6 seed barring some ridiculous bad luck where their SOV comes out lower than the Giants and TB. The Packers would be the 6 seed as long as New Orleans wins one of its last two. If GB and NO finish tied, SOV would break the tie. Bank on GB as the 6 seed if they get in.
The most complicated division left. The Falcons just need to win one of their last two home games to clinch the AFC South and homefield throughout the NFC playoffs. I’ve covered how finishing tied with other teams would impact them.
The Saints need to win their last two and have Atlanta lose their last two to win the NFC South. They would win the division over Atlanta in that scenario by virtue of a better division record. One win in their last two or one Atlanta win and they are the 5 seed. Lose twice and all hell breaks loose depending on who wins next weekend in the GB and NYG games.
Tampa Bay kept their small playoff hopes alive with a win over Seattle today. I’ll get to their playoff chances in a minute in the Wild Card Breakdown.
Despite being 2-7 in their last 9 games, the Seattle Seahawks still can win the NFC West next Sunday with a home win over St. Louis. It’s relatively simple for both teams. Win and your in. Seattle, though a game back, and having lost to STL already would win the division by virtue of a better division if they win Sunday. St. Louis would win straight up with a win.
The San Francisco 49ers were eliminated from playoff contention with a loss to St. Louis today and TSHQ IS NOW REPORTING THAT MIKE SINGLETARY HAS BEEN FIRED BY THE 49ERS.
There’s so many teams that could end up as wild cards but the Bears, Eagles, Falcons, and winner of St.Louis-Seattle are already in. I’ve covered how Atlanta can be a wild card but realistically, does anyone think if they lose tomorrow, they won’t beat Carolina in Week 17 at home to get the #1 seed? So we’ll leave Atlanta out.
That leaves Green Bay, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and New York. So these are only what the teams must do to get a WILD CARD spot. In other words the bare minimum.
New Orleans: Win at Atlanta or at home vs. Tampa Bay to end the year and your the #5 seed. Lose both and you need GB and NYG to lose next weekend, or finish with a better common opponents record than TB and if that’s tied, a better SOV.
Green Bay: Beat Chicago next weekend and your all but in. Only way you don’t make it with that, is to finish in a 3-way tie with TB and NYG and lose the SOV (strength of victory) to one of the other two, though since your already leading that, and you have Chicago while NYG have WAS and TB is WAY behind, that’s highly unlikely. So in essence, beat Chicago and your probably in.
NYG: Beat Washington and have GB lose. The Giants by finishing 10-6 would go in front of TB by virtue of a 5-0 record in common games while TB was 4-1. If GB wins, your pretty much out, and Coughlin might be gone.
TB: Needs the most help. Simplest way in for TB is to win and have GB and NYG lose. With the SOV so low, and not many common games with those teams, it would likely come down to SOV which they’d lose.
Projected Playoff Seeds:
2) Steelers (should beat Cleveland)
3) Chiefs (They’re 7-0 at home and playing a 7-8 Oakland team who is officially out of the playoffs)
4) Colts (Should beat Tennessee but I doubt they get the necessary help from Oakland)
1) Falcons (should easily win one of next two, if not tomorrow night)
2) Eagles (Minnesota is done, and if they have a shot at a bye I think they’ll beat Dallas at home)
3) Bears (I think GB, desperate for a win to make the playoffs beats Chicago)
4) Rams (Does it matter? I just think they’re better than Seattle)
5) Saints (have to win one of their next two right?)
6) Packers (I liked Giants as a playoff sleeper not too long ago but GB should win at home)
Best and Worst Case Scenarios for each projected playoff team
1) New England
Best Case: The Pats get Indy to finish 4th and play a 5th seed Baltimore at home. The Ravens, the one major threat in my mind to New England allow Peyton to beat them in the playoffs again while the Jets roll into Kansas City and knock off the Chiefs. Sanchez and the Jets come back to New England where Sanchez has throw 7 INT’s in 2 games here and the playoff atmosphere overwhelms him, sending New England to its 6th AFCCG with Brady and Belichick.
Worst Case: The Ravens upset Indianapolis or Kansas City as the 5 seed. The Jets offense continues to implode and gets beat in the Wild Card round. The Ravens coming off a win with momentum come back to New England to play a Pats team who hasn’t played a meaningful game in over 2 weeks.
Best Case: The Chiefs finish 3rd and beat whoever they face in their first playoff game with Cassell at home keeping their unbeaten home record intact. The Steelers then welcome a Chiefs team with a QB playing his first road playoff game and built on the run (the Steelers defensive strength) into Heinz field in snowy conditions. The Ravens win elsewhere and go to Foxboro.
Worst Case: The Steelers lose this weekend, end up the 6 seed and have to go to Kansas City where the Chiefs are unbeaten all year. With a win, they have a dreaded matchup with the Patriots in the Divisional Round who are 6-1 with Brady under center against them including a blowout win in Pittsburgh this year.
Best Case: The Jets come to Arrowhead with an offense still reeling and Sanchez folds in the hostile environment. Cassell gets some confidence under his belt heading into his first road playoff start and the defense shuts down the run game of the Jets. The Chiefs avoid the 4 seed and go to Pittsburgh for the Divisional Round.
Worst Case: The Chiefs lose Sunday, Indy wins and the Chiefs are the 4 seed. They get Baltimore as the 5 seed in the Wild Card round, a team that has won multiple big games on the road in recent years. Even if they survive, a Colts win sends them to New England against the former employers of Matt Cassell and Belichick prepares for a QB he saw thousands of times in games and practices in recent years.
Best Case: They finish with the 3 seed, ensuring they won’t have to go to Foxboro until the AFCCG. They get a Ravens team at home whose number they’ve had over the years and Flacco struggles to deal with the noise inside the dome.
Worst Case: They get a Jets team coming in with a still very good secondary, great blitz schemes, and a run game that could possibly give the Colts trouble. Sanchez is comfortable playing indoors and doesn’t have to deal with the elements, where he’s struggled in recent years.
Best Case: They win the NFC North with a win over Cincinnati and a Steelers loss to Cleveland. They get a banged up Colts team at home this time whose had their number and completely shutdown the Colts one-dimensional offense behind the crowd noise and secondary skills.
Worst case: They get the 5 seed and have to go to Indy. The Colts pass rush gets to play on that warm, indoor turf, and reek havoc on Flacco who gets flustered and makes some mistakes. The defense, looking older this year, can’t keep up with the speed of the Colts receivers on their home turf, and the Colts send the Ravens home once again in the playoffs.
*Yes, as weird as that sounds, the Colts depending on where the game is I think are their best and worst matchup for their first game.
Best Case: They get the 5 seed with the Ravens winning the AFC North. Following a win over Indy in the dome, where they get after Peyton and dominate them in the run game, they travel to Baltimore to play the Ravens in a rematch of Week 1 which was a tight game.
Worst Case: They finish 6th and have to travel to Arrowhead where the Chiefs are unbeaten, and Sanchez is again out in the cold. Even a win sends them to Foxboro which has been a House of Horrors for Sanchez in his two visits there.
Best Case: The Falcons end win tomorrow night at home and end up hosting the playoffs through Atlanta where Matt Ryan is lights out in his career. They get a gift from the gods and St. Louis knocks off New Orleans, while the Bears or Eagles win, sending the 4th-seeded Rams to Atlanta and giving the Falcons all but a bye to the NFCCG.
Worst Case: They lose tomorrow and though they beat Carolina (its not even realistic enough for me to make it the worst case) and get the #1 seed, they have to see a suddenly revived Green Bay team as the 6 seed who gave them all they could handle last time in Atlanta. Rodgers tears up the Eagles/Bears in the Wild Card round and the Packers come in full of confidence with a scortching hot offense.
Best Case: The Eagles beat the Cowboys while Chicago loses giving Philly a bye and the 2 seed. They get a surprise winner St. Louis as the 4 seed after they beat New Orleans and Green Bay, suddenly catching fire, knocks off Chicago, sending GB to ATL and STL to PHI.
Worst Case: The Eagles finish 3rd, and get a home date with the Packers in a rematch of a game Green Bay already won earlier this year. The Packers great defense neutralizes Vick and Rodgers and the offense shred the Eagles secondary. Eagles fans throw snowballs at the team as they leave the field.
Best Case: They win against Green Bay, all but eliminating them from the playoffs. St. Louis shocks the world (seeing a pattern yet?) and knocks off the Saints, taking out the defending champs. The Giants, with two games of revenge on their mind, go into Philly and beat the Eagles with great pressure on Vick, sending them to ATL and STL to CHI.
Worst Case: The Packers blowout the Bears in Week 17 at home. Jay Cutler has a miserable game with multiple INT’s. The two teams then must turn around and play again the very next week back in Chicago. The Pack D once again harasses Cutler who folds in his first playoff game.
Best Case: Is there any? The Rams win the NFC West and get a competitive game against anyone. The dome plays to their advantage and their opponent’s have the worst games of their career………….I tried. I really did.
Worst Case: They get the defending champs at home, a team who obliterated them just a few weeks back. Bradford flops in his playoff debut and the Rams can’t stop the Saints, who get a rare dome away game, through the air. The Saints win in blowout fashion.
Best Case: Do I really need to tell you? Alright, see the Worst Case scenario right above you.
Worst Case: The Saints slip up back to back games. They finish 6th and have to travel to Philadelphia against a QB who is great at breaking blitzes. The snowy, cold weather in Philly takes away a lot of New Orleans passing game and they are rattled into turnovers.
Best Case: See the Bears worst case scenario. That’s the ideal situation for Green Bay right now.
Worst Case: The Packers go back to Philly against an Eagles team who had success against them in Week 1 with Vick. Vick goes off for huge numbers, and the at times one-dimensional Packers offense, gets behind early. Rodgers with concussion issues already gets popped early, knocking him out of the game, and Matt Flynn has to try and rally them. (That’s not out of the question on Rodgers).
Alright, well that’s a quick recap of this week’s action and how I expect the playoff seeds to unfold. If your a fan of one of these teams and disagree with my “Best Case/Worst Case”, please tell me where I’m wrong. Also, I plan on running a “TSHQ Playoff Preview” featuring hopefully most of the members of our blog once the playoff matchups are finalized, so be on the lookout for that.
Happy New Years from everyone at TSHQ.