It is that time of year where many are attempting to calculate what needs to happen to get their teams into the playoffs. For some it is as easy as winning this week or having someone else lose while others need a lot of help. There are ten teams still mathematically alive in the NFC and nine in the AFC. In this week's De-Cleeting, possible realties and alternative truths will be examined for the playoffs. Just remember the sum of the squares of the legs of a right triangle is equal to the square of the remaining side.
Tennesee holds the number one seed in the AFC at the moment despite their 13-12 loss in Houston. One game behind the Titans are the Steelers, the only other AFC team to have secured a playoff berth. Pittsburgh locked up the NFC North thanks to their 13-9 victory over Baltimore. I thought there was no way the Ravens would give away two wins to Pittsburgh in the same season but it happened. Baltimore had their chances to get in the end zone and failed and then on the Steelers final drive they played soft coverage that is why they lost, not the Holmes call. Baltimore now plummeted to the final playoff spot.
Baltimore travels to Dallas for a Saturday game(thanks NFL Network!) in a game where playoff implications are huge for both squads. If Baltimore loses it could cost them that final spot and they will be looking back on games they should have won. The good news for the Ravens is that they hold the head-to-head advantage over the Dolphins and they have a better conference record than the Patriots.
The Colts will beat the Jags, and that's all they need to secure the 5 seed. I imagine no team wants to face Indy in the playoffs so it may be that the number one seed has to face them in the divisional round if the 3 seed were to win.
Christmas came early for the Jets on Sunday as J.P. Losman giftwrapped a go-ahead TD with two minutes left in New York's 31-27 win. The win kept the Jets in first place in the AFC East thanks to their 2-1 head-to-head record against New England and Miami. They of course have Miami left in the final game of the season but if they win next week at Seattle and beat the Dolphins at home, they win the East and get the 3 seed.
The Dolphins lost the statistical battle against the 49ers but won where it counted by getting the ball in the endzone(sensing a theme here?) and winning 14-9. The Dolphins control they fate similarly to the Jets. If they win their last two, they win the East because they have a better record in the AFC right now than the Patriots (6-4 to 6-5). If the Dolphins slip it will be hard for them to sneak in due to their head-to head tiebreaker against the Ravens, but that is assuming the Ravens and Patriots would win out. The Dolphins should simply be focused on winning the last two.
The Patriots are not in as bad a shape as one would think, but they do need help even after demolishing the hapless Raiders 49-26 in the rain in Oakland. First off, they must win their last two at home against the Cardinals(1:00 EST start!) and at Buffalo. If Baltimore slips against Dallas and the Pats win out, they would grab the final spot because that would make them 11-5 and the loser of the Dolphins-Jets game is going to be 10-6 at best. New England can win the division but it would require them to win out and either the Dolphins or Jets to slip on the road and then that team to beat the team that wins this Sunday. If the Dolphins and Jets both lose this week, all New England would have to do is win. If you need help from others to get in, I do not think you could ask for a better scenario if your the Pats, but wins in their final two are not guarenteed.
San Diego is still clinging to life after getting past KC 22-21. They had some reason to celebrate since Denver lost. The Chargers have to win at Tampa(where the Bucs have not lost this year) and then beat Denver at home to win the AFC West. They also need Denver to lose at home to Buffalo(stranger things have happened) before the final showdown in San Diego in week 17. The Chargers have really brought this situation on themselves but if you recall that call made by Ed Hochuli back in week 2, the game now is a big factor. If that ball had been correctly called a fumble, then both teams would be 7-7 with the division possibly being decided on the final week.
The Broncos, who got spanked by Carolina 30-10, should just thank their lucky stars, win one of the last two(preferably this week hosting Buffalo), and get their free playoff t-shirt before Indy obliterates them in the first round.
The Giants have secured a playoff berth as we know but could we ever imagine that both #1 seeds would be up for grabs in the same week 16? Perhaps the craziest fact is that the Panthers do not even have a playoff berth secure yet. The Giants two-game losing streak has allowed Carolina the opportunity to grab the top spot. New York's poor performance in the 20-8 Sunday night loss to the Cowboys means if the Panthers beat them in Giants Stadium this Sunday night, the Panthers have home-field throughout. Considering the Panthers are 8-0 at home, this could be a huge victory for them. If the Giants lose their final two games which are tough ones versus Carolina and at Minnesota they could conceivably have to play in the wild-card round. It may be hard for the Giants to stop the bleeding without Brandon Jacobs. The Panthers meanwhile secure at the very least a playoff berth if either Atlanta, Tampa Bay, or Dallas lose.
The Cardinals appear locked into that fourth seed and will need to regroup in order to make good showing in the playoffs. The Vikings hammered them in the pink taco on Sunday with Tavarus Jackson 35-14. They have the NFC West title, which may be the college equivalent of winning the MAC.
The NFC South is a bit more complicated. Carolina will win the division even if they fall to New York if they beat New Orleans the final week which would put them at 12-4. Tampa, who lost to Atlanta 13-10 in OT, needs to simply win out its last two at home against San Diego and Oakland, but remember the Chargers still have something to play for. The Bucs will get the playoff berth if they win out and will get the division if Carolina loses its last two by virtue of NFC record(the Bucs are 8-4 vs. the NFC and the two losses would make the Panthers 7-5). The Falcons can get into the final spot by winning out and having Dallas stumble either against Baltimore or Philly. They can also win the division if the Panthers lose out, they win out, and Tampa loses one of its final two. Atlanta has a huge game against the Vikings in the Metrodome on Sunday. I'm dizzy already.
In the NFC North, the Vikings can lock up the division by winning their final two, but those two are against Atlanta and the Giants. The Bears escaped the Saints to eliminate them last Thursday 27-24 but also have tough match-ups in a rivalry game against Green Bay and then at Houston who has been on fire. If the Vikings stumble against Atlanta but beat the Giants and Chicago wins out it gets hairy, but the bright spot for the Bears is that if the tie-breaker goes to common opponents, the Bears beat Indy to open the season whereas the Vikings gave away a late lead to the Colts.
The Eagles and Redskins are still alive and face each other in an elimination game this Sunday. The Eagles have fired off three straight including last night's 30-10 beating of Cleveland. The Redskins have been doing a tailspin including losing to a previously one victory team in Cincinnati 20-13. The Eagles would need to beat Dallas a home in the final week if they win at Washington and have Atlanta or Tampa lose at least one game. The Redskins would need both Tampa and Atlanta to lose out and they would have to win out against the Eagles and at San Fran. The Cowboys have a tough road but currently are in. They have Baltimore at home and the travel to Philly. If they win out they get the 5 seed. If they stumble they would need to do it only against Baltimore because they currently have 4 NFC losses and could not afford a 5th. One other bright spot for Dallas is the fact that they own the head-to-head tiebreaker of the Bucs.
Here is how I think things will look in two weeks:
3. Dolphins vs. 6. Patriots
4. Broncos vs. 5. Colts
I think the Steelers find a way to beat the Titans and I see the Dolphins and Patriots winning out while Baltimore loses a close one at Dallas on Saturday. I think the Chargers lose at Tampa Bay which secures the west for Denver.
3. Vikings vs. 6. Eagles
4. Cardinals vs. 5. Bucs
I know K-man will be upset but I think the Panthers will beat the Giants this Sunday and take the top seed. The Vikings should beat the Falcons at home and I see the Bears losing in Houston. Tampa should win out at home and I think the Eagles will win out which would give them the spot over Dallas. Turns out that tie was way better than a loss, way to play for the second overtime Donavan!
Here are the official tie-breaking rules. So interesting that the NFL has a 12 team playoff yet these games in the regular season matter so much. Perhaps you should be taking notes college football?