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NFL Playoff Seedings: Post Week 14

We are close enough to the postseason that I can forget about the teams who aren’t making any noise. We have 9 teams in the AFC still making pushes for playoff spots although in reality it’s basically 6 teams battling for 3 spots. In the NFC we have 8 teams who could still be considered playoff worthy although 4 are almost guaranteed with 4 others battling for 2 spots. The next 3 weeks should be pretty exciting. Playoff Odds via The Football Outsiders.

American Football Conference

#1 – Indianapolis Colts 13-0 (Odds of Going 16-0: 28.4%)

No changes for the Colts after taking down Denver 28-16. The Colts have now locked up the #1 seed so the inevitable rumors of them resting starters has begun. Jim Caldwell has come out and said Indianapolis’ starters will play against Jacksonville, but if the Colts take the foot off the gas they’ll be in trouble. This is rhythm offense, and I thought for years that Tony Dungy made huge errors in “resting” his team after Indianapolis’ great starts. Let’s not forget just how lucky Indianapolis was to get their one Super Bowl win. That New England win was exceptionally lucky. Getting a Rex Grossman led Bears team was extremely lucky too. Indianapolis is already dealing with the moniker of not living up to expectations during the Manning era. Anything less than a trip the Super Bowl will be a HUGE disappointment. I’d ride the wave of success for as long as it will let me. The 1972 Dolphins showed it’s OK to keep on winning.

#2 – San Diego Chargers 10-3 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 99.8%)

The Broncos loss all but sealed the AFC West championship. Now a win over Cincinnati at home will ensure a definite #2 seed which will give SD a bye and a home game in the divisional round. They’ll likely still have to come to Indianapolis for the AFC Championships, but San Diego has had massive success against the Colts come playoff time.

#3 – Cincinnati Bengals 9-4 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 98.6%)

So they lost to the Vikings in Minneapolis. Worse things can happen. If the Bengals can beat the Chargers this week, they’ll vault back up to the #2 seed with games remaining against the Chiefs & Jets. I don’t think Cincinnati will lose any of the last two, but the SD game will determine whether the Bengals go 11-5 or 12-4. If the Bengals do happen to lose to New York, it will be impossible for them to lose the division unless they lose to Kansas City at home! A single win from this point forward ensures an AFC North title. Beating SD probably gets them the #2 seed and a very real shot at getting to the AFC Championship game.

#4 – New England Patriots 8-5 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 84.7%)

The Patriots have been horrible on the road, but even they won’t lose to Buffalo. Even if Randy Moss takes the day off, I have a hard time believing the Fighting Belichicks lose that game. They come back home to face Jacksonville which should be a win. The only problem New England faces is a road game at Houston in their season finale. If Miami finds a way to win out, it would make both the Dolphins & Patriots 10-6 and tiebreakers would come into the mix.

#5 – Denver Broncos 8-5 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 95.1%)

With home games against KC & Oakland, the Broncos will pave the way to at least 10 wins which will be enough to get into the playoffs. The loss to Indianapolis means the West is out of reach, but unless they completely fall apart, they are almost guaranteed a playoff berth. Their other game is at Philadelphia and Philly will need that one. A 10-6 record is more than enough.

#6 – Jacksonville Jaguars 7-6 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 22.1%)

The Jaguars could have made an even more compelling case had they beaten Miami. The reason Jacksonville has playoff odds lower than that of Baltimore & Miami is because they have games remaining against Indianapolis & New England. The Colts are playing for 14-0 so that’s going to be tough for the Jaguars even if they do play at home. They then travel to New England where the Patriots haven’t lost. They’re last game is against the Browns which probably puts them at 8-8. I think Jacksonville has to win out and I don’t see it. Getting the Dolphins, Colts & Patriots in 3 of your last 4 games is ruinous.

#7 – Baltimore Ravens 7-6 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 52.8%)

The big game for Baltimore will be a road game at Pittsburgh. I don’t imagine games against the Bears (at home) and Oakland (on the road) will be too much for the Ravens to manage. I think if they can go 10-6 then the #6 seed is definitely theirs for the taking. A loss to Pittsburgh hurts a bit not only because it will drop them to 7 losses, but it also hurts their conference record a bit too.

#8 – Miami Dolphins 7-6 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 27.0%)

The Dolphins are low because they have a difficult slate ahead. They play the Titans (road), Texans (home) & Steelers (home). The Titans game is most important in my mind. Tennessee has become a very dangerous team and although it was against the Rams, Tennessee looked pretty good with Kerry Collins back under center. If Vince Young does anything, he at least helps open up a few more holes for Chris Johnson. Now that won’t be the case with an immobile QB like Collins. Don’t forget that Collins led this team to a 13-3 record last season. He’s capable. If Miami loses to the Titans, it’s over for them.

#9 – New York Jets 7-6 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 15.8%)

The road for the Jets is even tougher than Jacksonville’s in certain respects. The Jets end their season playing the Falcons (home), Colts (road) & Bengals (home). The Falcons are a decent team and are still fighting for a playoff spot however slight their chances might be. If the Colts are gunning for 16-0 then the Jets have no shot whatsoever at beating Indianapolis at home. The Bengals game be extremely important for Cincinnati no matter what happens. If Cincinnati beats San Diego then they must win out to keep up the tie-breaker. If the Bengals lose to San Diego then Cincinnati will certainly be playing for the #3 seed instead of the #5 seed. Don’t forget that the Jets must finish a game ahead of Miami to be ahead of the Dolphins because the Dolphins have the season sweep.

#10 – Pittsburgh Steelers 6-7 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 1.6%)
#11 – Tennessee Titans 6-7 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 1.2%)
#12 – Houston Texans 6-7 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 1.4%)
#13 – Buffalo Bills 5-8 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 0.0%)
#14 – Oakland Raiders 4-9 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 0.0%)
#15 – Kansas City Chiefs 3-10 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 0.0%)
#16 – Cleveland Browns 2-11 (Odds of Having #1 Pick in 2010 Draft: 2.3%)

Note that the Titans do have a shot at the playoffs. If they run the table to 9-7, then they could be very dangerous because it’s likely that the #6 seed in the AFC will have a 9-7 record. It’ll come down to tiebreakers and I won’t go into every scenario, but the Titans do have a shot. They must run the table, but it’s entirely possible that happens.

National Football Conference

#1 – New Orleans Saints 13-0 (Odds of Going 16-0: 31.9%)

No talk of letting up in the Saints camp after getting by Atlanta. That’s 2 close wins in as many weeks for the Falcons. They get back to the Superdome this week against a reeling Dallas Cowboys team. I don’t expect Dallas to win as they are downright pitiful in December, but essentially this is a game for Wade Phillips’ job and to a lesser extent the viability of Tony Romo as a championship QB. It’s a tremendously tall order for Dallas, but that’s what it’s down to. For the Saints, they haven’t clinched the NFC yet being only 2 games up on Minnesota with 3 to play. A loss to Dallas definitely makes them uncomfortable just a bit.

#2 – Minnesota Vikings 11-2 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 100.0%)

The Arizona loss looks bad after what the 49ers did the Cardinals on Monday Night. Still, the Vikings rebounded nicely with a blowout win over the Bengals in the Metrodome. There is no reason to think Minnesota should finish the season at 14-2. Road games against the Panthers & Bears should be no problem. They finish with a home game against a Giants team that forgot how to play defense. No defense against this Vikings offense? Good luck with that!

#3 – Philadelphia Eagles 9-4 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 97.0%)

Given the win over the Giants and Dallas loss to San Diego combined with their upcoming road game against the Saints all but ensured Philadelphia a division championship. It’s not all kisses and hugs for the Eagles though. They play Denver (home), San Francisco (home) & Dallas (road) in their final 3 which could easily put Philly at 9-7. To be honest, all the teams they play really need the wins. Denver probably can’t afford to drop yet another game because they’d go to tiebreaker hell in the AFC. The 49ers need to win out to sniff the playoffs and if the Cowboys stay within one game of the Eagles, a win over Philly in Dallas would ensure the Cowboys the division title because they’d own the tiebreakers. By the way, it’s entirely possibly Donovan McNabb is the 3rd best QB on the Eagles right now behind Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick.

#4 – Arizona Cardinals 8-5 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 97.6%)

Talk about missed opportunities. If the 49ers had beaten the pitiful Jaguars last week, then the NFC West would look a whole lot more interesting. Nothing to worry though. Arizona gets the Lions & Rams in the next two weeks guaranteeing them a 10-5 spot with a home game against the Packers in waiting. Arizona probably needs to win out to get the #3 seed, but it doesn’t really matter. They are playing a Wild Card playoff game and it’ll be a home one before going on the road. You just can’t tell about Arizona. One week they play Minnesota and it looks like they’re unstoppable. Then they play the 49ers and commit 7 turnovers in a single game and you wonder how they’ll make the playoffs. The bottom line is that if Arizona is running on all cylinders, it’s tough to bet against them.

#5 – Green Bay Packers 9-4 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 99.3%)

The Packers are definitely in although they could wind up 10-6. The Steelers are done, but GB does have to travel to the Steel City for a matchup. Pittsburgh is obviously playing for pride at this point, but you never know. GB also goes on the road to Arizona. This is a dangerous team and I wouldn’t want to face them. I think an interesting story would be a 3rd game between the Packers & Vikings. I think Green Bay is a bit better than they were the first two times they played. It wasn’t like GB couldn’t score on Minnesota and Aaron Rodgers had two very good games. Could Minnesota beat Green Bay 3 times in one season? It’s hard to see the Packers getting back to Minnesota, but if it happens I think it’ll be interesting. Either way, this is the one team in the NFC I don’t want to see. Their analogy from the AFC is Baltimore.

#6 – Dallas Cowboys 8-5 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 64.6%)

The have to get a win. They have the Saints, Redskins & Eagles left. They have to at least win one of those games if not two to ensure themselves a playoff spot. Everyone in the NFC it seems has a tough road and Dallas is no different. Washington is playing their hearts out so that won’t be an easy win. If the Cowboys could steal one in New Orleans, they could roll to 11-5 and win the NFC North. If they lose to New Orleans (which is likely) then they’ll still be in a funk. It’s like Derek Jeter a couple of years ago that went into an 0 for 30 slump. All he needed was that one hit and he began hitting .350. The Cowboys need a December win simply to get their monkey off their back. If it’s New Orleans, that’s HUGE MOMENTUM moving forward.

#7 – New York Giants 7-6 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 25.1%)

The loss was crushing. The Giants now face the Panthers, Redskins & Vikings to end the season. They need to win out and I don’t see it happening. Eli Manning is having foot problems and more importantly, the defense can’t stop anyone. They have to travel to Washington & Minnesota and I think both could be losses. They lose at least one in Minnesota I think and I don’t think they can make the playoffs at 9-7 unless the Cowboys keep imploding. Keep in mind that Washington could blow a lot of people up. The Redskins get the Chargers, Cowboys & Giants and to be honest, all 3 are winnable games. Washington is playing SO HARD and that defense is legitimately great. If Washington runs the table and finish at 7-9, does Jim Zorn keeps his job?

#8 – Atlanta Falcons 6-7 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 0.5%)

#9 – San Francisco 49ers 6-7 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 15.5%)

The 49ers are in play over Atlanta because of the schedule. The 49ers are a difficult team to evaluate. Alex Smith is playing really well. Vernon Davis is a legit threat at TE and Michael Crabtree is everything we thought he’d be after finishing his career at Texas Tech. Now that San Francisco is going back to a bit more run game featuring Frank Gore the 49ers have a very talented offense. The defense is good too which is what you’d expect from a Mike Singletary coached squad. San Francisco plays the Lions & Rams which means they’ve got 8 wins in the bag. The real test is next week traveling to Philadelphia. If the 49ers win that one, then a 9-7 might be good enough to eek in at #6. What really hurts San Francisco is that 3-point loss to Seattle a couple of weeks back. That might have been the season right there.

#10 – Carolina Panthers 5-8 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 0.4%)
#11 – Seattle Seahawks 5-8 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 0.0%)
#12 – Chicago Bears 5-8 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 0.0%)
#13 – Washington Redskins 4-9 (Odds of Making Playoffs: 0.0%)
#14 – Detroit Lions 2-11 (Odds of Having #1 Pick in 2010 Draft: 3.7%)
#15 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-12 (Odds of Having #1 Pick in 2010 Draft: 44.6%)
#16 – St. Louis Rams 1-12 (Odds of Having #1 Pick in 2010 Draft: 49.2%)

From this point forward I’m rooting for the Colts, Saints, Cowboys, Titans & 49ers. It will be impossible for the 49ers & Cowboys to get into the playoffs together, but I’ll root for them both anyway. Rooting for both New Orleans & Dallas is tough. If Dallas has to lose to the Saints then I’m hoping for an all 18-0 Super Bowl featuring Indy & NO. There is actually a 1.8% chance of that happening.

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December 15, 2009 - Posted by | NFL Playoffs

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