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NFL Playoffs – After Week 14

The playoffs are staying fairly static for now, but a couple of things are happening which could cause for some excitement down the stretch. The Packers folding up could make the NFC a bit more interesting down the stretch if the Giants & Eagles lose a couple of games which means Tampa Bay could be in the mix. The AFC has a lot better chance of erupting into chaos. With their back-end schedule, the Jets could easily lose their next two games on the road against Pittsburgh & Chicago. If that happens and other teams act accordingly, then we could be seeing quite a few teams sitting at 10-6 with the Jets potentially on the outside looking in.

All of the potential scenarios are too tough to figure, but if the Colts, Patriots, & Steelers all win this week then things have the potential to get fairly interesting in the NFL.

I’m using Football Outsiders Playoff Odds numbers to add another facet of the playoff reports each week.

AFC Playoff Seedings After Week 14

1. New England Patriots 11-2 (Last Week #1; 100.0% chance of making playoffs)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers 10-3 (#2; 100.0%)
3. Kansas City Chiefs 8-5 (#3; 53.7%)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars 8-5 (#4; 59.2%)
5. Baltimore Ravens 9-4 (#6; 97.6%)
6. New York Jets 9-4 (#5; 88.9%)
7. San Diego Chargers 7-6 (#8; 45.0%)
8. Indianapolis Colts 7-6 (#9; 41.2%)
9. Miami Dolphins 7-6 (#10; 3.9%)
10. Oakland Raiders 6-7 (#7; 9.0%)
11. Houston Texans 5-8 (#11; 0.5%)
12. Cleveland Browns 5-8 (#12; 0.0%)
13. Tennessee Titans 5-8 (#13; 1.0%)
14. Denver Broncos 3-10 (#14; 0.0%)
15. Buffalo Bills 3-10 (#15; 0.0%)
16. Cincinnati Bengals 2-11 (#16; 0.0%)

BIG WINNERS = BALTIMORE RAVENS, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS & MIAMI DOLPHINS: All 4 teams moved up only 1 spot in the seedings so it’s not like any one team made a big jump to factor into the playoff race suddenly. The Dophins & Chargers aren’t out of it. It sounds almost nuts given where they were just a few weeks ago but the Jets could easily lose out. Their final 3 games are against the Steelers, Bears & Bills. Even if New York loses 2 out of 3, then they wind up 10-6 and keep in mind that the Colts, Jags, Dolphins, Chiefs & Chargers could all wind up 10-6 which would put the Jets into tiebreaker hell.

BIG LOSERS = OAKLAND RAIDERS: The last minute loss to Jacksonville hurts Oakland a lot especially given what is happening with the Jets. If Oakland beats the Jags then all of a sudden the Raiders are 7-6 with some momentum and a schedule that theoretically they could in out against. Their last 3 are home games against the Broncos & Colts with a road game against KC in the season finale. The Raiders potentially set themselves up to go 10-6 with tiebreakers over EVERYONE in the AFC West, but now the best they can do is 9-7. Momentum is suddenly shifted away from Oakland & now they have the Colts & Chiefs in their 2 final games. Who would have thought losing to Jacksonville could mean so much?

BIGGEST GAINERS IN PLAYOFF % = SAN DIEGO CHARGERS +19.6%: San Diego get a huge bump for a couple of reasons. I think the first is because they just beat Kansas City & moved to within one game of the Chiefs. However, I think the Jets losing their 2nd straight game helps San Diego as well. If the Chargers win out to finish 10-6 and the Jets lose to the Steelers & Bears but beat Buffalo to finish 10-6, the Chargers will be 8-4 in the AFC while New York would be 8-4 also. This would then get down to common opponents. You’d run into a tie there as well because both teams would actually have exactly 4 common opponents, but both teams would have a 4-1 record against them. The tiebreaker then comes down to strength of victory. Right now the Chargers would beat New York. Their strength of victory record would be 50-81 to New York’s 47-83. That’s very very close and the numbers could change dramatically over the next 3 weeks. However, right now if the Jets went 10-6 & SD went 10-6, the Jets would be out and San Diego would pick up that final wild card slot! SD got a boost by beating KC this past week. They also got a boost with New York losing.

BIGGEST LOSERS IN PLAYOFF % = KANSAS CITY CHIEFS -16.7%: The loss to San Diego was inevitable especially when your starting QB is out of the game. Cassel comes back this week against the Rams and while not 100%, should be good enough to beat a very bad St. Louis squad. At 8-5, the Chiefs can win out and finish 11-5 to secure the AFC West. They do have a road game against the Rams this week, but finish the season with back-to-back home games against Tennessee & Oakland. Frankly it’s not the easiest of schedules, but if the Chiefs take care of business at Arrowhead, then the loss to San Diego won’t mean too much. Their playoff odds go down, but it doesn’t hurt too much.

GUARANTEED PLAYOFF TEAMS = NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS & PITTSBURGH STEELERS: The big boys finally clinch playoff spots according to the playoff odds. It isn’t surprising. Both have the two best records in the AFC & I don’t see how the Patriots are going to be stopped from finishing 14-2. Interestingly enough, if the seedings hold, we’d have a Steelers & Patriots AFC Championship game. New England gave Pittsburgh a whippin’ at Heinz Field so you’d have to think the outcome at Foxboro could be worse.

COMPLETELY ELIMINATED = CINCINNATI BENGALS, DENVER BRONCOS, CLEVELAND BROWNS & BUFFALO BILLS: The Browns enter the mix! Cleveland is a really interesting team for me. It’s clear that Mike Holmgren does a good job being the general manager & I’m still convinced that Eric Mangini is underrated as an NFL head coach. Advanced metrics say the Browns are one spot away from having a top-10 defense. The one area where they are shaky is QB. It’s been said that Colt McCoy is going to take snaps for the rest of the year, and this certainly allows Cleveland to see what they have in the kid. Not having a legit QB is a team killer in the NFL and if McCoy isn’t the guy, then Cleveland is still hurting, but man do they have some pieces.

OVERALL ANALYSIS: The AFC is very far from settled. I think the Patriots & Steelers are locks and I’d even go as far as to put Baltimore in there too, but two divisions and one wild card could be very much up for grabs if the Jets can’t start to win games. That’s really an amazing statement. Four weeks ago the Jets were 7-2 and the #1 seed in the AFC. Now they are falling apart.

NFC Playoff Seeding After Week 14

1. Atlanta Falcons 11-2 (Last Week #1; 100.0% chance of making playoffs)
2. Chicago Bears 9-4 (#2; 65.0%)
3. Philadelphia Eagles 9-4 (#3; 83.3%)
4. St. Louis Rams 6-7 (#4; 39.9%)
5. New Orleans Saints 10-3 (#5; 92.7%)
6. New York Giants 9-4 (#6; 76.9%)
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-5 (#8; 33.3%)
8. Green Bay Packers 8-5 (#7; 48.8%)
9. Seattle Seahawks 6-7 (#9; 36.5%)
10. Minnesota Vikings 5-8 (#10; 0.0%)
11. Washington Redskins 5-8 (#11; 0.0%)
12. San Francisco 49ers 5-8 (#13; 23.5%)
13. Arizona Cardinals 4-9 (#14; 0.0%)
14. Dallas Cowboys 4-9 (#12; 0.0%)
15. Detroit Lions 3-10 (#15; 0.0%)
16. Carolina Panthers 1-12 (#16; 0.0%)

BIG WINNERS = TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS & ARIZONA CARDINALS: Sort of like the AFC, all 3 of these teams move up one spot, but the difference is that none of these teams really have any playoff aspirations. The Bucs can’t get by New Orleans or Atlanta, and with the way the Eagles & Giants are playing, it does seem like the 2nd wild card team will come out of the NFC East. The NFC West is a black hole so I suppose the 49ers could still be in play especially if the Rams (likely) & Seahawks (definitely) lose this upcoming week. You could easily see a 7-9 team win the NFC West and host a first round playoff game! That’s insane!

BIG LOSERS = DALLAS COWBOYS: Dallas was the big loser this week dropping 2 spots after losing 30-27 to the Eagles. You sort of figured it would happen. Dallas dropped the most spots this week, but they dropped from the #12 seed to the #14 seed, so it’s not like they were knocked out of the playoffs or anything. The loss to Philly did guarantee the Cowboys a losing season however. The best the Boys can hope for is 7-9 which is just a massive failure given the expectations at the beginning of the season.

BIGGEST GAINERS IN PLAYOFF % = NEW YORK GIANTS +11.6%: Like San Diego, the Giants get a boost from a few sources. Beating Minnesota 21-3 on Monday Night in Detroit certainly helps their cause, but they also got significant help with the Packers losing to the Lions! The loss is doubly bad for Green Bay. Not only do they drop a game behind the Giants for that 2nd wild card spot, but they also get into a tiebreaker with Tampa Bay which they lose. The Packers loss also counts as a conference loss which doesn’t help them either. The Giants are thinking division championship now with a game against the Eagles this week, but even a loss doesn’t kill them that much. The Bucs could get to 10-5 heading into the final week of the season where they’ll play the Saints. That game could affect quite a few teams.

BIGGEST LOSERS IN PLAYOFF % = GREEN BAY PACKERS -24.6%: The loss to Detroit was murder! It doesn’t help the cause that now the Packers travel to New England to play the Patriots with Matt Flynn as their starting QB! The Packers have the Patriots, Bears & Giants for their last 3 games! GOOD NIGHT! At 8-5, the Packers are seriously staring at 8-8 and even if Rodgers does come back it might not matter. They are definitely losing this week to put them at 8-6. The games against Chicago & New York are in Lambeau, but who knows? So far nobody has really counted the Packers as one of the most disappointing teams in 2010, but if they finish 9-7/8-8 then how can you not think that about them?

GUARANTEED PLAYOFF TEAMS = ATLANTA FALCONS: The Falcons are the first team in the NFC to be in. At 11-2, the Falcons are riding pretty high. They get the Panthers & Seahawks in of their final 3 games all but guaranteeing a 13-win season. The other game is a home game against the Saints in Week 16. Who knows if they’ll win it. If they win then the 14-2 record is good enough for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Saints travel to Baltimore this week meaning a loss puts the Saints at 10-4 which makes the Falcons game meaningless. If New Orleans wins out and both wind up 13-3, the Panthers would be 5-1 in the division to New Orleans’s 5-1. The tiebreaker would then go to common opponents. There are 14 common games between the Falcons & Saints. If the Saints win out and the Falcons win out but lose to New Oreleans, both would be 13-3, but in common games, the Falcons would be 12-2 to New Orleans’s 11-3! The Falcons would still win the South. You know what would make the Saints a wild card team instead of being the #1 seed in this scenario? Early season losses to the Arizona Cardinals & Cleveland Browns! WOW!

COMPLETELY ELIMINATED = DALLAS COWBOYS, WASHINGTON REDSKINS, DETROIT LIONS, ARIZONA CARDINALS, MINNESOTA VIKINGS & CAROLINA PANTHERS: Six teams on the list. The NFC is almost completely decided. Now it’s just a matter of adding teams. Nine teams are still fighting it out, but in an odd way, the next team to probably have no shot at the postseason is Tampa Bay. Despite the 8-5 record, their chances at the postseason are dwindling by the second.

OVERALL ANALYSIS: A lot left to play in the NFC really. With 9 teams still fighting for 6 spots, there are quite a few scenarios that could play out, but in reality won’t. Unless Aaron Rodgers comes back full bore, the Packers are probably finished which makes the NFC playoff teams all but settled with only the seeding left to manage.

WILD CARD MATCHUPS

#6 New York Jets @ #3 Kansas City Chiefs
#5 Baltimore Ravens @ #4 Jacksonville Jaguars
#6 New York Giants @ #3 Philadelphia Eagles
#5 New Orleans Saints @ #4 St. Louis Rams

These wild card matchups are getting boring! The NFC remains the same, but that could change in a hurry. Whoever wins the Giants/Eagles game this weekend could take over the #2 seed especially if the Giants win and the Bears falter. That would put the Bears at #3 & they’ll likely host either the Eagles or Giants. The Saints are pretty much locked in at the #5 seed which means they’ll have to travel to either St. Louis or Seattle to give the AFC West champion and serious beating before advancing.

The AFC could get wild. Odds are that Indy takes care of business at home meaning if they win out, the Colts take the #4 seed. As I’ve written before, if the Jets fall apart then really the AFC is a mess outside of the Steelers & Patriots. Seeds #3 through #6 are a mess although the Ravens probably have the inside shot at the #5 seed, but like the Saints in the NFC. These are the AFC wildcard matchups for now, but I’m doubtful that they remain that way.

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December 17, 2010 - Posted by | NFL Playoffs

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