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NFL Playoffs – After Week 15

The playoff picture got a bit more interesting this past week in a historic Week 15 in NFL history. The AFC race has the Colts back in the picture as the #4 seed which means the AFC playoffs are a bit more daunting now with Super Bowl contenders potentially having to go through Peyton Manning & the Colts in order to get to the promised land. For whatever reason, the AFC looks a lot more menacing with the horseshoe involved than with the Jaguars. The Colts can’t really get out of the #4 seed which means they’ll have to play at New England in the divisional round assuming the #3 seed wins. This is actually somewhat interesting. The #6 seed could potentially be the Jets who should be able to beat KC, but might not get through San Diego. Of course this changes should the Ravens win the North. There is a lot to still be decided in the AFC. Maybe not with the teams, but potentially with the seeds from #2 to #5.

The NFC also got clearer as Chicago clinched the NFC North. Raise your hand if you had that happening before the season!!! Nobody had the Bears sitting at 10-4 after 14 games! That’s crazy. Here is something else that is interesting in the NFC. With the Giants blowing a 21-point 4th quarter lead against the Eagles, the Packers now can win out and clinch the #6 seed in the playoffs. Green Bay was 8-4, but after losing 2 straight to Detroit & New England, they still have a chance to control their own destiny to get to the postseason! Tampa Bay lost to Detroit and that pretty much killed them! Green Bay loses to the Lions. They are fine. Tampa Bay loses to them. They’re out! NUTS!

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

AFC Playoff Seedings After Week 15

1. New England Patriots 12-2 (Last Week #1; 100.0% chance of making playoffs)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers 10-4 (#2; 100.0%)
3. Kansas City Chiefs 9-5 (#3; 54.9%)
4. Indianapolis Colts 8-6 (#8; 58.8%)
5. Baltimore Ravens 10-4 (#5; 98.9%)
6. New York Jets 10-4 (#6; 97.0%)
7. San Diego Chargers 8-6 (#7; 41.1%)
8. Jacksonville Jaguars 8-6 (#4; 40.4%)
9. Miami Dolphins 7-7 (#9; 0.0%)
10. Oakland Raiders 7-7 (#10; 6.9%)
11. Tennessee Titans 6-8 (#13; 2.0%)
12. Houston Texans 5-9 (#11; 0.0%)
13. Cleveland Browns 5-9 (#12; 0.0%)
14. Buffalo Bills 4-10 (#14; 0.0%)
15. Denver Broncos 3-11 (#14; 0.0%)
16. Cincinnati Bengals 3-11 (#16; 0.0%)

BIG WINNERS = INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: This obviously makes sense. The Colts weren’t in the playoff race, but now with a win over Jacksonville, Indy holds the tiebreakers with both teams at 8-6 which vaulted them from the #8 seed to hosting a wild card game at the #4 seed! I’ve written quite a bit about the Colts & Peyton Manning this past week. The games against Jacksonville & Tennessee that last two weeks were A LOT more difficult than what they might look like given Jacksonville’s 8-6 record & Tennessee’s 6-8 record. It’s not like they beat the Falcons & Eagles, but those were brutal divisional games especially the Titans win because it came in Nashville.

BIG LOSERS = JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Exceptionally tough loss for the Jaguars. I wrote about this earlier, but the Jags actually came into the game doing very well in the areas they needed to in order to beat Indianapolis. Maurice Jones-Drew was playing very well and the Jags have done a good job against the rush. They were brutal in both areas which maybe makes you wonder what kind of hex the Colts have over Jacksonville in games that matter. Jack Del Rio is a helluva coach. I’m certainly rooting for him, but not against Indianapolis. I like Del Rio winning as long as it doesn’t get in Indianapolis’s way.

BIGGEST GAINERS IN PLAYOFF % = INDIANAPOLIS COLTS +17.6%: Indy’s chances increased by 17.6%, but they are still only a 58.8% chance of making the playoffs. Indy can forget the wild card so they have to win the South, but the road isn’t exactly easy. Oakland is a lot better than a 7-7 squad at times. They’ll host the Colts and I’m sure Darren McFadden is itching to do what Maurice Jones-Drew & Chris Johnson couldn’t over the past couple of weeks. Maybe it won’t matter because Manning will be going up against a very young & inexperience defense, but Indy still has to stop Run-DMC!

BIGGEST LOSERS IN PLAYOFF % = JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS -18.8%: The loss to Indianapolis is a big one, but the Jaguars are still a 40+% shot at making the playoffs. Remember that schedule is a big thing and the Jaguars get a home game against the Redskins before ending the season on the road against the Texans. By all accounts the Jaguars have a MUCH easier road than the Colts do. If they don’t have a horrible letdown, the Jags should be able to finish 10-6 with room to spare which means all the pressure is still resting on Indianapolis. The Jaguars have to put themselves into a position to capitalize if the Colts falter. You simply cannot give Peyton Manning any type of advantage.

GUARANTEED PLAYOFF TEAMS = NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS & PITTSBURGH STEELERS: The Pats & Steelers are still the two teams automatically in the playoffs, but the Steelers & Ravens are dead even at 10-4. The Steelers get the Panthers & Browns while the Ravens get the Browns & Bengals in their final two games. It certainly seems like both teams are on pace for 12-4 final records, but a Steelers gaffe could push Baltimore into the #2 seed which would seriously affect the playoff seedings. The Ravens & Jets are almost virtual locks both being at 97% or greater.

COMPLETELY ELIMINATED = CINCINNATI BENGALS, DENVER BRONCOS, CLEVELAND BROWNS, MIAMI DOLPHINS, HOUSTON TEXANS & BUFFALO BILLS: Six teams are now eliminated in the AFC as the Texans join the club. The Broncos will already be looking for a new HC come this offseason, but if recent rumors are true, it certainly seems like Marvin Lewis, Eric Mangini, Tony Sporano & Gary Kubiak could also be out of a job! That’s insane! The only HC safe in this group is Buffalo’s Chan Gailey!

OVERALL ANALYSIS: The AFC is settling down a bit. We know the Jets, Patriots, Steelers & Ravens are in. The only thing we are waiting for is the South & West champions. We also know that New England is going to be the #1 seed and most likely the Steelers will be #2, Ravens #5 & Jets #6. Things will certainly get a lot more interesting if the Chargers wind up the #3 with Indianapolis at the #4. I’m always rooting for the Colts, but I have to admit, I’d much rather see the Chiefs get in over San Diego. A potential KC/NEP game is simply too enticing not to wish for it to happen.

NFC Playoff Seeding After Week 14

1. Atlanta Falcons 12-2 (Last Week #1; 100.0% chance of making playoffs)
2. Chicago Bears 10-4 (#2; 100.0%)
3. Philadelphia Eagles 10-4 (#3; 99.9%)
4. St. Louis Rams 6-8 (#4; 25.9%)
5. New Orleans Saints 10-4 (#5; 87.9%)
6. New York Giants 9-5 (#6; 61.9%)
7. Green Bay Packers 8-6 (#8; 40.2%)
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-6 (#7; 10.1%)
9. Seattle Seahawks 6-8 (#9; 40.3%)
10. Minnesota Vikings 5-9 (#10; 0.0%)
11. Washington Redskins 5-9 (#11; 0.0%)
12. Dallas Cowboys 5-9 (#14; 0.0%)
13. San Francisco 49ers 5-9 (#12; 33.8%)
14. Detroit Lions 4-10 (#15; 0.0%)
15. Arizona Cardinals 4-10 (#13; 0.0%)
16. Carolina Panthers 2-12 (#16; 0.0%)

BIG WINNERS = DALLAS COWBOYS: The Cowboys only move up 2 spots after beating the Rex Grossman led Washington Redskins 33-30, but it was the biggest jump by any team in the NFC. It’s pretty amazing how static the NFC is really. For the last few weeks it seems like the biggest movements in the standings are only 1 or 2 spots. I guess that is what we get with the NFC West not having much movement with everybody losing in that division on a weekly basis!

BIG LOSERS = ARIZONA CARDINALS: The Cardinals dropped two spots after losing the Carolina Panthers. You want to know how bad the NFC West is? The only two wins the Panthers have, have come at the expense of the NFC West! The Panthers have beaten both the 49ers & Cardinals. As for Arizona, I still really like Ken Whisenhunt as a HC, but the Cardinals were in worst shape than anyone could have expected once Kurt Warner left. Arizona needs a QB. They need one bad which means Donovan McNabb could be suiting up for the Cardinals next year.

BIGGEST GAINERS IN PLAYOFF % = CHICAGO BEARS +35.0%: The Bears get a huge jump after their win in Minnesota and Green Bay’s loss in New England. It guaranteed the North division to the Bears which NOBODY thought possible. It’s weird in a way. Football Outsiders note that Chicago has the 30th best defense of the NFL’s 32 teams! It’s a bit odd because Jay Cutler hasn’t been too bad this season even under Mike Martz’s new system. The defense ranks 4th which means you have to wonder what will happen to the Bears should the offense keep improving under Martz? Everyone thought Chicago was going to be the 3rd place team in the North and safely out of the playoffs. Now they are looking at a #2 seed if they can win out or Philadelphia loses a game or two to end the season.

BIGGEST LOSERS IN PLAYOFF % = TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS -23.1%: Last week the Packers were in this spot. This week the Bucs. It goes to show you what happens when you mess with the Detroit Lions baby! The loss to Detroit is murder. If New York beats Green Bay, the Bucs are done. On the other hand, if the Packers do beat the Giants, the Packers own all the tiebreakers against the Bucs. The Bucs do have an outside shot if the Packers lose once and the Giants lose out while Tampa wins out. Unfortunately for the Bucs, one of those games they MUST win is a road game against the Saints. As I’ve noted in earlier posts, the Bucs haven’t beaten anyone this year with a .500 record or better.

GUARANTEED PLAYOFF TEAMS = ATLANTA FALCONS & CHICAGO BEARS: The Eagles are 0.1% away from being here. What is somewhat interesting is New Orleans still not having a berth locked up. If New Orleans loses to Atlanta it could be Week 17 before the Saint clinch a wild card spot. What does seem to be obvious here is that the Falcons will be the #1 seed. If the Bears lose this week at home to the Jets while Philadelphia wins again, the Eagles could move into the #2 slot. Although they have clinched the NFC North, the Bears still have A LOT to play for. The Eagles too of course.

COMPLETELY ELIMINATED = DALLAS COWBOYS, WASHINGTON REDSKINS, DETROIT LIONS, ARIZONA CARDINALS, MINNESOTA VIKINGS & CAROLINA PANTHERS: The same 6 teams are here again this week. The Bucs should probably be added to this list and even the Packers should they lose to New York this week. All of the NFC West teams should soon be on here except for the division winner.

OVERALL ANALYSIS: The NFC could be completely decided should the Giants beat Green Bay at Lambeau this week. If that were to happen then the Saints & Giants are almost guaranteed to join the Falcons, Eagles, Bears & the NFC West winner. We know that the Falcons, Eagles & Bears are in leaving only 3 spots available. Not as determined as the AFC’s guaranteed 4 teams, but pretty close.

WILD CARD MATCHUPS

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

The Ravens can’t be happy about the Colts moving into the #4 spot. The most interesting aspect of the playoffs to me is the AFC Wild Card that gets to play at Pittsburgh. If Troy Polamalu is out, it’ll be interesting to see who gets to travel to Pittsburgh as that is now a very winnable road playoff game. With the way the playoffs are set up you’d have to think the Jets would be favored to beat KC so the winner of BAL/IND would be traveling to the Steel City.

Speaking of the Ravens/Colts, it’s an intereting game because obviously the Colts left Baltimore to come to Indianapolis. That’s intriguing, but this isn’t the first time they’ve played and the game is in Indianapolis & not Baltimore where it would be more of a storyline.

The NFC is the same as last week although that changes with a Packers win this week over the Giants.

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December 23, 2010 - Posted by | NFL Playoffs

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