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Figuring up Playoff Seedings

It’s only week 2, but I thought I’d go over how the playoff seedings are determined because early in the season is when things get pretty intricate because of so many similar records. It’s more fun this way before everything begins to settle just a bit. St. Louis & the NY Giants play tonight so it’s practically impossible to determine the NFC seedings, but I thought I’d take you through the AFC to show you how it works.

Obviously the first metric when figuring out seedings is record. The AFC is interesting in that it only has 4 undefeated teams left with 3 of them being in the East! The top-4 seeds are reserved for division winners so we need to figure out which team would have the top seed in the East. The first tiebreaker is Head-2-Head (H-2-H) record, but none of these teams have played each other (they’re all undefeated!) so it’s useless. The next tiebreaker is divisional record. The Jets & Bills have yet to play a division game, but New England has beaten Miami giving them a 1-0 record. The Patriots are the top team from the East. The only other undefeated team is Houston so the Texans & Patriots are battling it out for the top spot. There is no H-2-H game so we go to conference record. Both teams are 2-0. The next tiebreaker is common games, but there has to be at least 4 of these. We don’t have that in a 2-week old season. Next up is strength of victory. The Patriots have beaten the Dolphins & Chargers. Those teams have a combined record of 1-3. The Texans have beaten the Colts & Dolphins. Those teams have a combined record of 0-4, thus New England’s strength of victory is a game better. The top-2 seeds are decided:

1. New England 2-0
2. Houston 2-0

Now we must figure the top teams in the North & West to fill out the remaining division winners. The West is fairly straight forward. Denver, Oakland & San Diego are all 1-1. The first tie-breaker in a division format is W-L record among the teams in question. Oakland beat Denver in week 1 so the Raiders have a 1-0 record among the 3 teams while San Diego is 0-0 & Denver is 0-1. Oakland thus is the top team in the West. The North is a mess. All 4 teams are 1-1, but because the Bengals beat the Browns and the Ravens beat the Steelers, both Cincinnati & Baltimore are 1-0 among the 4 teams. Because we are down to 2 teams, the tiebreakers start at H-2-H and then go to divisional records. The Bengals & Ravens are tied on both accounts. The next tiebreaker is common games with no minimum amount of games required. The Bengals & Ravens have had no common opponents this season. Next up is conference record and both Cincy & Baltimore are both 1-1. The next tiebreaker is strength of victory, but they are tied here too since the teams both Cincinnati (Cleveland) and Baltimore (Pittsburgh) are 1-1. Next up is strength of schedule. Cincinnati has played Cleveland & Denver. Both teams are 1-1 so the Bengals SOS is a 2-2 record. The Ravens also have a 2-2 SOS record because Pittsburgh & Tennessee are both 1-1. The next tiebreaker is the combined rankings within the conference in points scored and points allowed. Cincinnati ranks 6th in PS and 6th in PA in the AFC for a combined ranking of 12. Baltimore ranks 7th in PS and 4th in PA in the AFC for a combined ranking of 11. The Ravens win the tiebreaker over Cincinnati.

To figure out the #3 & #4 seeds, we have to compare Oakland & Baltimore. They haven’t played each other so the next tiebreaker is conference record. Both teams are 1-1 against AFC teams. They don’t have a minimum of 4 common games so we next go to strength of victory. Baltimore beat Pittsburgh for a 1-1 SOV record while Oakland beat Denver for a 1-1 SOV record. That takes us to SOS. Baltimore’s SOS record is 2-2 (Both Tennessee & Pittsburgh are 1-1) while Oakland’s SOS record is 3-1 (Buffalo is 2-0 while Denver is 1-1). The Raiders win the tiebreaker over the Ravens, thus giving us our top-4 seeds.

1. New England 2-0
2. Houston 2-0
3. Oakland 1-1
4. Baltimore 1-1

With the division winners out of the way, we now go back to W-L record and see Buffalo & the Jets at 2-0. There is on H-2-H game and the two squads have yet to play a divisional game. Common games don’t matter either because both teams are undefeated. That takes us to conference record where Buffalo beats the Jets because the Bills are 2-0 in the AFC while the Jets are 1-0 due to their win over the NFC’s Dallas Cowboys a week ago. Our top-6 now look like this:

1. New England 2-0
2. Houston 2-0
3. Oakland 1-1
4. Baltimore 1-1
5. Buffalo 2-0
6. NY Jets 2-0

For playoff purposes, we’d be finished. The Jets would be off to Oakland & Buffalo would fly to Baltimore for the Wild Card games while Houston & New England awaited the winners. To get the other 10 seeds though we need to figure out who represents each division with their particular record. The AFC East doesn’t matter at this point because Miami is 0-2. The AFC South is fairly easy. Tennessee & Jacksonville are both 1-1, but the Jaguars beat the Titans in Week 1 so JAX is the 1-1 team left atop the AFC South. The AFC West is fairly easy too. Both San Diego & Denver are 1-1, but the Broncos are 0-1 within the division while the Chargers are 0-0 so San Diego wins out. The AFC North is actually fairly easy too because even though all the remaining teams (CIN, CLE & PIT) are 1-1, the Bengals are the only team with a 1-0 division record.

To get the #7 seed, the 3 viable teams are Cincinnati, Jacksonville, and San Diego. There is on H-2-H sweep between these 3 teams so the next tiebreaker is conference record. The Bengals & Jaguars are 1-1, but San Diego is 0-1 which eliminates the Chargers. Now with only 2 squads, we revert back to the beginning. There is no H-2-H game. The conference records are the same. There is not 4 common games between JAX & CIN. This takes us to SOV where both teams have a 1-1 record because JAX beat Tennessee (1-1) and CIN beat Cleveland (1-1). Next up is SOS. The Jaguars played the Jets & Titans giving them a 3-1 SOS record. The Bengals played the Browns & Broncos giving them a 2-2 SOS record so the Jaguars win the tiebreaker. Our seedings look like this:

1. New England 2-0
2. Houston 2-0
3. Oakland 1-1
4. Baltimore 1-1
5. Buffalo 2-0
6. NY Jets 2-0
7. Jacksonville 1-1

We still have the Bengals & Chargers fighting it out, but with Jacksonville advancing, the Titans now are in a tiebreaker with Cincy & San Diego. The process now starts over. There is no H-2-H sweep which takes us to conference record. The Chargers are once again eliminated because of their 0-1 conference record compared to Cincinnati’s & Tennessee’s 1-1 record. This takes us back to 2 teams. There is no H-2-H game. The conference records are the same and there is no 4 game minimum between them. SOV gives us a 1-1 record for Cincy & a 1-1 record for Tennessee. SOS gives us a 2-2 record for Cincinnati and a 2-2 record for Tennessee. Now we get back to the combined rankings of PS & PA within the conference. Cincinnati ranks 6th in PS & 6th in PA among AFC teams giving them a combined rank of 12. The Titans rank 11th in PS & 3rd in PA among AFC teams for a combined rank of 14. The Bengals win the tiebreaker. Our top-8 seeds are now:

1. New England 2-0
2. Houston 2-0
3. Oakland 1-1
4. Baltimore 1-1
5. Buffalo 2-0
6. NY Jets 2-0
7. Jacksonville 1-1
8. Cincinnati 1-1

We still have Tennessee & San Diego, but now we have to decide if either Pittsburgh or Cleveland joins the fun. There is no H-2-H game. Both teams are 0-1 in the division and they haven’t played any common opponents. That takes us to conference record and Cleveland is 1-1 while Pittsburgh is 0-1. The Browns will now compete with the Titans & Chargers for the #9 seed. There is no H-2-H sweep among the 3 clubs which takes us to conference record. Both Tennessee & Cleveland are 1-1 while the Chargers get eliminated with their 0-1 AFC record. Cleveland & Tennessee don’t have a H-2-H game, their conference records are the same and they don’t have 4 common opponents. That takes us to SOV. The Browns beat the Colts giving them an 0-2 SOV while the Titans beat the Ravens giving them a 1-1 SOV. The Titans thus win the tiebreaker giving us our 9 seeds:

1. NE
2. HOU
3. OAK
4. BAL
5. BUF
6. NYJ
7. JAX
8. CIN
9. TEN

That leaves us with only Cleveland & San Diego. Pittsburgh is behind Cleveland in the North while the East & South no longer have anymore 1-1 teams. Cleveland beats San Diego on conference record. That elevates Pittsburgh to go against San Diego for the #11 seed. There is no H-2-H game between the Steelers & Chargers. Their conference records are both 1-1 and they don’t have 4 common opponents. That leads us to SOV. The Chargers beat the Vikings who are 0-2 while the Steelers beat the Seahawks who are 0-2. This takes us to SOS. The Chargers have played Minnesota (0-2) & New England (2-0) which gives them a 2-2 SOS record. The Steelers have played Baltimore (1-1) & Seattle (0-2) to give them a 1-3 SOS record. The Chargers thus win the tiebreaker. This elevates Denver up to take on Pittsburgh for the #12 seed. There is no H-2-H game between the Steelers & Broncos, but Denver’s 1-1 conference record is better than Pittsburgh’s 0-1 mark. Denver takes the 12th seed & Pittsburgh the 13th.

1. New England 2-0
2. Houston 2-0
3. Oakland 1-1
4. Baltimore 1-1
5. Buffalo 2-0
6. NY Jets 2-0
7. Jacksonville 1-1
8. Cincinnati 1-1
9. Tennessee 1-1
10. Cleveland 1-1
11. San Diego 1-1
12. Denver 1-1
13. Pittsburgh 1-1

This leaves us with 3 teams who have started the season 0-2. The Dolphins, Chiefs & Colts face off against each other with obviously no H-2-H sweep! This takes us to conference record where the Chiefs are only 0-1 against AFC foes while the Dolphins & Colts have both started 0-2. Miami & Indianapolis obviously don’t have a H-2-H game. Their conference records are the same and they haven’t got four common opponents. SOV means nothing since neither team has won a game which takes us to SOS. The Dolphins have lost to both New England & Houston. Both are 2-0 teams giving Miami a SOS of 4-0! The Colts have lost to Houston (2-0) & Cleveland (1-1) giving them a 3-1 SOS and the 16th seed in the AFC after 2 weeks. The final seedings are:

1. New England 2-0
2. Houston 2-0
3. Oakland 1-1
4. Baltimore 1-1
5. Buffalo 2-0
6. NY Jets 2-0
7. Jacksonville 1-1
8. Cincinnati 1-1
9. Tennessee 1-1
10. Cleveland 1-1
11. San Diego 1-1
12. Denver 1-1
13. Pittsburgh 1-1
14. Kansas City 0-2
15. Miami 0-2
16. Indianapolis 0-2

This is pretty much meaningless, but keep in mind that in the last 2 seasons, no team that was lower than an 11-seed after the first 2 weeks made the playoffs! That would leave Pittsburgh on the outside looking in which would be an incredible development! It has certainly been an odd year. Buffalo has started the season 2-0. Pittsburgh is the 13-seed after 2 weeks! The Colts look like they could EASILY finish the season 0-16. Jamaal Charles is out for the season. Crazy stuff.

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September 19, 2011 - Posted by | NFL Playoffs

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