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2011 NFL Playoffs After Week 7

Here is the info for background if you need it! Let’s get after it. You can take a look at the format here where I did Week 15 of last year’s season. I use the Football Outsiders Playoff Odds Report to give you the percentage chance of each team making the playoffs. Football Outsiders also gives us a % change from week to week and we’ll take a look at that too. Obviously since the season just began, the % change will be from preseason projections of playoff chances. Let’s get to it!

AFC Playoff Seedings after Week 7

1. New England Patriots 5-1 (Last Week #1; 87.4% chance of making playoffs; +0.8% increase in chances)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (Last Week #8; 64.2% chance, +5.5% increase)
3. San Diego Chargers 4-2 (Last Week #3; 49.0% chance, +1.7% increase)
4. Houston Texans 4-3 (Last Week #9; 89.7% chance; +41.3% increase)
5. Cincinnati Bengals 4-2 (Last Week #5; 48.6% chance; +2.4% increase)
6. Buffalo Bills 4-2 (Last Week #6; 60.7% chance; +1.7% increase)
7. Baltimore Ravens 4-2 (Last Week #2; 75.1% chance; -9.2 decrease)
8. Oakland Raiders 4-3 (Last Week #7; 36.9% chance; -29.9% decrease)
9. New York Jets 4-3 (Last Week #10; 46.6% chance; +11.3% increase)
10. Tennessee Titans 3-3 (Last Week #4; 15.2% chance; -44.8% decrease)
11. Cleveland Browns 3-3 (Last Week #11; 3.4% chance; +0.8% increase)
12. Kansas City Chiefs 3-3 (Last Week #12; 18.0% chance; +15.6% increase)
13. Denver Broncos 2-4 (Last Week #13; 3.3% chance; +2.0% increase)
14. Jacksonville Jaguars 2-5 (Last Week #14; 2.0% chance; +1.0% increase)
15. Miami Dolphins 0-6 (Last Week #15; 0.0% chance; 0.0% no change)
16. Indianapolis Colts 0-7 (Last Week #16; 0.0% chance; -0.1% decrease)

BIG WINNERS = PITTSBURGH STEELERS: The Steelers move up 6 spots from last week and get a fortunate bounce from the Ravens losing to Jacksonville. Even if Baltimore would have won last week, the win over Arizona put Pittsburgh at 5-2 which means they would have at a minimum been the #5 seed in the playoffs. With Baltimore’s loss, the Steelers get 3 more spots as having the 2nd best record in the AFC behind New England. For practical purposes, I think Pittsburgh would rather get the #1 seed because the Patriots would then have to come to Heinz Field, but we’ll get a sense of that this week when New England travels to Pennsylvania for a pretty big showdown between the current #1 & #2 seeds in the AFC. I’ll get into this more in my power rankings, but something needs to be said for beating the teams you are supposed to beat. The Steelers are 5-2. Is that record a bit misleading due to the competition the Steelers have played? Sure. But you still have to win the games you are supposed to. The Steelers have always been able to do that in recent years.

BIG LOSERS = TENNESSEE TITANS: Tennessee gave NFL fans the most disappointing game of the week as the Titans had two weeks to prepare for the Texans, had the game in Nashville and got BLITZED 41-7! With the way teams like New York, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh & Baltimore are playing, the Titans/Texans aren’t going to be in line for a wild card spot so we’ll see wild fluctuations between Houston & Tennessee because one of those two squads will wind up with the #3 or #4 seed much the same way Seattle did last season despite having a sub-.500 record. The Titans get the Colts this week in Tennessee which should be a fantastic medicine to cure some ills, but more than anything, the Titans need Chris Johnson to find his running ability. Matt Hasselbeck was brought in to be a game manager and make decent throws to keep opposing defenses from loading the box up. It wasn’t meant to work in the opposite direction.

BIGGEST GAINERS IN PLAYOFF % HOUSTON TEXANS & NEW YORK JETS: It’s amazing to see the impact the Houston win had on the AFC South! The Texans increased their playoff chances by 41.3% making them an almost playoff lock at 89.7% In fact, that mark makes the Texans the team MOST LIKELY to make the playoffs of all the AFC teams! They are more likely to make the playoffs than the Patriots or Steelers at this point! Remember that the Texans get huge points for beating Tennessee on the road. The two teams will play again, but it’ll be in Houston where the Texans will be favored. Considering who else is in the AFC South, the Texans have a good shot at going 6-0 inside the South which will almost guarantee a division title and a home playoff game. The Jets also get a significant bump by taking down the San Diego Chargers. Remember the Chargers are the AFC West leaders and getting a win over a team that will host a playoff game is a big deal when you consider playoff likelihoods. Remember that the Jets have been to the AFC Championship game each of the last two years and they’ve done it out of the Wild Card. If they take care of business at home, the Jets have 6 winnable games. That would make them 10-3 with 3 games left to play. I don’t know if they can still win the East, but I think an 11-5 record will get them a Wild Card spot.

BIGGEST LOSERS IN PLAYOFF % = TENNESSEE TITANS & OAKLAND RAIDERS: Everything I said about the Texans is true for Tennessee except in reverse. The loss doesn’t necessarily end Tennessee’s bid for an AFC South crown, but the problem is that they lost at home & will now have to go on the road to play Houston & hope for a win there. The Titans are an interesting team really. They are playing well defensively which means a lot towards winning games. If Chris Johnson could just run the football, they’d be a dangerous team. As for the Raiders, maybe the whole Carson Palmer thing might not work out so well after all?!? Losing Jason Campbell and not having a capable backup QB hurts something awful, but I think some of us thought Oakland could weather the storm in Kansas City before going into their bye week. The Chiefs had other plans and pulled off their 3 straight win. If Carson Palmer works out then I think Oakland still has enough to probably win the West. If he doesn’t, then Oakland screwed themselves with their own draft picks & still won’t make the playoffs! The KC/SD game this week will be really interesting. Despite losing to them the week before, Oakland has to be gigantic KC fans this week!

GUARANTEED PLAYOFF TEAMS: None. The Texans & Patriots are the only teams over 80% with Houston having the highest % chance of making a postseason appearance at 89.7%! You’d have to think New England could push their % chances over 90% with a win at Pittsburgh this week and Houston likely gets over 90% as well with a win over the Jaguars this week in Houston. I’m not sure Pittsburgh or Baltimore could get above 90% even with wins, but it would be interesting to see how far San Diego can jump up with a win over Kansas City this week. The Chargers are only at 49.0%, but a win this week over Kansas City could put them in the driver’s seat in the West which would push their chances way up.

COMPLETELY ELIMINATED = MIAMI DOLPHINS & INDIANAPOLIS COLTS:  No real surprises here. The Colts & Dolphins are also DEEP in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes! It’s interesting really because the Cardinals could also be a pretty significant player. You’d have to think the Rams won’t be interested because of Sam Bradford. The Vikings might be fairly happy seeing how Christian Ponder has played this season when he’s gotten to play. The Panthers aren’t going away from Cam Newton. The Seahawks could certainly use him, but I wonder if Pete Carroll wouldn’t be really happy with Matt Barkley assuming Luck & Oklahoma’s Landry Jones are the two-2 QBs selected? Either way, it all comes down to who is worse: Indianapolis or Miami!?

OVERALL ANALYSIS: This is the first week where I really think Buffalo becomes vulnerable. The Jets weren’t going away no matter how many games they lost early, but their early season schedule was brutal. Now that they’ve gotten through that house of horrors, the Jets could easily go on a run that could see them at 10-3/9-4 after 13 games which most likely puts them ahead of Buffalo because in those games they play the Bills twice. Buffalo could surprise some people, and they’ll need to beat New York to do so, but the Jets sort of look like they’ve got their feet under them again & plan to take off. The Steelers also getting to 5-2 with the schedule they have remaining almost makes the North look essentially over with them & the Ravens dominating it. We might get new playoff teams out of the South & West this season, but for the most part, the North & East look the same which is what we expected at the beginning of the year. Cincinnati, Buffalo & Oakland could still make life pretty interesting, but this is the first time since the season began that the AFC is shaping up to be very similar to what we had last year.

NFC Playoff Seedings after Week 7

1. Green Bay Packers 7-0 (Last Week #1; 99.3% chance of making playoffs; +1.6% increase in chances)
2. San Francisco 49ers 5-1 (Last Week #2; 99.6% chance; +0.6% increase)
3. New Orleans Saints 5-2 (Last Week #6; 84.7% chance; +13.5% increase)
4. New York Giants 4-2 (Last Week #4; 55.7% chance; -9.2% decrease)
5. Detroit Lions 5-2 (Last Week #5; 67.6% chance; -13.0% decrease)
6. Chicago Bears 4-3 (Last Week #8; 41.1% chance; +23.2% increase)
7. Tampa Bay Bucs 4-3 (Last Week #3; 15.4% chance; -25.1% decrease)
8. Atlanta Falcons 4-3 (Last Week #9; 54.1% chance; +10.2% increase)
9. Dallas Cowboys 3-3 (Last Week #10; 52.1% chance; +19.0% increase)
10. Washington Redskins 3-3 (Last Week #7; 9.5% chance; -13.3% decrease)
11. Seattle Seahawks 2-4 (Last Week #11; 3.2% chance; -3.5% decrease)
12. Philadelphia Eagles 2-4 (Last Week #12; 16.3% chance; -3.1% decrease)
13. Carolina Panthers 2-5 (Last Week #15; 1.1% chance; +0.7% increase)
14. Arizona Cardinals 1-5 (Last Week 13; 0.1% chance; -0.3% decrease)
15. Minnesota Vikings 1-6 (Last Week #14; 0.3% chance; -1.0% decrease)
16. St. Louis Rams 0-6 (Last Week #16; 0.0% chance; 0.0% no change)

BIGGEST WINNERS = NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: With the 62-7 HUMILIATION of the Colts on Sunday night, the Saints gave themselves the pleasure of vaulting to first place in the NFC South which is good enough for the #3 seed in the NFC seedings. With Tampa Bay taking a loss to Chicago in London, the Saints now have a 1-game lead over Tampa Bay despite being defeated by the Bucs earlier in the year. At this point I think the Saints control their own destiny now that they are 5-2. They get a rematch with Tampa Bay in the Superdome which should be a Saints win which will put them 2 up on Tampa Bay all other things being equal. I don’t know if the Saints can catch Green Bay although I do think New Orleans could be 14-2 by season’s end. I’m not sure Green Bay doesn’t wind up 15-1/16-0! That could hurt because ti means the NFC Championship game could be Saints/Packers in Lambeau and I’m sure New Orleans would rather have it in New Orleans. Still, a lot of football to be played and the Falcons have yet to play the Saints.

BIGGEST LOSERS = TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Like the AFC South, the Bucs & Saints are trading off the way the Titans & Texans did. The Bucs are the big losers here after losing to Chicago across the pond. I’m still not sold on Tampa Bay as a good football team. On the other hand, you can’t ignore that Tampa is 2-0 within the division. They have wins over both Atlanta & New Orleans without playing Carolina yet. You have to thin at worse the Bucs go 4-2 and that’s if they lose to both New Orleans & Atlanta on the road. The problem with Tampa Bay is scheduling. They are 4-3 right now, but in their last 9 games, there are 6 that are easily losing propositions. That would mean a “worst case” for Tampa is 7-9 which is a far cry from their 10-6 last season and definitely puts them out of the playoffs.

BIGGEST GAINERS IN PLAYOFF % = CHICAGO BEARS & DALLAS COWBOYS: The Bears get a big boost this week and if the season ended today the Bears would be the #6 seed! The win over Tampa Bay gives Chicago wins over both Tampa Bay & Atlanta! Remember that those teams are probably looking for ways to make the playoffs via the Wild Card if you assume New Orleans wins the South. Chicago has positioned themselves well if you go to tiebreakers with head to head wins over both NFC South teams. It doesn’t seem likely given that the Bears are 4-3 right now, but if the Bears win their home games, this is a team seriously capable of finishing the year 12-4. Remember that their 3 losses have come against Green Bay, New Orleans & Detroit. With wins over the Falcons & Bucs, the Bears are right there between being a truly ELITE squad and a very very good squad. Either way they look like a playoff team. The Cowboys also got a pretty big boost because New York & Philadelphia were on bye weeks while the Redskins lost yet again. The story with Dallas is the same it is every season. They need to be some good teams in very close games. I guess you could say they pulled that off against San Francisco, but they need to do it consistently. Hammering the Rams isn’t that amazing, but a win this week in Philadelphia sure would be nice.

BIGGEST LOSERS IN PLAYOFF % = TAMPA BAY BUCS & WASHINGTON REDSKINS: I’ve already touched on Tampa Bay. The loss to the Bears killed them not only with regards to the wild card, but also in the NFC South. They now are in the position that they almost have to win on the road in Atlanta & New Orleans. It’s possible I suppose, but right now there doesn’t seem to be any one thing Tampa Bay is doing particularly well. We’ll see how it progresses, but the schedule doesn’t set up well for them. The Redskins now have just a 9.5% chance of making the postseason so they won’t be in position to lose much from this point forward. The opening season win over the Giants really made the Redskins out to be better than what they were along with a couple of early season wins over scrub teams. The Redskins are likely looking at 4-12/5-11 which is terrible, but not terrible enough to get into the Luck sweepstakes. Washington needs a franchise QB in the worst way. Could they drop enough to become a player for Landry Jones or Matt Barkley?

GUARANTEED PLAYOFF TEAMS: None. The 49ers are now at 99.6% and the Packers are at 99.3%! Those are the two highest marks in the NFL which make both teams virtual locks but not guaranteed locks just yet. No other team in the NFL is above the 90% mark. The Saints win over Indianapolis last week pushed them 84.7% which is getting closer & closer to the 90% mark. At some point you’d have to think Green Bay & San Francisco will get to 100% earlier than any other team in the NFL and certainly any other team in the NFC.

COMPLETELY ELIMINATED = ST. LOUIS RAMS:  The Rams are still the only completely eliminated team in the NFC although the Vikings, Panthers, Seahawks & Cardinals aren’t far behind them. It really is turning into a lost season for the Rams. It’s interesting that St. Louis did grab Brandon Lloyd from the Broncos. They aren’t in any danger of making a play for the West so to give up things for a WR seems a bit odd although it’s entirely possible St. Louis was doing this for future purposes. Sam Bradford certainly needs help at the skill positions, but I think Brandon Lloyd & Lance Kendricks fill some roles rather nicely. They need a future tailback to eventually replace Steven Jackson and a couple more WRs, but I think Danny Amendola in the slot works well for them. St. Louis is interesting because they should be better than their o-6 record would indicate. On the other hand, given St. Louis’ schedule, how good could they have been? They should have beaten Washington which would have put them at 1-5, but at best this was a 7-9/8-8 squad with a ton of early losses up front. If Bradford gets 100% healthy, this team could still win a handful of games.

OVERALL ANALYSIS: The NFC is much more interesting than the AFC when it comes to playoff scenarios. If the season ended today, both the Bears & Lions would be your wild card teams meaning the NFC North got 3 teams in! I’m not necessarily opposed to this idea. So far in this season, I think the Lions, Bears & Packers are 3 of the best 6 teams in the NFC. That isn’t likely to hold as the 3 big dogs in the North are going to hammer each other and one is going to wind up missing out unless the East & South beat on each other enough to prevent their own teams from winning the wild card. That might happen actually. Is there a HUGE difference between the Giants, Eagles & Cowboys? Maybe not. Is there a huge difference between the Falcons & Bucs? Maybe not. What we can say is that the Packers are ahead in the North, the Saints are ahead in the South & the 49ers are running away with the West. Everything else is up for grabs for NYG, DAL, PHI, CHI, DET, ATL & TBB! That’s 7 teams for 3 spots.

PLAYOFF MATCH-UPS AFTER WEEK 7

#6 Buffalo @ #3 San Diego
#5 Cincinnati @ #4 Houston
#6 Chicago @ #3 New Orleans
#5 Detroit @ #4 NY Giants
BYES: #1 New England, #2 Pittsburgh, #1 Green Bay, #2 San Francisco

The playoff picture is coming more into focus. I could easily see the NFC working out this way. If it were to happen like this I think New Orleans & Detroit win the wild card games which set up DET @ GBP and NOS @ SFO for the divisional games. Wow. That would be pretty amazing indeed! The AFC is still a bit unbelievable. I suppose there is a shot that Buffalo gets in over New York and Cincinnati gets in over Baltimore, but talk about epically failed seasons! However, there would be a bit of irony in all of this. Carson Palmer refuses to play for Cincinnati forcing the Bengals to draft Andy Dalton and play him immediately. The Raiders give up a truckload of draft picks to get Palmer thinking he could lead Oakland to the playoffs after Jason Campbell’s injury, but instead of Oakland making the playoffs, Cincinnati does without Palmer or Chad Ochocinco who the Patriots eventually cut because what’s the point of him taking up a roster spot on the Patriots!? You almost have to root for Cincinnati for that fact alone!

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October 30, 2011 - Posted by | NFL Playoffs

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