NFL Playoff Scenarios

Posted: 11/19/2013 by levcohen in Football

Time for the week 11 review and NBA Week 3 Power Rankings.

In the NFL, the season of weird continues. Just look at the AFC Playoff race. There are five teams (New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Kansas City, and Denver) with at least 7 wins, and each have leads of at least two games. It’s safe to say that New England will win the AFC East, Cincinnati will win the AFC North, and Indianapolis will win the AFC South. One of Kansas City or Denver will win the AFC West, and the other will be the first wildcard. I can’t remember a time when there were so many playoff spots locked up at this point in the season, and I also can’t remember when the second wildcard race looked so dreary. Let’s take a look at the top contenders for that spot in the AFC:
The 5-5 Jets have the second worst point differential in the NFL (-80). They have lost games to Tennessee, Cincinnati, and Buffalo by a combined 88 points (nearly 30 a game). Those teams are a combined 15-17. The Jets are led by a quarterback, Geno Smith, who, among qualified QBs, ranks 34th of 36th in QBR (it is 25.8 out of 100). He is just ahead of Brandon Weeden and Josh Freeman, and behind Chad Henne and the other 32 qualified QBs in the NFL.

The 5-5 Dolphins were a trendy wildcard pick in the preseason (I had them making the playoffs), and they started off the season well, but then there was the Incognito-Martin fiasco and they were written off for dead. Now, though, they just beat the Chargers at home and are suddenly back in it.

There are an amazing 6 (6!) 4-6 teams in the AFC. That is 6 out of 16. Nearly 40%. And the Bills are 4-7. So almost half the teams in the AFC have exactly four wins. All, amazingly, are in the playoff race, even though all have been scoffed at and eliminated before by the vast majority. Those teams are: Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland, San Diego, Oakland, Tennessee, and Buffalo. None of these teams are good, but only two teams can be eliminated from the AFC playoff race: The Jaguars, and the Texans. That’s pretty amazing. Your guess is as good as mine here, but I’m going to try to put odds on which of the nine teams listed above (the Jets, the Dolphins, and the 7 four win teams) will make the playoffs. Here goes..

1. Baltimore Ravens: 20%.. I know the Ravens are a game behind and coming off a loss, but they look like they are rounding into form a little bit. Plus they are the Super Bowl Champs.

2. New York Jets: 17%.. The Jets are the classic Jekyll and Hyde team. They have kept up their won one, lost one streak and are now 5-5. They’ll probably finish 8-8, which might be enough

3. Miami Dolphins: 15%.. The other 5-5 team.. I don’t think they’ll make it, but they have good defense, so who knows?

4. Pittsburgh Steelers: 15%.. Is this 4-6 team also rounding into shape at the right time? They’ve won two straight, but still haven’t been impressive.

5. Cleveland Browns: 11%.. The loss to the Bengals was discouraging

6. Tennessee Titans: 10%.. The three point loss to the Colts on the heels of the loss to the Jaguars might well have ended their season.

7. San Diego Chargers: 6%.. A couple of weeks ago, the 4-4 Chargers were sitting pretty. But their defense is a disaster, as is their remaining schedule, as they have to play their divisional rivals (Chiefs and Broncos) what seems like every week for the rest of the year. Tough.

8. Oakland Raiders: 3%.. I can’t believe they are still in it
9. Buffalo Bills: 3%.. Same.

In the NFC, things are slightly more traditional. Even with the lackluster NFC East, it is easy to see that the NFC is the stronger conference. There are seven teams outside the East with records above .500, and that doesn’t include a Green Bay team that will be getting Aaron Rodgers back. Those eight will fight for five playoff spots. Three divisions and two wildcards. Seattle will be in the playoffs. As will New Orleans, either as a division winner or a wild card. The rest? I have no idea. Detroit has an easy schedule, but they are Detroit. Carolina has a leg up right now, but who knows with Cam Newton and Ron Rivera. San Francisco was a Super Bowl favorite coming into this season, but now they are 6-4. Chicago is hanging in there at 6-4. Green Bay, even if they are 5-6, will probably end at 10-6 somehow. And Arizona, pesky Arizona, is all of a sudden 6-4 and deadly at home.
Eliminated teams in the NFC have to be Minnesota, Washington, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and St. Louis. At least that is three more than the AFC, but that also means that 25 of the 32 teams still have legitimate playoff aspirations. Wow.
Here’s how I think the NFC playoff race will end:

NFC East: I have no idea (#4 seed with no wildcard)

NFC North:
1. Detroit Lions (10-6) (#3 seed)
2. Green Bay Packers (9-7)
3. Chicago Bears (9-7)

NFC South:
1. New Orleans Saints (12-4) (#2 seed)
2. Carolina Panthers (11-5) (#5 seed)

NFC West:
1. Seattle Seahawks (13-3) (#1 seed)
2. San Francisco 49ers (10-6) (#6)
3. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)

So San Francisco in Detroit and Carolina in Philadelphia/Dallas/New York. Sounds like two road wins and then two divisional matchups (South vs. South and West vs. West) in the second round. Interesting.

And now a quick review of week 11:
My upset picks went 0-2, moving to 16-25
My lock of the week (Texans) failed miserably, as I moved to 9-2
I went 8-7 on my picks, moving to 95-66-1
I went 4-9-2 on spread.. just not my year (64-92-6)
8-7 on the over/under (84-77-1)

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