From the Press Box: Playoff Seeding is Simple (If You're Insane)

Garda is back and he can easily explain to you what everyone's chances are for making the playoffs. That is, if by 'easily' you mean 'heavily intoxicated.'

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning by Robert Hanashiro—USA TODAY Sports.

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning by Robert Hanashiro—USA TODAY Sports.

Week 16 is upon us and yet somehow the playoffs still look like a big mishmash.

Today’s we’ll take a look at the way things stand in both the AFC and NFC so as to try and make sense of it all until the end of Monday night’s game, when everything has been thrown into disarray again.

Let’s start in the AFC.

  1. New England Patriots
  2. Denver Broncos
  3. Indianapolis Colts
  4. Cincinnati Bengals
  5. Pittsburgh Steelers
  6. Baltimore Ravens

On the bubble:

Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns

The Patriots, Broncos and Colts are all locked into the playoffs. Right now, the Patriots have homefield advantage, which will be hard to lose since New England beat both Denver and Indianapolis. So unless the Pats lose both reaming games—to the Bills and Jets no less—they will have retain it.

The Colts can jump in front of the Broncos if the Broncos lose both games and the Colts win them, but if both go 1-1, Denver stays at the No. 2 slot as they beat the Colts way back in Week 1.

So the top three seem to be locked up pretty well.

The four spot and the two Wild Cards are still up in the air, though.

Cincinnati has the lead in the AFC North, but they face the Broncos this week and the Steelers next week so there is a strong chance that changes. The Steelers have the Chiefs this week, at home, so there is a good chance that coming into the Week 17 matchup, they have a leg up on the Bengals. Of course, don’t count out the Baltimore Ravens who have two winnable games against Houston and Cleveland.

On the outside looking in and hoping against hope that people stumble are teams like the Chiefs (who play Pittsburgh and San Diego), Chargers (49ers and Chiefs), Bills (Raiders and Patriots), Texans (Ravens and Jaguars), Dolphins (Vikings and Jets), and Browns (Panthers and Ravens).

Of those, the Chiefs and Chargers have the best chance because they have eight wins already. But they will likely need some help, and likely only one will have a shot since they meet in Week 17. The Chiefs have a better chance, as they can remove Pittsburgh with a win this week while San Diego has to play the Niners.

I don’t feel good about either one though, because neither of these teams has come through before this year.

Everyone else needs two wins. The Texans might hold their own fate as they meet Baltimore this week, and the Jaguars should be a win and theoretically the Dolphins should be able to beat the Jets and Vikings at home.

At the end of the day though, it’s hard to see any of the bubble teams making it, and almost impossible to see more than one.  It does make for an exciting final two weeks though.

Meanwhile, in the NFC…

  1. Arizona Cardinals
  2. Detroit Lions
  3. Dallas Cowboys
  4. New Orleans Saints
  5. Seattle Seahawks
  6. Green Bay Packers

On the bubble:

Philadelphia Eagles

The Sad NFC South

Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons

The NFC is at once less complex and more cloudy. On the one hand, there are a lot less bubble teams because everyone not in the NFC South has at least 10 wins, which eliminates nearly everyone else in the division.

I say nearly everyone else because of the aforementioned South, but we’ll get to that shortly.

So we have that on the one hand, but on the other hand we have not one of the divisions locked down and who wins the division could make this seeding look much different come Monday.

Green Bay and Detroit have the same records, but the Lions have the NFC North title due to beating the Packers in Week 3. Green Bay will play Tampa Bay this week, while the Lions play a Jimmy Clausen-led Chicago Bears team. So nothing much should change come next week—though even if the Lions lose, they will have a shot at the title if they win Week 17. I’m sure the same is true for the Packers, though I am not clear on the math—they would need to determine who has the better win percentage in common games.

So that won’t be settled for another week. Ditto the NFC East, where Dallas has the edge but faces a tough Indianapolis team while Philadelphia has what should be a lay-up against Washington Saturday night.

Both teams have what should be easy games in Week 17, but they are also division games and we’re pretty sure that the Giants and Washington will work hard to keep their opponents from an easy division title.

The NFC West might clear up a bit more this week though, as the Cardinals and Seahawks meet in Arizona before pairing off against San Francisco and St. Louis respectively in Week 17. Seattle already beat Arizona once, so a win this weekend will give them a huge edge if they win.

That division will probably still come down to Week 17, anyway.

Which brings us to the NFC South, a division which will provide the only sub-500 and non-10 win team in the playoffs.

Right now New Orleans is in the lead, and could finish off the Falcons with a win this week. Or Carolina can do it next week if the Falcons beat the Saints this week and Carolina beats the Cleveland Browns. Or the Falcons could win out and steal back the division.

Only the Buccaneers don’t matter in this equation.

Can the Eagles steal into the playoffs if they don’t win the division (or flipping it, Dallas)? If any of those teams loses both of the next two games while the Eagles win both theirs, then yes they can slip in with 11 wins.

Otherwise, they can’t outrun any of the four teams above as the Seahawks and Packers have both beaten Philadelphia in head-to-head competition while the Lions and Cardinals will finish with a better conference win percentage than the Eagles can muster even if they win their remaining games.

The Eagles need help, and quite a bit of good luck.

As I said before though, this may all look a little different come Tuesday. So next week we’ll do it all over again.

And then it’s on the playoffs.

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Comments (1)

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

December 20, 2014 at 10:07 am

I would like to see home field based on record with the first tie breaker being winning your division. But I suppose the current system makes ticket planning predictable.

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