Every week we take a look at how the playoff races are shaping up. This week, we're posting the update early because of all the interest, and we'll update the post as the Sunday night and Monday night games change things. You can also check out all of our previous Predicting The Playoffs, where you can notice that the Jets and Broncos had things wrapped up a couple of weeks ago if they could just win.
This was the week when seemingly everyone decided they didn't want to go to the playoffs. For three weeks, the injury-ravaged Broncos could have earned a playoff spot by simply winning one game. But here we are with a week to play and the Broncos still need one win.
In the NFC wild card race, Dallas came into the weekend controlling its own destiny, but they lost. That then put the ball in the Falcons and Bucs' court. Atlanta did come through with a win to clinch a playoff spot, but the Bucs also punted their chance with a loss to the Chargers. That meant that the Eagles could put themselves in the driver's seat with a win over the Redskins (the same team that just lost to the Bengals). Of course Philadelphia lost that game, which means that Dallas is right back where they began the weekend--win next weekend and they are in the playoffs.
|HOW IT STANDS|
|No. 1 Tennessee, No. 2 Pittsburgh, No. 5 Indianapolis|
|Control Their Own Destiny|
|Miami, Baltimore, Denver, San Diego|
|New England, New York Jets|
|New York Giants, Carolina, Arizona, Atlanta|
|Control Their Destiny|
|Tampa Bay, Chicago, Philadelphia|
If Miami beats New York next week, they win the division and things are very simple. They beat the Patriots in that case in a tiebreaker on the basis of conference record because they would be tied in the first three tiebreakers (head-to-head, division record and common opponent) . If New York beats Miami and the Patriots beat the Bills, the Patriots are AFC East champs, and after an epic collapse, the Jets now need to beat the Dolphins while the Bills beat the Patriots. They would then win a tiebreaker with the Patriots because of a better division record.
Pittsburgh wrapped up the division title with a win over Baltimore last week, and the Steelers loss to the Titans this week ensures they will be the No. 2 seed. If Baltimore beats the Jaguars at home next week, they are the No. 6 seed. If the Ravens lose next week, they would still earn a playoff spot if the Dolphins beat the Jets and the Bills beat the Patriots.
This is easy. The Titans are the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the Colts are the No. 5 seed, so next week's Colts-Titans game is rather anti-climatic.
Thanks to the Broncos' three-game collapse and the Chargers' thrill-a-minute winning streak, the AFC West title will be decided next Sunday night when they face each other head to head. I think we can be confident that Ed Hochuli will be a thousand miles away.
Heading into tonight's game, the Giants were assured of at worst the No. 2 seed thanks to the Vikings' loss to the Falcons. Dallas is in a lot better shape tonight than they thought they would be after their loss to the Ravens. Thanks to losses by the Bucs and Eagles, Dallas once again controls their own destiny. If Dallas beats the Eagles, they will earn the final wild card spot no matter what the Bucs do, because Dallas beat Tampa Bay earlier this season. Philadelphia's improbable path to the playoffs got simple for a little while this afternoon, but they then choked it away by losing to the Redskins. Now they need the same scenario as last week--a Bucs' loss to the Raiders combined with a win over the Cowboys.
Minnesota could have clinched the division title today, but with its loss to Atlanta, it now needs Chicago to lose either Monday night against Green Bay or in Week 17 to Houston, or Minnesota can take things into their own hand by beating the Giants next week. The good news for the Vikings is that the Giants will have little to play for, as they have wrapped up a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Chicago needs the reverse to happen--a Minnesota loss next week combined with two Bears wins.
The Panthers head into the Giants game Sunday night battling for the first seed in the NFC. But while the Giants already had a first-round bye wrapped up, Carolina could theoretically end up as a wild card team if they lose to the Giants. Atlanta has wrapped up a wild card spot with its win over the Vikings, while Tampa Bay now needs help. If the Bucs beat the Raiders and the Cowboys lose to the Eagles, they're in. But if Dallas beats Philadelphia, they are done no matter what they do.
Arizona has already wrapped up the NFL's worst division. But after getting blown out in each of the past two weeks, does anyone think they are anything more than a first-round sacrificial lamb?
Predicting The Playoffs: So Many Playoff Scenarios, So Little Time originally appeared on NFL FanHouse on Sun, 21 Dec 2008 21:53:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.