NFL Playoff Picture Still Murky Heading Into Week 15

Although there wasn’t a whole lot of movement in the standings after last week’s games, there were still plenty of critical wins and losses. Cincinnati moved past Indianapolis into the number three position in the AFC with their victory over the Colts, and the Patriots hung onto the number two seed with their miraculous comeback against the Browns. Baltimore’s crazy finish against Minnesota allowed for them to retain the final wild card slot, and Miami’s win at Pittsburgh kept them in the chase while at the same time pretty much finishing the Steelers’ playoff hopes off; Pittsburgh and Tennessee now need to finish 3-0 to have even an outside chance of making the post season. Houston is the only team mathematically eliminated, with Buffalo, Cleveland, Oakland and Jacksonville out of it at 4-8. The 6-7 Chargers and Jets are just one game out but face the task of passing two teams (Ravens and Dolphins) with only three games to go.


There are plenty of games with major playoff implications this week, starting with San Diego at Denver on Thursday and concluding with Baltimore at Detroit on Monday night. (USA TODAY Images)

In the NFC New Orleans bounced back from their loss at Seattle to open up a one-game lead over Carolina in the South, and a two-game lead over Philadelphia for a bye and the number two seed. Philly’s victory over Detroit in the blizzard gave them essentially a two-game lead over the Lions for the number three seed: the 8-5 Eagles would win a tiebreaker over the 7-6 Lions due to that head-to-head victory. The Giants and Rams were eliminated with their losses as they both fall to 5-8. That now makes six teams in the NFC who are done, as they join the Bucs, Vikings, Falcons and Redskins as teams that can officially begin looking ahead to 2014. Dallas blew an opportunity to take the division lead and claim the number three seed with their loss at Chicago, and that created a logjam in the NFC North. The Lions and Bears are both 7-6, but Detroit takes the top spot because they swept Chicago this year. If not for a tie with the Vikings in week 12 it would be a three-way tie for first, as Green Bay is just a hair behind them at 6-6-1. Arizona (8-5) is just one game behind the Panthers and 49ers for a wild card spot, and they finish the season at home agianst the Niners. Chicago and Dallas are one game behind the Cardinals, but their chances of catching Carolina or San Francisco are slim; the path to the playoffs for the Bears and Cowboys is to win their division.

Here is a look at what could be clinched this week:

AFC

New England Patriots: 10-3, currently #2 in AFC
- Can clinch the AFC East division title with a win at Miami.
- Can clinch a playoff berth with a loss by Baltimore at Detroit.
- Can clinch at least the number three seed with a win, plus a loss by Indy

Cincinnati Bengals: 9-4, currently #3 in AFC
- Can clinch the AFC North division title with:
(a) a win at Pittsburgh, plus
(b) a loss by Baltimore at Detroit

- Can clinch a playoff berth with:
(a) a win at Pittsburgh, and
(b) a loss by Miami versus the Patriots

- Can clinch at least the number three seed with:
(a) a win, plus
(b) a loss by Baltimore, plus
(c) a loss by Indianapolis

Indianapolis Colts: 8-5, currently #4 in AFC
- Clinched the AFC South division title last week

Denver Broncos: 11-2, currently #1 in AFC
- Can clinch the AFC West division title with:
(a) a win versus the Chargers, plus
(b) a loss by Kansas City at Oakland

- Can clinch a first-round bye with:
(a) a win, plus
(b) a loss by the Chiefs, plus
(c) a loss by the Bengals

Kansas City Chiefs: 10-3, currently #5 in AFC
- Can clinch a playoff berth with:
(a) a win at Oakland, or
(b) a loss by Miami, or
(c) a loss by Baltimore

- Can clinch at least the number five seed with:
(a) a win, or
(b) losses by both Baltimore and Miami

NFC

Seattle Seahawks: 11-2, currently #1 in NFC
- Can clinch the NFC West division title and a first-round bye with:
(a) a win at NY Giants, plus
(b) a 49ers loss at Tampa Bay

- Can clinch number one seed (home-field advantage throughout the playoffs) with:
(a) a win at Giants, plus
(b) a 49ers loss, plus
(c) a Saints loss

- Can clinch at least the number five seed with:
(a) a win, or
(b) a loss by Carolina

New Orleans Saints: 10-3, currently #2 in NFC
- Can clinch a playoff berth with:
(a) a win at St. Louis, or
(b) losses by both Arizona and Dallas, or
(c) losses by both Arizona and Philadelphia, or

Carolina Panthers: 9-4, currently #5 in NFC
-Can clinch a playoff berth with:
(a) a win versus the Jets, plus
(b) a loss by Arizona at Tennessee, plus
(c) a loss by San Francisco at Tampa Bay, plus
(d) a loss by either Dallas or Philadelphia

San Francisco 49ers: 9-4, currently #6 in NFC
- Can clinch a playoff berth with:
(a) a win at Tampa Bay, plus
(b) a loss by Arizona, plus
(c) a loss by either Dallas or Philadelphia

 

Thinning the herd; some elimination scenarios:

AFC

The four 4-9 teams - Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville and Oakland – all have the same scenarios. They are eliminated from the playoffs with any one of the following:
(a) a loss, or
(b) a win by Miami, or
(c) a win by the Jets, or
(d) a win by Baltimore

The two 5-8 teams – Pittsburgh and Tennessee – also have the same scenarios. Either of those clubs are eliminated from the playoffs with any one of the following:
(a) a loss, plus a win by Miami; or
(b) a loss, plus a win by the Jets; or
(c) a loss, plus a win by Baltimore

The two 6-7 teams have slight variations.

The San Diego Chargers are eliminated with:
(a) a loss to Denver, plus a win by Baltimore; or
(b) a loss to Denver, plus a win by Miami, plus a win by the Jets

The New York Jets are eliminated with:
(a) a loss at Carolina, plus
(b) a win by Baltimore at Detroit

NFC

No new NFC elimination scenarios this week.

 

Playoff Probabilities

AFC

AFC East: Patriots 99%, Dolphins 1%
AFC North: Bengals 97%, Ravens 3%
AFC South: Colts 100%
AFC West: Broncos 99%, Chiefs 1%

#1 Seed: Broncos 86%, Patriots 12%, Bengals 1%, Chiefs 1%
#2 Seed: Patriots 49%, Bengals 38%, Broncos 11%, Colts 1%
#3 Seed: Bengals 55%, Patriots 32%, Colts 10%, Ravens 2%, Broncos 1%, Dolphins 1%
#4 Seed: Colts 90%, Patriots 6%, Bengals 3%, Ravens 1%
#5 Seed: Chiefs 98%, Broncos 1%, Dolphins 1%
#6 Seed: Dolphins 54%, Ravens 30%, Jets 8%, Bengals 2%, Chargers 2%, Patriots 1%, Chiefs 1%, Steelers 1%, Titans 1%
Still alive, but at less than 1%: Bills, Browns, Jaguars, Raiders
Eliminated: Texans

NFC

NFC East: Eagles 56%, Cowboys 44%
NFC North: Lions 63%, Bears 24%, Packers 13%
NFC South: Saints 84%, Panthers 16%
NFC West: Seahawks 96%, 49ers 4%

#1 Seed: Seahawks 94%, Saints 6%
#2 Seed: Saints 78%, Panthers 14%, 49ers 4%, Seahawks 2%, Eagles 2%
#3 Seed: Eagles 47%, Lions 18%, Cowboys 18%, Bears 13%, Packers 2%, Saints 1%, Panthers 1%
#4 Seed: Lions 45%, Cowboys 26%, Bears 11%, Packers 11%, Eagles 7%
#5 Seed: Panthers 48%, 49ers 36%, Saints 9%, Seahawks 4%, Cardinals 3%
#6 Seed: 49ers 53%, Panthers 26%, Cardinals 9%, Saints 6%, Eagles 5%, Cowboys 1%
Still alive, but at less than 1%: none
Eliminated: Giants, Rams, Bucs, Vikings, Falcons, Redskins

 

Remaining Schedule for AFC Playoff Contenders:

11-2 Broncos: vs San Diego, at Houston, at Oakland
10-3 Patriots: at Miami, at Baltimore, vs Buffalo
9-4 Bengals: at Pittsburgh, vs Minnesota, vs Baltimore
8-5 Colts: vs Houston, at Kansas City, vs Jacksonville
10-3 Chiefs: at Oakland, vs Indianapolis, at San Diego
7-6 Ravens: at Lions, vs Patriots, at Bengals
7-6 Dolphins: vs Patriots, at Bills, vs Jets
6-7 Chargers: at Broncos, vs Raiders, vs Chiefs
6-7 Jets: at Panthers, vs Browns, at Dolphins
5-8 Titans: vs Cardinals, at Jaguars, vs Texans
5-8 Steelers: vs Bengals, at Packers, vs Browns

Remaining Schedule for NFC Playoff Contenders:

11-2 Seahawks: at Giants, vs Cardinals, vs Rams
10-3 Saints: at Rams, at Panthers, vs Bucs
8-5 Eagles: at Vikings, vs Bears, at Cowboys
7-6 Lions: vs Ravens, vs Giants, at Vikings
9-4 Panthers: vs Jets, vs Saints, at Falcons
9-4 49ers: at Buccaneers, vs Falcons, at Cardinals
8-5 Cardinals: at Titans, at Seahawks, vs 49ers
7-6 Bears: at Browns, at Eagles, vs Packers
7-6 Cowboys: vs Packers, at Redskins, vs Eagles
6-6-1 Packers: at Cowboys, vs Steelers, at Bears

Get your popcorn ready…

 

 

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