The NFL playoff race is now down to the absolute wire. As such, fans and pundits are number crunching, working out tiebreakers, and studying other confusing scenarios for how teams can get in the playoffs. The NFL playoff scenarios are always a little clearer in the final week of the season, but for Week 16, teams have to achieve tons of combinations to get in now. In some games today, the playoff scenarios are clearer, but in others, a lot of things need to happen for a team’s benefit.
No scenario is clearer than at the top of both the NFC. The NFC’s top seed will be decided today, unless there is a tie. The Giants and Panthers are squaring off in a Sunday night showdown, where the winner will have the top seed locked up and can rest for next week. The loser will most likely be locked into the number 2 seed, although both teams haven’t clinched a first-round bye yet.
The AFC playoff scenarios are a bit less clear. The AFC’s two top teams are also playing for the top seed, in this case the Titans and Steelers. If the Titans win, they own the number 1 seed without a doubt. But if the Steelers win, they still need to win next week to clinch home-field.
The AFC East playoff scenarios will likely stay unclear after this week. The Jets, Dolphins and Patriots are all 9-5, but the Patriots are losing tiebreakers to both their rivals. If both the Jets and Dolphins win, the Patriots are all but eliminated from the AFC East race while the Jets and Dolphins play for the AFC East next week.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, the Jets play the 3-11 Seahawks and the Dolphins play the 2-12 Chiefs.
With the Ravens winning last night, the possibility is real that the Patriots will be 11-5 and not make the playoffs. They would likely lose tiebreakers to the AFC East winner, and to the Ravens for the sixth seed.
In other playoff scenarios, the Broncos can finally clinch the weak AFC West with a win over the Bills, or a Chargers loss to the Buccaneers. The Colts are locked into the fifth AFC seed, while the AFC East race cannot be decided this week.
In the NFC playoff scenarios, the Vikings can clinch the NFC North by beating the Falcons. If the Falcons lose, then Tampa Bay can also clinch a playoff spot by beating the Chargers. However, the Falcons clinch a playoff berth with a win and a Tampa Bay loss.
The Eagles cannot clinch a playoff berth this week, but a win over the Redskins and a loss by the Buccaneers or Falcons can put them in the sixth playoff position. But if both the Falcons and Buccaneers win, the two would have a stranglehold on the NFC wild card spots and could clinch them with wins next week.
Los Angeles Times- “NFL playoff scenarios” www.latimes.com/sports/football/nfl/la-sp-nflplayoffscenarios21-2008dec21,0,1397069.story