Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Playoff Numbers: Ties?

Time once again to eschew everything interesting about football and talk in cold, hard numbers. Why? Because I've done this more than once in consecutive years, and that makes it a tradition. So let's dive in, starting with games you can completely ignore.

Yes, you're seeing that right. I'm admitting the Patriots game does not matter. That's only because the Patriots are locked into #1, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. Number one team in the NFL. Boosh!

Moving on, ten teams are locked into the playoffs, nine of which are jockeying for position (did I mention the New England Patriots are the number one team in the NFL?) Six teams are fighting for the last two spots; however, both conferences tell very different stories.

AFC: North by Northwest (Welker)

Long story, short. AFC East: terrible. AFC South: pretty bad. AFC North and West: holy crap, so much awesome. Pats are #1. Colts and Broncos clinched their divisions and are jockeying for position. Two teams could still win the AFC North. Another North team, 2 West teams, and the Texans fight for their lives.

AFC Game of the Week is Chargers/Chiefs, despite what the NFL wants you to believe. Both teams need a win to stay alive. A win locks in San Diego, no matter what happens in any other game. A win puts Kansas City's hopes in the hands of the Ravens and Texans.

That makes this the second best game, as the Steelers and Bengals fight for the AFC North. Both teams clinched a playoff spot, so really, who cares which wins the division? The only interesting scenario here is if Cincinnati wins and Denver loses, the Bengals could get a first-round bye.

My hope with this game is that the Ravens dominate for most of the game, then the Chargers/Chiefs finishes first, and San Diego wins, dashing Baltimore's playoff hopes. So with a few minutes left in the game, Baltimore just blows their lead because it just doesn't matter anymore. But yes, with a win and San Diego loss, a third AFC North team makes the playoffs.

And then down at the bottom of this pile, the Texans' only hope is to win, along with a San Diego loss and Baltimore loss. If, however, the Texans lose to the Jaguars, we may have to kick them out of the NFL, or at least Texas. Los Angeles Texans has a nice ring to it.

Back at the top of the pile, ties play key roles in the only interesting things that could happen up here. It's pretty certain at this point that Denver's 2nd, the North champ is 3rd, and Indianapolis is 4th. However, a Denver loss and Cincinnati win would put the Cincinatti half a game over Denver, meaning that stupid tie would get the Bengals a first-round bye. Even more unlikely than the Broncos losing to the Raiders, if the Colts win and Steelers/Bengals tie, the Colts could claw their way out of 4th.

NFC: No Really, We're Going to Talk About Ties Some More

Five NFC teams are tied at 11-4: Seahawks, Lions, Cowboys, Packers, and Cardinals. The sixth slot, 4th place, will go to a 7-win team (awesome). That means the 5th place Wild Card slot might as well be another bye week.

NFC Game of the Week is the big divisional showdown. Despite being division leader, the Lions are weak in tie breakers. They only hold the division by virtue of a regular season win last time they saw the Packers. Whoever wins, or even if they tie, the result will pretty much decide playoff seating. The winner snags a first-round bye, but the Packers are in much better position to snag 1st. The loser drops to 6th.

Strangely, though, if the Packers find themselves losing, and they have a chance to tie, a tie combined with a whole lot of other losses could move the Packers to 5th instead. The Lions should be trying to stop this at all costs, as a tie would take away that guaranteed first-round bye.

Speaking of ties, if Packers/Lions tie AND Dallas wins, Cowboys actually leap in the standings all the way to #1. Aren't tie-breakers fun? Barring that, Dallas pretty much owns #3, win or lose. (I guess I should also mention a win plus Seattle AND Arizona loss jumps them to #2, but that's not going to happen)

As injuries destroy Arizona, Seattle is more than ready to step up in their place. Now owning the tie-breaker for the NFC West, a win holds the division for Seattle and puts them in very good position to hold #1 (you know, unless Packers/Lions tie). Arizona can win the division with a win, but only if Seattle loses. And either way, the team that loses NFC West is pretty much a lock for #5 to face...

... one of these shitty, shitty teams. It's win and in (although I guess if the Panthers can pull off their second tie of the season, that also gets them in)

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