This Is a Blog: Numbers Time: Nothing Really Matters (also everything matters)

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Numbers Time: Nothing Really Matters (also everything matters)

What an exciting way to end such a topsy-turvy year. Every team that seemed invincible has been taken down in dramatic fashion. Every team that seemed dead has had at least one spectacular victory. And the Browns won six games! What is this league right now? But as always, we begin with the games that just don't matter:

The NFC Two-Step

All four divisions have been won, five out of six teams have clinched a slot, New Orleans is locked into #1, and Dallas owns #4. What’s left is two teams fighting over a first round bye, and three teams clawing over two wild card spots.

We start with a game that could mean everything and nothing. Chicago could win, but if the Rams also wins, The Bears are still #3. The Vikes could lose, but if Philly also loses, Minnesota is still #6. A Vikings win does guarantee them a playoff spot, #5 is even possible.

The Rams and Bears will be #2 and #3. A win locks L.A. into a first round bye. A loss, they lose the bye to Chicago, unless the Bears also lose.
If Minnesota loses, this game don’t matter, Seattle’s #5, win or lose. If the Vikings win, the Sea Chickens need a win to hold that plum spot against Dallas.
Currently on the outside, Philly needs a win and a Vikings loss to slide into the playoffs. But after the number of Eagles fans I’ve seen chant “Super Bowl Champs” during this middling season, I really hope they don’t.

The AFC Anything Goes, Frantic, Cacophony

Over here, it’s a bit more chaotic. Only four teams have clinched. Only one division has been won, by New England, for the tenth straight year, despite having their worst record since 2009. Chiefs, Texans, and Chargers have clinched, but they all have a chance to finish #1, or lose their divisions. Adding to the pandemonium, the Ravens and Titans could earn a first round bye, or be eliminated entirely. All we know for certain is #5 will be the Chiefs or Chargers, so whoever’s #4 might as well be eliminated.

Never thought I’d say this, but an AFC South game could hold the key to the rest of the AFC playoffs. In all likelihood, the winner will hold the #6 spot and the loser will be out. But if Houston loses, the winner of this game wins the AFC South. If Houston loses, and The Pats lose, the winner of the AFC South would tie New England. Since the Pats beat Indy but lost to the Titans, if the Colts win the AFC South, they seed lower than the Pats, but Tennessee would seed higher than New England. This means the Titans ceiling is actually #2 and that coveted first round bye.
But here’s what’s actually going to happen. The top 3 teams face the easiest opponents. So in all likelihood, K.C., New England, and Houston win, locking them in at #1, #2, and #3 respectively. If any of the three of them lose, all hell breaks loose at the top. If the Chiefs lose, Chargers win the division and #1 with a win. If K.C. and L.A. lose, Pats take #1 with a win. If Chiefs, Chargers, and Patriots lose, Texans take #1 with a win. If all four lose, Kansas City takes #1, but the tie breakers get really complicated

With a loss, the Patriots could still hold #2 or drop to the dreaded #4. With a loss, Texans drop to #6, but with a win, Houston is #3 at worst because...

Ravens wins the division with a win. If Baltimore loses and Pittsburgh wins, Steelers win the division. In all likelihood, the AFC North winner will be #4, but if Baltimore wins and the Pats and Texans lose, they could actually get #2. Either way, whichever doesn’t win in the North is out.

Okay, the Steelers could technically still make it if Indy and Tennessee tie, but if you actually think that’s going to happen, you clearly live in Pittsburgh.


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