NFL playoff picture 2014: Cowboys, Steelers can clinch in Week 16

Division titles in the NFC may finally be decided this week. And hopefully the AFC North can shake itself out (but probably not).

Three teams finally staked claims to division titles last week, lending some clarity to what has been a murky season in the standings. This has been one of the most competitive seasons of recent memory in both the AFC and NFC. Not a single NFC team has officially wrapped up its division. That may change this week, with the Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals in reasonably good position to clinch.

All told, 11 teams could secure their tickets to the postseason. The mechanics can get messy, however. They occasionally involve things like ties and plenty of “and/or” scenarios. It all means that the playoffs are nearly here, so if you aren’t into the nitty-gritty of clinching playoff berths you can take heart that none of this will matter in two weeks.

For those who enjoy the hand wringing, here’s how the playoff picture looks heading into yet another round of pivotal matchups in Week 16. Let’s dive in.

AFC Playoff standings

Division champions

1. New England Patriots (11-3, head-to-head tiebreaker over Broncos)

2. Denver Broncos (11-3)

3. Indianapolis Colts (10-4)

4. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1)

Wild card

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5, division record tiebreaker over Ravens)

6. Baltimore Ravens (9-5)

In the hunt: Kansas City Chiefs (8-6), San Diego Chargers (8-6), Buffalo Bills (8-6), Houston Texans (7-7)

AFC East

The Patriots have the division wrapped up. Now they’re playing for seeding. They can guarantee the No. 1 seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if they beat the New York Jets and the Denver Broncos lose on the road to the Cincinnati Bengals this week. At the very least, they can secure a first-round bye if:

  1. They win
  2. They tie and the Colts lose or tie
  3. The Colts lose, the Bengals lose or tie, the Steelers lose or tie, AND the Ravens lose or tie

The Bills are still mathematically alive at 8-6, though Football Outsiders gives them a meager 6.4-percent chance of making the playoffs.

AFC North

The top three teams in the AFC North are in good shape, particularly the Bengals, who can win the division if they beat the Broncos, the Steelers lose and the Ravens lose or tie. At the very least, Cincinnati can clinch a playoff spot if:

  1. They win
  2. They tie and Baltimore loses
  3. They tie, Kansas City loses or ties and San Diego loses or ties
  4. Kansas City loses, San Diego loses and Buffalo loses or ties
Things are simple for the Steelers — just beat the Chiefs and they’re guaranteed at wild card bid at the very least. The Ravens need some help for a postseason appearance:
  1. Win while Pittsburgh and Cincinnati both lose
  2. Win while Kansas City and San Diego both lose or tie
  3. Tie while Kansas City and San Diego lose, and Buffalo loses or tie

AFC South

The Colts are in, and pretty much secure in the No. 3 seed. They lost to both the Broncos and the Patriots this season. In order to secure a first-round bye, Indianapolis would need to win out AND hope that one or both of New England and Denver loses both of its remaining games.

The Texans are still mathematically alive, but Football Outsiders gives them just a 2.2-percent chance of going to the postseason.

AFC West

The Broncos are in the same position as the Patriots — win, and a first-round bye is theirs. They can also secure a bye in an unlikely scenario where they tie and the Colts tie or lose.

The Chiefs and Chargers are in a dog fight for a potential wild card spot. The bout between the two teams in Week 17 looms large, but they both still need the AFC North teams ahead of them to lose.

NFC Playoff standings:

Division champions:

1. Arizona Cardinals (11-3)

2. Detroit Lions (10-4, head-to-head tiebreak over Packers, conference record tiebreak over Cowboys)

3. Dallas Cowboys (10-4)

4. New Orleans Saints (6-8)

Wild card

5. Seattle Seahawks (10-4, head-to-head tiebreak over Packers)

6. Green Bay Packers (10-4)

In the hunt: Philadelphia Eagles (9-5), Atlanta Falcons (5-9), Carolina Panthers (5-8-1)

NFC East

The Cowboys are in great position at 10-4, but they still don’t control their own destiny to a division title or a playoff berth this week. If they win, they still need the Eagles to lose or tie in order to win the division. To secure a wild card berth at the very least, Dallas needs to win and Green Bay and Detroit both need to lose or tie (as long as both don’t tie).

The Eagles can’t clinch a playoff spot this week. Football Outsiders gives them a 35.3-percent chance of qualifying for the postseason.

NFC North

Several scenarios are in play for the Lions this week. They can win the division if they beat the Chicago Bears and the Packers lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If the Cowboys also lose in that scenario, the Lions would clinch one of the top two seeds in the conference and a guaranteed first-round bye. At the very least, the Lions can secure a playoff spot if:

  1. They win
  2. They tie and Philadelphia loses or ties
  3. Philadelphia loses
The Packers can still win the division, just not in Week 16. They can guarantee a playoff spot if:
  1. They win and Philadelphia loses or ties
  2. They win and Dallas wins or ties
  3. They tie and Philadelphia loses
  4. They tie, Philadelphia ties and Dallas wins or ties
  5. Philadelphia loses and Dallas wins or ties

NFC South

The terrible NFC South is still wide open, with the Saints taking a leg up in the race with their win over the Bears on Monday night. The division crown is theirs this week if they win and the Panthers lose to the Cleveland Browns.

Neither the Panthers nor the Falcons can clinch this week, though they’re very much alive in the playoff hunt. The Falcons control their own destiny, with the Saints and the Panthers left on the schedule — win and they’re in. The Panthers will need the Saints to lose at least once (preferably not to the Falcons this week), while winning one or more of their remaining games.

NFC West

The No. 1 seed in the NFC is the Cardinals‘ for the taking. Simply beat the Seahawks (uh) with Ryan Lindley as their starting quarterback (hoo boy) and an NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs will be theirs.

The Seahawks are still gunning for the division crown, but they can’t wrap it up this week. They can guarantee their spot in the playoffs, however, if:

  1. They beat Arizona and Philadelphia loses or ties
  2. They win and Detroit loses or ties
  3. They win and Green Bay loses or ties
  4. They tie and Philadelphia loses
  5. They tie, Detroit loses and Green Bay loses
  6. Philadelphia loses and Dallas wins or ties
I promise this will all be over soon.

December 16, 2014 by : Posted in Uncategorized No Comments

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