Posted December 17, 2012

NFL playoff scenarios shaken up in Week 15

NFL Playoffs
The Ravens' three-game losing streak has put them on the outside looking in for a first-round bye. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

The Ravens’ three-game losing streak has put them on the outside looking in for a first-round bye. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Several of Sunday’s games are of critical importance in the NFL postseason race. You can revisit the full playoff picture and a breakdown of this week’s scenarios here, but we’re keeping an eye on what each of the Week 15 outcomes means for the conference, division and wild-card standings.

BEST & WORST OF WEEK 15

AFC

Houston has clinched the AFC South: The Texans bounced back from their embarrassing Week 14 shellacking at New England to take down Indianapolis on Sunday. That win moved Houston to 12-2 on the season and eliminated any chance that the Colts can steal first place.

Denver can finish no lower than third in the AFC: The Broncos’ rout of Baltimore on Sunday (their ninth straight win) secured Peyton Manning’s team a top-three spot in the conference. New England’s loss to San Francisco means that Denver controls its destiny for a first-round bye — win their last two, and the Broncos will avoid playing on the playoff’s first weekend.

Baltimore’s lead in the AFC North is down to one game (but the Ravens have clinched a playoff spot): Both the Steelers and Bengals could max out at 10 wins, while the Ravens are stuck on nine — and finish with games against the Giants and in Cincinnati. That Week 17 Ravens-Bengals showdown could be for the division title.

Pittsburgh’s loss to Dallas clinched a playoff spot for Baltimore, officially, though only a wild set of circumstances that included a Pittsburgh-Cincinnati tie would have bounced the Ravens.

BANKS: RAVENS’ SEASON SLIPS FURTHER AWAY

Cincinnati has the upper hand in the wild-card race, but …: The Bengals currently have a one-game lead on Pittsburgh in the AFC North and 1.5-game edge on the Jets (who play Monday night). However, Cincinnati still faces what amounts to a must-win next week in Pittsburgh — if the Steelers get to 9-7, the Bengals could only qualify if the Colts lose out to finish 9-7 as well.

There remain a lot of scenarios that could play out for the AFC’s final wild-card spots, but that Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game has massive implications.

Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh all control their own destinies in the AFC wild-card race: The Colts need just one win (either next week at Kansas City or in Week 17 vs. Houston) to clinch a playoff spot. Losses by Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and the Jets would get the job done too, but the Colts’ easiest road is to take care of business.

Both the Bengals and Steelers are in the same spot: Win and they’re in. Cincinnati could clinch a wild-card berth as early as next Sunday — one Jets loss plus a Bengals’ win over the Steelers and they would be home free.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, simply has to beat Cincinnati and Cleveland at home in Weeks 16 and 17, respectively, to return to the postseason.

What the Jets need: Basically, three wins and total chaos. The Jets cannot get into the postseason at 8-8 — Indianapolis already has nine wins, and if both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh finish at .500, the Steelers would beat New York via tiebreaker.

However, if the Jets can make it to 9-7, one more loss each from Pittsburgh and Cincinnati would get them to the postseason. So, too, would an 0-2 finish from the Colts.

Current seeds, through Sunday night’s game: 1. Texans (12-2), 2. Broncos (11-3), 3. Patriots (10-4), 4. Ravens (9-5), 5. Colts (9-5), 6. Bengals (8-6)

NFC

San Francisco has clinched a playoff berth: The 49ers can put a bow on the NFC West with a Week 16 win in Seattle, but for now, they’ll have to settle for knowing that they’ll be postseason participants. San Francisco also kept its hold on the NFC’s No. 2 seed and a coveted first-round bye, thanks to Sunday night’s win in New England.

Green Bay has clinched the NFC North: Their win in Chicago wrapped up a division title for the Packers. They also remain alive for a first-round bye in the NFC and would jump up to the No. 2 spot if San Francisco loses Sunday night.

Washington now leads the NFC East; Dallas and the Giants both control their own destinies (to a point): Thanks to their 3-1 record in the division, the Redskins’ win over Cleveland leapfrogged them up and over the Giants for first place in the NFC East.

However, with the Cowboys’ win over Pittsburgh, there is a three-way tie atop the NFC East. Dallas would take the division by winning out (vs. New Orleans, at Washington), as a tiebreaker with the Giants would fall the Cowboys’ way.

For the Giants to take the NFC East, they need both the Cowboys and Redskins to lose in the last two weeks (and one of them will, barring a tie, when they play in Week 17). New York also has to finish 2-0 … a result that would lock up a playoff berth for the defending champs, even though …

… Minnesota currently holds the No. 6 seed: Stick with me here, because we’re well past where the playoff scenarios get nuts. Five teams sit tied at 8-6 right now (Minnesota, Washington, Dallas, the Giants and Chicago). The NFL’s system in a multi-team tie goes through divisional tiebreakers first, then cross-divisional ones.

The short version of the breakdown is this: Washington has the NFC East tiebreaker edge on the Giants and Dallas; Dallas is a leg up on the Giants in the wild-card race; and Minnesota is then ahead of both Dallas and Chicago.

Because of all those wacky tiebreakers, though, a lot of the positioning will switch since the NFC East teams play within the division in Weeks 16 and 17.

The Seahawks, Redskins, Cowboys and Giants control their own destinies: If any three of those teams finish 2-0 over the season’s last two weeks, they will join Atlanta, San Francisco and Green Bay in the playoffs (all four cannot go 2-0, since Washington and Dallas play).

Losses by more than one of those teams would open the door for Chicago, Minnesota or, should the conference fly completely off the rails, St. Louis.

Chicago would be wise to finish 2-0: There’s a path to the playoffs at 9-7 for the currently 8-6 Bears, but it would require the Vikings to fall to 8-8 and the NFC East to finish exactly with one 10-6 team and two 9-7 teams. In other words, it would be very difficult.

Should the Bears get to 10-6, they would have a very legitimate shot. In short, they would then need three of Minnesota, Seattle, Dallas, Washington and the Giants to drop to 9-7. Either the Cowboys or Redskins (barring a tie) will get their in Week 17. Can two others fall?

We’ll try sort it out further for you as the week goes along …

Current seeds, through Sunday night’s game: 1. Falcons (12-2), 2. 49ers (10-3-1), 3. Packers (10-4), 4. Redskins (8-6), 5. Seahawks (9-5), 6. Vikings (8-6)

16 comments
fredharbin
fredharbin

The Redskins number one playoff game is Week 17 against Dallas. If we win then we host Seattle for the first round of the playoffs. Win that one, then we are headed to Atlanta. Win there and likely headed to SF. Not sure our defense can play to this level but will be very happy that the Skins have hope and direction for next year. Its been a long time since the Skins had a winning team. 

ARA
ARA

"Both the Steelers and Bengals could max out at 10 wins,".  Since Pittsburgh is currently 7-7, I'm not sure that they can max out with 10 wins.  

midnitemgt
midnitemgt

Im a cowboy fan and glad they are playing well, but im very disappointed that that Josh Brent was allowed on the sideline a week after driving drunk  crashing his car  causing  the death of  his teammate  Jerry Brown Jr. 

both the Cowboy and NFL management should be ashamed.

 

destin507
destin507

I would NOT want to have to play the VERY pissed off SAINTS from here on out. Say what you want, but they are bringing it!

rb1044
rb1044

 @midnitemgt 

 

His life is  going to be ruined in the courts. You want to rub  it in? Also, JBs mom asked thew cowboys to do it. Do you want to tell the mother of JB she is wrong? Also, the players know for sure that Garret and the Jones family have there back, even when everyone says they are wrong for doing so.

555sexydrive
555sexydrive

 @destin507 

Doesn't matter as the Saints are not playing anyone in playoff contention the last 2 weeks.  Dallas might have a very slim hope if they win out and others falter.  The other game is against the Panthers who would like to march into Nawlins and put up a statement.

PaulSharpe
PaulSharpe

 @555sexydrive  @destin507   You are an IDIOT!!?  DALLAS WINS NFC East if they win OUT, Regardless!!?... Stop being a Republican & get a friggin' BRAIN!!?

MikeL1
MikeL1

 @PaulSharpe  @555sexydrive  @destin507 Fascinating. I go on SI.com, of all places, and learn that all presidential elections are a sham, as god is appointing leaders, rather than the people electing them.   

OldMensaGuy
OldMensaGuy

@555sexydrive @PaulSharpe @destin507 Funny how names today mean something other than what they profess to be...Paul is not so sharp, the Democrats are not for democracy, pro choice is not for choice but for deciding against life, thus for death but won't use that word because then all would see they are for killing babies, and then there is the word gay which means happy so the real word homosexual won't be used because that they say is hate mongering. In reality, this is nothing unexpected. These corrupt actions are clearly identified in scripture by the cycle in the Old Testament and Romans chapter 1, verse 18 through to the end of chapter 3. Please try to understand, Scipture says that God loves mankind but hates and will judge disobedient and abhorrent behavior. It also tells us that as we turn our backs on God, he turns from us as well, to the point that we will make decisions that are not in our own best interest like the deviant children that we are. Scripture also clearly states that God appoints leaders over nations as a blessing or a curse to that nation based on the nations relationship to Him. You gotta ask yourself whether abortion, euthanasia, turning our backs on Israel and siding with the Islamic Nations will grant us God's blessing or curse and whether Obama is a blessing or a curse. Of the 31 prophecies regarding the end time leader who is to come, clouding the peoples eyes and claiming to be God himself, only the Clinton's individually, the Bush's individually and Obama have fulfilled over 25 of the prophecies. Even Stalin, Hitler and Mao didn't measure up, or should I say down, to this point. Watch and beware. Your best and only security is in a God who loved you so much that He is willing to pay the price for your imperfections by dieing in your place that you might be reconciled back to him. Time is short and decisions are critical, please for your own sake and the sake of your loved ones and our country, turn back to God through the only channel for salvation God has granted us. God took on flesh and became man that He, an infinite God could die in our place to pay the price we rightfully deserve. This flesh is the only mediator/conduit between God and man and His name is Jesus of Nazareth. His title is Chrst/Savior and he welcomes ALL who will turn back to Him. Make a life saving decision that you can enjoy or eternity by repenting/turning from your anti-God views today. He loves you and suffered so that you won't have to. Won't you come back to a father who created, and wants to protect and provide for you? Read John chapter 3 a few times to realize who God is and what he has already done for you. In love and truth, a corrupted creation as are we all.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

 @gmag39  Seems as if you are offended by my post.   Let me guess: you are one of those that continues to buy the two party con job being sold by the politicians.  By the way, it was more rant than lecture.  People tend to learn from lectures, and it is completely obvious that the republicrats of the world have shut down their learning genes and and are satisfied to follow orders from their favorite grifters at the various levels of government.

gmag39
gmag39

 @JoeCabot  @555sexydrive Just what the sports community needs; a lecture' in politics from Joe Cablot.  Thanks so much for sharing.  We're all indebted to you and so much the wiser.  

Brian_206
Brian_206

 @JoeCabot  @555sexydrive Amen.  I find it hilarious that Republicans and Democrats think they are any different from each other.  Welcome to the dog and pony show. 

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

 @555sexydrive  Thank you.  The dimwitted drones that infest the republican and democrat parties like to believe that they are the enlightened ones, while those across the aisle have absolutely no sense.  These self-proclaimed big-brain types cannot even grasp the irony that they are supporting a one-party monopoly disguised as a two party system, and that their heroes on both sides of the aisle are looting and pillaging the country, have been doing so for decades, and will continue to the theft by getting their brilliant followers to keep voting them into office where they write legislation to steal from the very voters that put them there.

555sexydrive
555sexydrive

 @PaulSharpe  @destin507 

Yes I'm the idiot because I said the Cowboys need to win out, which was a slim hope with 3 games to play at the time I stated it and 1 of the opponents they already lost to in their own home.  I definitely could have worded it better as I know that if they win out they win the division so to say Saints play nobody in playoff contention was wrong, but asking the Cowboys to win 5 games in a row is asking way too much of that franchise.

 

Not sure what politics has to do with this, but thank you for being a typical moron in the United States (if you indeed are) today and wanting to label everyone as either a Restupidcan or Dumbocrat.