NFL 2009-2010 Playoff permutations and combinations
While many websites break down the myriad of NFL playoff permutations and combinations, I break it down in plain English. Football English admittedly, but English nonetheless. We will start with the NFC since everything is admittedly cut and dry. The AFC is a mess, which is the way it should be heading into Week 17.
In the NFC, all 6 playoff teams are already decided. Unfortunately from a competitive standpoint, there is zero drama as to who the playoff teams will be. The New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, and Green Bay Packers are in. The only drama is with regards to the seedings.
The Eagles are at the Cowboys this week. Last year these teams met in Week 17, with a playoff berth for both teams on the line. The Eagles were at home, and they blasted the Cowboys 44-6 to make it to the playoffs and send Dallas home. This year the battle is for the NFC East title, and the game is in the new 1.2 billion dollar Jerry Jones metropolis in Dallas.
The Packers are at the Cardinals, which will have slightly less impact on the seedings.
The Vikings, despite recent troubles, are at home against the listless New York Giants.
The Saints are the # 1 seed. They have locked up home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The # 2 seed is a potential free for all.
If the Eagles win at the Cowboys, they are the # 2 seed, and get the 1st round bye.
If the Eagles lose, and the Vikings win, the Vikings get the # 2 seed.
If the Eagles and Vikings both lose, and the Cardinals win, the Cardinals get the # 2 seed.
If the Cowboys beat the Eagles and the Vikings and Cardinals both lose, the Cowboys get the # 2 seed.
The Cardinals and Vikings cannot finish lower than the # 4 seed.
If the Eagles lose they drop to the # 5 seed.
If the Cowboys lose they drop to the # 5, and maybe even the # 6 seed.
The Green Bay Packers are the # 6 seed. They can get to the # 5 seed if they beat the Cardinals and the Eagles beat the Cowboys.
The AFC is farely boring at the top, but there is plenty of excitement in terms of several teams that can still make the playoffs. The wildcards are far from decided.
The Indianapolis Colts have locked up the # 1 seed and home field throughout the playoffs.
The San Diego Chargers have locked up the # 2 seed and the other 1st round bye.
The New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals have locked up their divisions. The Patriots are at the Houston Texans and the Bengals are at the New York Jets. If the Patriots and Bengals both win or both lose, they finished with tied records. The Patriots would be the # 3 seed and the Bengals the # 4 seed. If the Patriots lose and the Bengals win, the Bengals get the # seed and the Patriots the # 4 seed.
Despite zero suspense with the division winners, the wild cards is where all hell breaks loose.
The Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, and Pittsburgh Steelers are all 8-7. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins are 7-8. All of these teams can still make the playoffs. With the exception of the Broncos, anybody else who loses is automatically eliminated. The Broncos have the strangest situation because they can win and miss the playoffs or lose and make it. The Tennessee Titans are also 7-8 but they are eliminated.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are at the Miami Dolphins. The winner is guaranteed nothing but the loser is out.
The Ravens and the Jets control their own destiny. If they win, they are in as the # 5 and # 6 seeds. The Ravens are at the Oakland Raiders, and the Jets host the Bengals.
If the Broncos win, they get in with any of the following:
1) The Jets losing and either the Ravens or Steelers losing
2) The Jets losing and the Texans winning
3) The Ravens losing and either the Steelers losing or the Texans winning.
The Broncos can still lose and get in under more mind-boggling scenarios than worth discussing.
The Houston Texans get in if they win and any 2 of the following 3 teams lose: Ravens, Jets, Broncos.
The Pittsburgh Steelers get in if they win and either of the following happens:
1) The Texans lose and either the Jets or Ravens lose.
2) The Jets, Ravens, and Broncos all lose.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are at the Cleveland Browns. For the Jaguars to get in they have to win and hope that any 4 of the following 5 teams lose: Ravens, Jets, Texans, Steelers, and Broncos.
As awful as it is for the Jaguars, it is worse for the Dolphins.
The Dolphins have one scenario, which is to win over the Steelers and hope that the Jets, Ravens, Texans, and Jaguars all lose.
Now for my predictions, which are always wrong.
In the NFC, all eyes are on the Eagles and the Cowboys. The Eagles are the better team but the Cowboys have home field and the revenge factor. This game could go either way, but I am going to pick the Cowboys with very little confidence. The Vikings will dispatch the lifeless Giants. The Cardinals will defeat the Packers solely because they are at home. That will decide the seedings.
Under that scenario, in a bizarre coincidence, the Wild Card games will be exact rematches of the Week 17 games, with the Eagles again at the Cowboys and the Packers again at the Cardinals.
In the AFC, everybody is picking the Ravens to stomp the Raiders as a formality. The only person not taking this game as an automatic win is Ravens Coach John Harbaugh. The Raiders are fighting hard, and they very well could get the upset. The Jets have been gift wrapped a trip to the playoffs, but never underestimate the power of the Jets to screw it up when it counts. They are infamous for finding ways to lose big games.
I am going to go against the tide and say the Ravens and Jets both lose.This opens the door for the Broncos and Texans.
There is absolutely no way the Denver Broncos will lose at home to the Kansas City Chiefs. Josh McDaniels could suspend the entire team and play with high school players. The Broncos will win and get the # 5 seed.
The Houston Texans will be at home against a Patriots team where only the evil hoodie Bill Bellichick knows who will start.
The argument over whether they have anything to play for goes to an argument of whether being the # 3 or # 4 seed matters. Theoretically it could, but the scenario required to make it happen never has. Having said that, The Patriots are the better team and Bellichick usually plays everybody. The Texans are givena chance at home, and they blow it.
The Steelers are at the Dolphins, with the Jaguars between them in the rankings. The Jaguars are at the Browns, who started 1-11 and lost 3 straight. With Walrus Mike Holmgren peering over Eric Mangini, the Browns win their 4th straight and the Jaguars are done.
This gives the Steelers and the Dolphins an equal chance for the last spot. The Steelers are on the road, but are a far better team. Miami looked awful at home last week and will again. The Steelers smash them and get the final spot. They then make noise about how nobody wanted to play them and that they won it all as the # 6 seed in 2005.
The Broncos at the Bengals in one wildcard is a rematch of week 1, a terrible football game. Yet back then both teams were seen as awful. So the rematch could be good. The Steelers will see their bragging come to an end when the Patriots easily dispatch them. Then the Patriots will be the insufferable team that claims nobody wants to play them.
San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams
(49ers by 7, they win but fail to cover)
New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings
(Vikings by 9, they cover)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns
(Browns by 1.5, they cover)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Miami Dolphins
(Steelers by 3, they cover)
New England Patriots at Houston Texans
(Texans by 8, upset special, Patriots win outright)
Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(Falcons by 2.5, they cover)
New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers
(Panthers by 7, they win but fail to cover)
Indianapolis Colts @ Buffalo Bills
(Bills by 7.5, upset special, Colts win outright)
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
(Bears by 3, they cover)
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
(Cowboys by 3, they cover)
Washington Redskins at San Diego Chargers
(Chargers by 4, they cover)
Baltimore Ravens at Oakland Raiders
(Ravens by 10.5, upset special, Raiders win outright)
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos
(Broncos by 12.5, they cover)
Green Bay Packers @ Arizona Cardinals
(Cardinals by 3.5, they win but fail to cover)
Tennessee Titans at Seattle Seahawks
(Titans by 4.5, they cover)
Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets
(Jets by 10, upset special, Bengals win outright)