There were a lot of important games this past weekend in terms of playoff positioning. Pretty much any team close to the playoffs has a chance, so even non-division (Baltimore-Houston) and non-conference (Pats-Bears) games were critical. I’ll start with the power rankings as usual, but the playoff predictions follow below.
San Diego and the Giants have been jockeying for number one for a bit now, and the bigger win by the Chargers puts them ahead this week. More impressively, the Patriots have jumped to number three. A few weeks ago they were looking like a bit of a paper tiger, but they’ve gone on a roll and look awfully impressive. Things are looking worse and worse for the rest of the league if the Patriots have home field and are actually on their game.
I’ll go through by division again, using both the predictions above and the conclusions from ESPN’s playoff machine (full results here), with winners picked assuming that the team predicted to win by my Luigi model actually does win.
AFC East: Patriots 13/14 (predictions/playoff machine), Jets 10.5/10, Miami 8.5/9, Buffalo 4/3. The Patriots get the number one seed and the bye while the Jets stay home.
AFC North: Pittsburgh 12/13, Baltimore 10.6/11, Cleveland 6.4/5 , Cincy 3.2/3. Pittsburgh gets the two seed and a bye, Baltimore gets the 5th seed. That overtime win last night was key; Baltimore gets in the playoffs now even though they’ll probably lose to the Saints next week.
AFC South: Indy 8.6/9, Jacksonville 9.3/9, Houston 6.4/7, Tennessee 6.4/6. The Colts get the 4th seed if they win out and Jacksonville only gets one win against either Washington or Houston; both division games are on the road for the Jaguars.
AFC West: Kansas City 9.8/11 , San Diego 9.1/10 , Oakland 7.6/8 , Denver 4/3. The Chiefs would get the 3 seed and face the 6th seed Chargers in the wild card.
Playoffs: the Jets have apparently played themselves out of the playoffs, allowing both the Chiefs and Chargers to get in for the first time. This still assumes that the Chargers can win out; the Jets could also still get in by beating the Steelers or Bears (I’m assuming they’ll beat Buffalo in week 17). So we’d start with Chiefs-Chargers as mentioned, which would be tight with KC having home field advantage. Baltimore would go to Indy and the Colts would have the edge with home field. New England would get the Chargers if they won and I think would have the edge with home field; otherwise they would get Baltimore and definitely be favored. If the Chiefs win they would go to Pittsburgh and likely lose; the Steelers would be favored against the Ravens as well. So the conference championship would be Steelers at Patriots and the Patriots have the edge there.
NFC North: Chicago 10.4/11 , Green Bay 9.7/10 , Minnesota 6.2/5 , Detroit 4.3/4. The Packers’ loss to the Lions was bad, and it doesn’t account for Rodgers potentially being out. Chicago gets the 3 seed and the Packers stay home. This assumes that the Packers beat the Bears in week 17, by the way, so things are pretty dire. Green Bay needs to beat the Patriots or needs Chicago to falter.
NFC South: Atlanta 12.8/13, New Orleans 11.8/13, Tampa Bay 9.5/10, Carolina 2/2. Atlanta has the 1 seed and New Orleans the 5, making for a pretty strong wild card. Tampa stays home now. This assumes the Saints beat the Falcons and nothing changes if they don’t, but Tampa can get in if they beat the Saints in week 17 and Philly will stay home instead.
NFC East: Giants 10.6/11, Philly 10.8/11, Washington 6.2/5, Dallas 5.3/5. Giants get the two seed and Philly the 6. As said, Philly and Tampa are fighting for the last spot. If Philly beats the Giants this weekend, the Giants will stay home and Green Bay will sneak in, which is quite a turn-around.
NFC West: San Fran 6.5/7, St. Louis 7.4/7, Seattle 7.3/6, Arizona 5.3/5. I don’t even want to talk about this group; suffice it to say whoever wins will lose in the playoffs and make people in Tampa, Green Bay, Philly, New York, and maybe other places angry. As the predictions stand now, two 10 win teams are staying home so a 7 win team can go.
Playoffs: Saints over 49ers, Philly over Chicago on the road, Philly over Atlanta on the road, Giants over Saints, Giants over Philly. This is the first time where Atlanta doesn’t get by on home field, as I think they would lose to Philly or the Saints according to the current power rankings. That would lead to a Giants-Patriots Super Bowl, which would be pretty competitive. Current edge on a neutral field to the Giants.