NFL Week 15 Playoff Picture and Scenarios

John Morgan
December 18, 2015 at 8:00 am ET

NFL Week 15 Playoff Picture and Scenarios

Last week the New England Patriots vaulted in to the number one seed in the AFC by virtue of the defensive mastery over the Houston Texans, coupled with losses by the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos. When the Miami Dolphins lost to the New York Giants Monday night the Pats also clinched their seventh straight AFC East title. Elsewhere the Arizona Cardinals also clinched a playoff spot and the Carolina Panthers clinched a first-round bye; on the other end of the spectrum six teams joined the Cleveland Browns as being officially eliminated from the playoffs.

 

In the AFC there are essentially three playoff races: the Patriots, Bengals and Broncos vying for home field advantage throughout the conference playoffs, or at least a first-round bye; the Colts and Texans (and to a lesser extent, the Jaguars as well) playing for the AFC South title and the number four seed; and the Steelers, Chiefs and Texans battling for the wild card spots.

 

Over in the NFC there are realistically only two playoff races remaining. For all intents and purposes the Panthers will be the number one seed, Arizona number two, and Seattle will claim the number five seed as the top wild card. One of Green Bay and Minnesota will win the NFC North and become the number three seed; they will play at home to the other club, who will become the number six seed. The other playoff race is of course that of the NFC East; one of the Redskins, Giants or Eagles will have to represent that division, even though nobody seems to want it or deserve it.

 

In both conferences the race for the number five seed is nearly as meaningful as getting a first round bye. Both of the number five seeds will most likely be playing against a team with a .500 (or losing record). On the other hand the number six seed will have to go on the road against a ten or eleven-win club.

Note: for the sake of clarity and to reduce the risk of headaches I have not included any scenarios involving ties.

 

AFC – #1 Seed and First Round Bye

1. New England Patriots
11-2 [4-0 division, 8-1 conference]
Clinched AFC East and at least #3 seed
vs Titans, at Jets, at Dolphins
79% chance for #1 seed; 98% chance for a bye
– Can clinch at least #2 seed and a first-round bye with a win over Titans, plus Broncos lose to Steelers

2. Cincinnati Bengals
10-3 [4-1 division, 8-2 conference]
2-game division lead over Pittsburgh with 3 to play
at 49ers, at Broncos, vs Ravens
3% chance for #1 seed; 40% for a bye; 98% for #3 or better
– Can clinch AFC North and at least #3 seed if Steelers lose to Broncos
– Can clinch at least #5 seed with win over 49ers, plus Chiefs lose to Ravens
– Can clinch playoff spot with win over 49ers, or Chiefs lose to Ravens, or Jets lose to Cowboys

3. Denver Broncos
10-3 [3-2 division, 6-3 conference]
2-game division lead over Kansas City with 3 to play
at Steelers, vs Bengals, at Chargers
18% chance for #1 seed; 61% for a bye; 88% for #3 or better
– Can clinch AFC West and at least #3 seed with win over Steelers, plus Chiefs lose to Ravens
– Can clinch at playoff spot and at least #5 seed with win over Steelers, plus Jets lose to Cowboys
– Can clinch playoff spot and at least #6 seed with with win over Steelers

 

AFC South – #4 Seed

4. Indianapolis Colts
6-7 [3-1 division, 4-5 conference]
Currently tied with Houston; wins tiebreaker based on head-to-head victory
vs Texans, at Dolphins, vs Titans
60% chance of winning AFCS and #4 seed; 40% chance of missing playoffs
– With a win over Texans, the only way Indy would miss the playoffs would be to lose their final two games while Houston wins their last two games

10. Houston Texans
6-7 [2-1 division, 4-5 conference]
Needs to win Sunday to avoid losing head-to-head tiebreaker with Colts
at Colts, at Titans, vs Jaguars
39% chance of winning AFCS and #4 seed; >1% chance of being wild card; 61% chance for no playoffs

11. Jacksonville Jaguars
5-8 [2-3 division, 5-6 conference]
Virtually no chance despite only being one game behind
vs Falcons, at Saints, at Texans
1% chance of winning AFCS and #4 seed; >99% chance for no playoffs
– Eliminated from playoffs with loss to Falcons, plus Colts beat Texans

 

AFC – Wild Cards

5. Kansas City Chiefs
8-5 [4-1 division, 7-2 conference]
Currently hold tiebreaker over Steelers and Jets based on conference record
at Ravens, vs Browns, vs Raiders
11% chance of winning AFCW and #3 seed; 63% chance of being #5 seed; 7% chance for no playoffs
– Eliminated from #1 seed if Patriots win, or if Broncos and Bengals both win
– Eliminated from #2 seed with loss to Ravens, or if Patriots and Broncos both win
– Eliminated from #3 seed with loss to Ravens, plus Broncos win

6. New York Jets
8-5 [2-2 division, 6-4 conference]
Hold tiebreaker over Steelers based on conference record
at Cowboys, vs Patriots, at Bills
7% chance for #5 seed, 25% for #6 seed, 61% for no playoffs
– Wins by Chiefs and Steelers last week dropped Jet playoff chances from 39% to 31%
– No clinching or elimination scenarios for Jets this week

7. Pittsburgh Steelers
8-5 [2-2 division, 5-4 conference]
Conference records: Chiefs 7-2; Jets 6-4; Steelers 5-4
vs Broncos, at Ravens, at Browns
2% chance of winning AFCN and #3 seed; 25% for #5 seed; 43% for #6; 30% for no playoffs
– Chance of missing playoffs dropped from 67% last week to 30% this week
– Eliminated from #3 seed with loss to Broncos, or if Bengals beat 49ers

8. Oakland Raiders
6-7 [2-2 division, 6-4 conference]
All but technically eliminated from playoffs
vs Packers, vs Chargers, at Chiefs
2% chance for wild card, 98% chance for no playoffs
– Eliminated from #5 seed with loss, plus a win by either Jets or Chiefs or Steelers
– Eliminated from playoffs with loss, plus wins by two of Jets/Chiefs/Steelers

9. Buffalo Bills
6-7 [3-2 division, 6-5 conference]
All but technically eliminated from playoffs
at Washington, vs Cowboys, vs Jets
5% chance for wild card, 95% chance for no playoffs
– Eliminated from #5 seed with loss, or win by Chiefs
– Eliminated from #6 seed with loss, plus win by either Steelers or Jets

AFC teams eliminated from playoffs:
5-8 Miami Dolphins – at Chargers, vs Colts, vs Patriots
4-9 Baltimore Ravens – vs Chiefs, vs Steelers, at Bengals
3-10 San Diego Chargers – vs Dolphins, at Raiders, at Broncos
3-10 Cleveland Browns – at Seahawks, at Chiefs, vs Steelers
3-10 Tennessee Titans – at Patriots, vs Texans, at Colts

 

NFC Contenders

1. Carolina Panthers
13-0 [4-0 division, 9-0 conference]
Clinched NFC South division title and first round bye
at Giants, at Falcons, vs Giants
98% chance for #1 seed; 2% chance of being #2 seed
– Clinch #1 seed with a win, plus loss by Cardinals

2. Arizona Cardinals
11-2 [4-1 division, 8-1 conference]
Clinched a playoff spot last week
Hold tiebreaker over Seahawks (39-32 victory at Seattle)
at Eagles, vs Packers, vs Seahawks
92% chance for a bye
– Clinch first round bye with win at Eagles, plus Packers lose to Raiders
– Clinch division and #3 seed with win, or a Seahawks loss
– Clinch at least #5 seed with a loss by either the Vikings or Packers
– Eliminated from #1 seed with loss, plus win by Panthers

3. Green Bay Packers
9-4 [3-2 division, 7-3 conference]
Hold tiebreaker over Vikings based on Week 11 win at Minnesota
at Raiders, at Cardinals, vs Vikings
8% chance for #2 seed; 58% for #3; 34% for wild card; >1% for no playoffs
– Clinch playoff spot and at least #5 seed with win, plus Seahawks loss
– Clinch playoff spot with either a win, or a Giants loss, or a Redskins loss
– Eliminated from #2 seed with loss, plus Cardinals win

5. Seattle Seahawks
8-5 [2-2 division, 6-4 conference]
Moved up to #5 seed with wins in last two weeks while Vikings lost twice
vs Browns, vs Rams, at Cardinals
>1% chance of winning NFCW; 69% for #5; 29% for #6; 2% for no playoffs
– Clinch playoff spot with win, plus a loss by either Giants or Redskins
– Clinch playoff spot with win, plus Packers win, plus Vikings and Falcons lose
– Eliminated from NFCW title and #2 seed if Packers win and Vikings lose
– Eliminated from NFCW title and #3 seed with a loss, or if Cardinals win

6. Minnesota Vikings
8-5 [3-1 division, 5-4 conference]
The Vikes have lost two in a row but are still in good shape to make the playoffs
vs Bears, vs Giants, at Packers
cannot get a bye; 34% chance for #3 seed; 60% for a wild card; 6% for no playoffs
– Clinch playoff spot with win, plus Falcons lose, plus either Giants or Redskins lose
– Clinch playoff spot with win, plus Seahawks lose, plus either Giants or Redskins lose

 

NFC East

4. Washington Redskins
5-6 [2-1 division, 5-3 conference]
Head-to-head: 1-0 vs Eagles, 1-1 vs Giants, 0-1 vs Cowboys
at Bears, vs Bills, at Eagles, at Cowboys
39% chance of winning NFCE; 60% chance of missing playoffs
– Eliminated from #3 seed with loss, or Packers win, or Vikings win

9. Philadelphia Eagles
6-7 [2-2 division, 3-6 conference]
Head-to-head: 0-1 vs Skins, 1-0 vs Giants, 1-1 vs Cowboys
vs Cardinals, vs Redskins, at Giants
44% chance of winning NFCE; 56% chance of missing playoffs
– Eliminated from #3 seed with loss, or Packers win, or Vikings win

10. New York Giants
6-7 [2-3 division, 4-5 conference]
Head-to-head: 1-1 vs Skins, 0-1 vs Eagles, 1-1 vs Cowboys
vs Panthers, at Vikings, vs Eagles
15% chance of winning NFCE; 83% chance of missing playoffs
– Eliminated from #3 seed with loss, or Packers win, or Vikings win

16. Dallas Cowboys
4-9 [3-2 division, 3-8 conference]
Head-to-head: 1-0 vs Skins, 1-1 vs Eagles, 1-1 vs Giants
vs Jets, at Bills, vs Redskins
2% chance of winning NFCE; 98% chance of missing playoffs
– Eliminated from #3 seed with loss, or two of Redskins/Eagles/Cowboys win

 

Rest of the NFC

7. Atlanta Falcons
6-7 [0-4 division, 4-6 conference]
Falcons could lose nine straight to end the season after a 5-0 start
at Jaguars, vs Panthers, vs Saints
99% chance of missing the playoffs
– Eliminated from #5 seed with a loss
– Eliminated from playoffs with loss, plus Vikings win

10. St. Louis Rams
6-8 [3-1 division, 5-5 conference]
The Rams have not had a winning season since 2003, and Jeff Fisher has not coached a winning team since 2008
won vs Bucs, at Seahawks, at Niners
99% chance of missing playoffs
– Eliminated from #5 seed if either Vikings or Seahawks win
– Eliminated from playoffs if both Vikings and Seahawks win

11. Tampa Bay Bucs
6-8 [3-2 division, 5-5 conference]
Hey, four more wins than last year was a decent start
lost at Rams, vs Bears, at Panthers
99% chance of missing playoffs
– Eliminated from #5 seed if either Vikings or Seahawks win
– Eliminated from playoffs if both Vikings and Seahawks win

12. New Orleans Saints
5-8 [2-3 division, 4-6 conference]
Off-season plan: defense, defense, and more defense
vs Lions, vs Jaguars, at Falcons
99% chance of missing playoffs
– Eliminated from #5 seed if either Vikings or Seahawks win
– Eliminated from playoffs with a loss, or if both Vikings and Seahawks win

13. Chicago Bears
5-8 [2-3 division, 4-6 conference]
A 1-6 record at home, including a loss to the Niners? Huh?
at Vikings, at Bucs, vs Lions
99% chance of missing playoffs
– Eliminated from #5 seed if Seahawks win
– Eliminated from playoffs with a loss to Vikings

14. Detroit Lions
4-9 [2-3 division, 3-6 conference]
Jim Caldwell is probably the next head coach to be fired
at Saints, vs Niners, at Bears
– Eliminated from playoffs last week

15. San Francisco 49ers
4-9 [0-5 division, 3-7 conference]
14.5 points per game – pathetic.
vs Bengals, at Lions, vs Rams
– Eliminated from playoffs last week

 



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