Three Week Sprint
With three weeks to go in the 2016 season, only Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, the NY Jets, Cleveland, Jacksonville, and San Diego have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. You can add New Orleans, Carolina, Arizona, Buffalo, and Cincinnati to the list that are not playoff bound this year, as these five teams need miracles to make the postseason.
That leaves 19 teams competing for 12 playoff spots. Let’s take a look at each division.
New England would have to lose three straight, while Miami wins three straight for the Dolphins to win the division. Because one of those prospective Pats’ losses would have to be against the Jets, the chances become about the same as being hit by lightning on a sunny day.
Miami is in contention for the 6th seed with Denver, but as of today, the Broncos have the small advantage based on wins against common opponents. Miami closes with games at the Jets and Bills and a home finale against New England.
Buffalo has a very slim chance of getting a wildcard bid. The Bills must win out against Cleveland, Miami, and the Jets, and then they need a lot of help, definitely more than they can expect. It looks like the longest playoff drought will extend to 17 seasons.
Pittsburgh leads Baltimore by a game, but this race is still close to a tossup with three weeks to go. The Ravens won at Pittsburgh earlier in the year, and the teams must still play in Baltimore in two weeks. Both contenders must still play at Cincinnati, so there is an infinitesimal chance that the Bengals could win out at 8-7-1 and steal the division over 8-8 rivals. For that to happen, Baltimore must beat Pittsburgh, and then the Steelers have to lose at home to Cleveland.
This is the most interesting race in the NFL. Three teams can still win this division, and the two that do not have little to no chance of winning a wildcard bid. Houston and Tennessee are tied at 7-6, with Indianapolis a game back at 6-7. The Texans have the easiest road to the finish line, as their schedule brings Jacksonville and Cincinnati to Reliant Stadium, before the Texans finish at Tennessee.
The Titans must travel to Arrowhead Stadium to take on Kansas City, and a loss in this game would mean that Houston would have to lose at home for Week 17 to matter.
Indianapolis can only win the division by finishing a game ahead of Houston and at least tied with Tennessee. The Colts have the toughest remaining schedule of the three rivals (including road games against Minnesota and Oakland), so it looks like the Texans are prohibitive favorites for now.
Kansas City now controls its own destiny for a bye in the playoffs and guaranteed home game in the Divisional Round. The Chiefs still have a shot at securing home field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs.
Oakland remains in contention for the division title, but for now, the Raiders look like the #5 seed. They could still stumble into the 6th seed.
Denver has little room for error. The Broncos are now tied with Miami and hold a precarious tiebreaker, but a 10-6 record could force the reigning Super Bowl Champions out of the playoffs.
The Dallas Cowboys look unbeatable when the opponent does not have an “N” and a “Y” on their football helmets. Big D still owns a two-game cushion for the top record in the NFC, but their next two games are going to be tough. A hot Tampa Bay team comes to Jerryworld this week, followed by a visit from the number two team in the NFC, Detroit. Losses in both games could allow the Lions to emerge as the #1 seed.
The New York Giants host the Lions this week in what could be the top game on the slate. A Giant win actually gives Eli Manning and company a shot to win the Division and even earn the top seed, but more than likely this team will have to settle for the #5 seed.
Washington is still very much alive for a wildcard bid. The Redskins must beat Carolina and Chicago the next two weeks before closing with the Giants.
Detroit has a firm hold on this division with a two-game lead over Minnesota and Green Bay, but stranger things have happened before. The Lions have a very tough closing troika of games and could lose any or all of them (@NYG, @Dal, vs. GB).
Should the Lions swoon in the stretch, Green Bay has a slim advantage over Minnesota, as the Packers still play the Lions, while the Vikings were swept by Detroit and can only take the division title if Detroit loses all three, and the Vikings win all three (which would include a win over Green Bay). The chances are below average that this division will produce a wildcard team, but it is not impossible.
Atlanta and Tampa Bay are locked in a fantastic finish for the division title, and the team that does not win the flag has a better than average chance of taking a wildcard spot. If Carolina beats Atlanta, and then the Falcons and Buc finish 10-6, Tampa Bay would win the division.
Seattle would have to lose its final three games, which includes dropping games to the Rams and 49ers, and Arizona would have to win its final three games, which includes winning at Seattle, for the Cardinals to surpass the Seahawks for the division title.
This Week’s PiRate Ratings
|Current NFL PiRate Ratings|
|A F C|
|N. Y. Jets||95.5||94.4||95.9||95.3||57||38|
|N F C|
This Week’s PiRate Spreads & Totals
|New York Jets||Miami||0.6||-0.7||0.8||40|
|New York Giants||Detroit||1.5||0.3||1.9||49|