I was sitting here watching the end of the Sunday night matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I started to wonder “If the season ended right now, what would the AFC playoff picture look like?”
You might be wondering why I’m only doing the AFC and not the NFC, for which I have two simple reasons:
1. Two NFC teams play in tomorrow’s Monday Night Football game.
2. I really only did this to see if my Colts would even be anywhere close.
So as you’ve probably caught on to at this point, I decided to figure out exactly what the AFC postseason seedings would be. Well before long the Steelers won the game, giving them a 4-1 record and leaving the Jaguars with a 2-3 record. With that said, let me show you the nine (of 16) AFC teams that have at least a .500 record:
Tennessee Titans: 5-0
Buffalo Bills: 4-1
Denver Broncos: 4-1
Pittsburgh Steelers: 4-1
New England Patriots: 3-1
New York Jets: 2-2
Baltimore Ravens: 2-2
Indianapolis Colts: 2-2
Miami Dolphins: 2-2
But out of those nine teams, obviously only six of them can make the playoffs. Well it was pretty easy to figure out who would fill five of those six playoff spots. The Titans, Bills, Broncos, and Steelers are all first in their respective divisions, giving them automatic bids to the playoffs, and then the Patriots are the only remaining team that isn’t 2-2, so they grab the first of the two Wild Card spots. So that final playoff spot will be decided by the NFL’s Official Tie-Breaking Procedures. Well the first sentence of the first step of the Wild Card tie-breaking procedure reads “Apply division tie breaker to eliminate all but the highest ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2.” So looking at the first step of the divisional tie-breaking procedure it reads “Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games among the clubs).” Which means that with the Ravens, Colts, Dolphins and Jets, and the Dolphins and Jets being in the same division and the Jets having won the only matchup between these two teams so far, the Dolphins get eliminated right off the bat.
Now we’re left with the Ravens, Jets, and Colts. In conference games the Ravens are 2-2, the Jets are 1-2 and the Colts are 1-1. Skipping a few steps in the tie-breaking procedures that don’t apply here we see that because of these conference records the Jets are eliminated from contention because the Colts and Ravens are both .500 in conference game, while the Jets are .333, which means the Ravens and Colts are still tied.
Eventually what determines who grabs that last playoff is the fact that the two teams that the Ravens beat (Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns) are a combined 1-8 this season and the two teams that the Colts defeated (Minnesota Vikings and Houston Texans) are a combined 1-7 this season, which means the teams that the Colts beat have a better combined won-lost-tied percentage than that of the teams that the Ravens beat.
So the six teams from the AFC that would make the playoffs if the season were to end right now would be the Titans, Bills, Broncos, Steelers, Patriots and Colts. Leaving us with our final question, “What are the seedings?” Well, the Titans clearly have the first seed, and the Patriots and Colts get the fifth and sixth seeds respectively, so we just need to figure out seeds two through four. We know that these teams will be the Bills, Broncos and Steelers. We just don’t know which team will go where.
I used the same process to figure this out, that I used to figure out which of the 2-2 teams would get the sixth playoff spot, so this time around I’m not going to walk you through it, I will instead jump straight to the results. The seedings for the AFC side of the playoffs if the season ended right now, would be as follows:
1. Tennessee Titans
2. Denver Broncos
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Buffalo Bills
5. New England Patriots
6. Indianapolis Colts
Now, as you might expect, I will now give you my predictions for how things would play out if these actually were the seedings for the AFC side of the playoffs.
Disclaimer: The following prediction will be biased because that’s who I am. Plus the season isn’t ending right now and it’s highly unlikely that these will be the seedings by the end of the season, so this isn’t exactly a meaningful prediction. Moving on:
Wild Card Round:
6. Indianapolis Colts @ 3. Pittsburgh Steelers – Colts (Payback from 2005 season)
5. New England Patriots @ 4. Buffalo Bills – Patriots
6. Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans – Colts (That’s what they get for winning the division in 2002)
5. New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos – Patriots
6. Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots – Colts (Too many reasons to list)
And of course the Colts would go on to win the Super Bowl.
As always, if you have and questions, comments or criticism, please feel free to leave a comment.