With only five weeks left in the NFL season it’s that time of year where we can start talking about the playoffs and who can do what in which weeks to lock up a playoff spot or a certain seed in the playoffs. As of right now, only the Colts have locked up a playoff spot by clinching the division title with a win over Houston this past weekend, and with a little help from the 49ers, who beat the Jaguars.
The Colts are currently atop the AFC and with a win against the Titans this week they will be 12-0, which obviously means the worst they could possibly finish is 12-4. At this point there are only four other teams in the conference that even have a chance at finishing 12-4 or better: the Bengals, Chargers, Broncos and patriots. As of right now (even if the Colts lose all five or the remaining games) the worst possible seed they could get in the AFC is fourth. Now, if they win this week, the worst possible seed they could get would be third, because we have the tie-breaker over the patriots and only one of the AFC West teams (Chargers and Broncos) would be allowed to be seeded higher than the Colts.
If the Colts win this week and the all four of the other teams lose (extremely unlikely: the Benglas get the Lions at home, the Chargers face the Browns in Cleveland, the Broncos are traveling to Kansas City to play the Chiefs and the patriots go to Miami for a matchup against the Dolphins… so in all reality it’s much more likely that all of them will win rather then all of them lose but for the sake of being thorough…) then the worst seed the Colts would have is second, overtaking Chargers with the third tie-breaker.
Let’s break this down another way. I’ll show you how the Colts can surpass any of the teams that in theory are still mathematically capable of at least tying the Colts at the end of the season. So if the Colts lose all five of their remaining games they would be 11-5 and there would be only seven AFC teams that could even match that record. They are the four teams I mentioned before plus the three teams currently sitting at 6-5 (the Steelers, Ravens, and Jaguars). I will list each team and say the easiest way for the Colts to insure that the team isn’t able to get a higher seed than them in the playoffs either by preventing a tie with them at all or in the case of a tie what would need to happen for them to win the tie breaker. Keep in mind that no matter what, even if any of these teams tie or have a better record than the Colts at the end of the year but don’t win their division then they will not be able to have a higher seed. I will start with the easiest to explain:
The 6-5 teams (Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Jacksonville): As a blanket statement if the Colts win any game on the rest of their schedule or if these teams lose any one of theirs then they will be unable to tie them.
Jacksonville: The Colts have already won the AFC South, which the Jaguars are in so it is 100% impossible for the Jags to get a higher seed than the Colts, even if they win all of their remaining games and the Colts lose all of theirs.
Baltimore: The first tie-breaker used is the head-to-head matchup (if applicable) and the Colts beat the Ravens this year, so like the Jaguars it is 100% impossible for the Ravens to get a higher seed than the Colts, even if they do manage to come back and win the division over the Bengals.
Pittsburgh: The Colts and Steelers don’t play eachother this year, and the second tie breaker is the win percentage in conference games. If the Colts lose the rest of their games and the Steelers win the rest of theirs then the Colts will be 7-5 in conference and the Steelers will be 8-4. Therefore the only way that the Colts could get a higher seed than the Steelers in the event of a tie is if despite winning their final five games the Steelers don’t win the division, finishing behind either the Ravens or Bengals.
The 7-4 teams (Broncos and Patriots): If either of these teams fail to win their division they won’t have a higher seed than the Colts.
patriots: If the Colts win any one of their remaining five games or the patriots lose any one of theirs then the best the patriots will be able to do is tie the Colts record but lose the first tie breaker because the Colts beat them in the head-to-head matchup this year.
Denver: If the Colts win their head-to-head matchup with the Broncos in a couple weeks then the best the Broncos can do is tie the Colts record and the Colts will win the first tie-breaker with that victory. Or even if the Colts lose to the Broncos but win any two other games or the Broncos lose any two of theirs, or if the Colts win one and the Broncos lose one then the Broncos will be unable to tie the Colts record.
The 8-3 teams (Bengals and Chargers): If the Colts win any three of their remaining games they will lock-up the top seed in the AFC.
Bengals: If the Colts beat the Broncos OR the Jets plus any one other team on their schedule then the Bengals will be unable to get a higher seed. However even if the Colts lose all five of their remaining games if the Bengals lose to the Jets and any one other team left on their schedule the Colts will still get a higher seed.
Chargers: If the Colts beat the Titans OR the Browns plus any one other team on their schedule then the Chargers will be unable to get a higher seed. Also if the Chargers lose to the Titans and any one other teams left on their schedule then the Colts will get a higher seed.
But really the most simple way to say all this is that if the Colts win their next two games against the Titans and Broncos (both home games for the Colts) then they will have the first overall seed no matter what any of the other teams do and no matter happens in the final three weeks of the season. It is possible that the Colts could lock up the top seed with just a win this week over the Titans but a whole lot of other things would have to play into that as well. It also is not completely out of the question for the Colts to lose all five of their remaining games and still get the number one seed, it’s just not very likely. On the whole, however, I think we will all be rather surprised if the Colts don’t get home field advantage all the way through the playoffs.
If you would like to know what has to happen for your team to make the playoffs this year, or obtain a certain seed feel free to email us or ask in a comment and I will figure it out and post it. And to go ahead and get it out of the way, it is 100% mathematically impossible for the Browns, Buccaneers, Rams and Lions to make the playoffs. There are a large number of other teams that it is highly unlikely for, but those are the four that are in no possible way going to make the playoffs.
And as a final note, the only two teams that are capable of clinching a playoff spot and/or division title this week are the Saints, and Vikings. The Saints simply need to win or have the Falcons lose to clinch the NFC South and the Vikings either have to win or have the Packers lose to clinch the NFC North.
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