Our best commenter, Michael, asked about how his favorite team, the Redskins, could make the playoffs. So despite the fact that the Redskins are currently sitting at 3-8 and can do no better in the division than hope to tie the Cowboys for the top spot of the NFC East I will map out exactly what crazy miracles need to happen in order for this team to find it’s way into the playoffs.
The team currently in the lead of the NFC East is the Dallas Cowboys who have a record of 8-3. If the Cowboys lose their five remaining games and the Redskins win their five remaining games both teams will be at 8-8 for the end of the regular season. Unfortunately for Michael and his Redskins that if this were the record that would win the division it would mean that the Eagles only win for the rest of the season would be against the Cowboys, putting them at 8-8 as well and not only that but the Giants would only be able to win two games for the rest of the season which would have to be against the Cowboys and Eagles, putting the Giants at 8-8 also. This means we have to look to the tie-breakers with a four-way tie in the division.
Unfortunately (again) for the ‘skins the first tie-breaker within a division when the tie is between three or more teams is the win percentage within the division. The Giants and Eagles would each be 4-2 in the division and the Cowboys and Redskins would both be 2-4. And the Giants would win the division over the Eagles with the third tie-breaker of the best win percentage in common games. So it is absolutely, 100% impossible for the Redskins to win the division, which means that they’d have to grab one of the two NFC Wild Card spots.
Again, we’re going to go ahead and assume that the Redskins win all five of their remaining games and end up at 8-8. In this scenario (because we already know that the Redskins can’t win the division) we are going to have the Cowboys win the rest of their games, except for their remaining game against the Redskins, and finish 12-4. The Saints are going to win the rest of theirs, except for the game against the Redskins and the game against the Cowboys, putting them at 14-2. Minnesota will win all the rest of their games, finishing 15-1. Arizona will win all the rest of theirs except the one against Minnesota, finishing at 11-5.
Those four teams will be our division winners with seeds one through four in this order: Minnesota, New Orleans, Dallas, Arizona. The two wild card spots will be up for grabs. The Packers or Eagles will have to lose all of their remaining games, it doesn’t matter which one, but one of the two must lose all of their remaining games. For our example we’ll say that the Eagles lose all five of their final games, ending up at 7-9. With that being the case both the Giants and Falcons would be up to at least 7 wins, both would have to lose their other four games. We’ll say that the Packers only beat the Bears and Ravens for the rest of the season, finishing at 9-7.
The San Francisco 49ers would only be able to win two more games, one of which would have to be against the eagles and the other wouldn’t matter who it was against, but it should be noted that the do have both the Rams and Lions left on their schedule, so they would have to lose to one of those teams and then they would also be 7-9. Now there are only six teams left in the NFC that I haven’t addressed, three of which are already eliminated from the playoffs: the Rams, Lions and Buccaneers. The other three are the Bears, Panthers and Seahawks, who are all sitting at 4-7 right now. The Bears and the Panthers would have to finish 7-9 or worse. If they tied with the Redskins at 8-8 they would win the tie-breakers, the Panthers would win with head-to-head tie-breaker and the Bears would win with the better win percentage with games in common.
The situation with the Seahawks is a little stickier. In theory they would be able to win four of their final five games, but the game that they lost out of those five must be the game against the Buccaneers. They would beat the 49ers, Texans, Packers and Titans. So for the sake of making this even crazier let’s just say that happens. Then the Redskins and Seahawks would be tied at 8-8, fighting for the second Wild Card spot (Green Bay having seized the first one) and we would once again look to the tie-breakers.
The first tie-breaker is head-to-head. The two teams aren’t playing against each other this year so it’s inapplicable. The second tie-breaker is the win percentage within the conference. Both teams would be 5-7 in the conference, which is why two of the Seahawks final four wins would have to be against their final two AFC opponents. The third tie-breaker is win percentage among common opponents (with a minimum of four opponents in common) the four teams that both of these two teams faced are the Rams, Lions, Cowboys and Buccaneers. The Redskins would be 3-2 against those opponents (beating the Rams and Bucs but losing to the Lions and splitting with the Cowboys) and the Seahawks would also be 3-2 against these opponents (beating the Rams twice, the Lions once and losing to the Cowboys and Bucs), which is why the one game that the Seahawks would lose must be to the Bucs.
The fourth tie-breaker is more complicated still. It is “strength of victory” which is like strength of schedule but you only include the teams that lost to the given team rather than all the teams they faced. Now with the teams that they would have each beaten in this scenario it seems that the Redskins would win this fourth tie-breaker but it would depend on what happened among the the AFC teams that lost to the Seahawks and Redskins. I’m going to go ahead and say that it would be a pretty safe bet to give that one to the Redskins though.
So with the way I had this scenario play out, here is what the final NFC standings would look like:
1. Minnesota Vikings (15-1)
2. New Orleans Saints (14-2)
3. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)
4. Arizona Cardinals (11-5)
5. Green Bay Packers (9-7)
6. Washington Redskins (8-8)
7. Seattle Seahawks (8-8)
8. Philadelphia Eagles (7-9)
9. New York Giants (7-9)
10. Atlanta Falcons (7-9)
11. San Francisco 49ers (7-9)
12. Carolina Panthers (7-9)
13. Chicago Bears (7-9)
14. Detroit Lions (4-12)
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-13)
16. St. Louis Rams (2-14)
And the playoff matchups for the NFC would look like this:
1. Minnesota Vikings – First Round BYE
2. New Orleans Saints – First Round BYE
3. Dallas Cowboys vs 6. Washington Redskins (in Dallas)
4. Arizona Cardinals vs 5. Green Bay Packers (in Arizona)
Now the standing wouldn’t have to be exactly like this and the records wouldn’t all have to be exactly like this but it would have to be something pretty similar and as equally unlikely. So, Michael, I hate to rain on you parade but I just can’t see this one panning out for you.
As for everyone else, feel free to email or comment requesting me to do something similar for your team, but I can’t guarantee it will be quite this in depth. I’m considering this a special favor to our #1 commenter.