But, regardless of that outcome, both teams will almost certainly make the playoffs. So, here is my evaluation of the NFL playoff picture, complete with what I think is the right combination of conjecture and logic.
AFC Playoff Picture
Most-likely standings (though things can obviously change, and upsets always happen):
1. Denver Broncos: (AFC West winner): 14-2 or 13-3
2. New England Patriots (AFC East winner): 12-4 or 13-3
3. Cincinnati Bengals (AFC North winner): 10-6 or 11-5
4. Indianapolis Colts (AFC South winner): 10-6
It will be a huge surprise if any of those teams doesn’t win its division. Yes, that includes the Chiefs, who are just one game back of the Broncos, because they lost the tiebreaker, and the Broncos will be pretty big favorites in each of their remaining four games. I basically just went through each team’s schedule, assumed they’d win games in which they’ll be heavy favorites, said “maybe” for games in which the spread will be small, and given a loss if expected to be heavy underdogs. It’s obviously just guesswork, but it’s rational guesswork. It’s fun.
5. Kansas City Chiefs (1st Wild Card): 12-4
6. Steelers or Chargers at 8-8, or a bajillion teams tied at 7-9. (2nd Wild Card)
My guesses for records:
Jets: 7-9 (I know they look awful, but they’re playing the Raiders and Browns at home)
Steelers: 7-9 if Aaron Rodgers plays vs. them… 8-8 if not
Chargers: 7-9… but 8-8 if they can beat the Chiefs again, something that’s especially likely if KC rests its starters in Week 17
So, the AFC’s sixth seed looks like it likely may be decided by Aaron Rodgers. If he’s out for the year, something that might happen, the Steelers look pretty good. If not, the Titans look like they might sneak in.
Here’s my guess to what happens if Rodgers doesn’t play again, which if I had to guess, will happen (but I don’t know):
Note: I’m being pessimistic and assuming the Steelers lose to the Bengals at home. If they don’t, Rodgers’ injury might not matter. The Steelers look pretty good.
If Rodgers plays, the Titans have a great chance of sneaking in. Unless the Steelers do in fact beat the Bengals.
Here’s what I think:
– The Steelers have the best shot at the playoffs. Then the Chargers and Titans. Then I think there’s a big drop-off. But the Ravens have shut people up before, so you never know.
– The Ravens and Dolphins are more screwed than it looks.
– If the Titans had Jake Locker, they’d probably be the favorites. Their chances still look decent, though, especially if Rodgers keeps sitting.
– The Jets have a great chance of winning two more games, which means they could somehow sneak in if they beat the Dolphins in Week 17. Really. But, it’s probably not happening. They’re looking at 7-9 and a bad draft pick for an offense with “more holes to fill than Lisa Ann.” (NOTE: STOLEN JOKE)
– The Chargers have a decent shot, especially since they get Kansas City, at home, in a game that the Chiefs may want to rest their players, locked into the No. 5 spot.
– The Week 15 Cincy/Pittsburgh matchup, in Pittsburgh, is HUGE. We’ll know a lot after that.
– If the Bengals lose that game, and the Pats keep winning as expected, they’ll lock up a bye over the Bengals. Which means there’s a chance that Cincy and/or the Pats rest their players in Week 17. That gives the Ravens new life, who play in Cincy, Week 17. And the Bills, who play in New England.
– Except at the same time, it saps life from the Ravens, because they’re directly competing with the Steelers. So, they can’t root for this indirect help, because it will directly hurt them.
– So, the Ravens are in a tough spot.
– Seriously, Aaron Rodgers’ injury and the Cincy/Pitt matchup is what will likely decide what happens.
Final note: Betting odds suggest that Baltimore is a much better bet to make the playoffs than the Steelers, but I disagree. They should beat Minnesota this week. But they’ll be deserved underdogs in Detroit and vs. New England. Then, it will come down to a game at Cincinnati, where they’ll also assuredly be underdogs… unless Cincy is resting players. So, there’s a good chance it comes down to that.
But, like I said, if Cincy is resting players, it probably means that Pittsburgh has a leg-up on Baltimore. So, Ravens’ fans should root for Cincy… and then hope they score the upset in Cincy.
Then what? The Patriots and Broncos will be absolutely massive favorites to play each other in the AFC Championship. If the game is in Denver, the Broncos will be favored by a small amount. Probably would be 2.5-3.5 today.
The point is, whoever the sixth Wild Card team is will be overmatched vs. either of these teams, and have an incredibly small chance at making a Super Bowl run. Cinderella stories happen, but the Cinderella teams are usually better than these scrubs.
NFC Playoff Picture
1. Seattle Seahawks: 14-2 or 13-3 (again, I think they win tonight, but it’s not at all a guarantee)
2. New Orleans Saints: 12-4 (at Carolina will be tough)
3. Detroit Lions: 10-6
4. Dallas Cowboys/Philadelphia Ealges: NO IDEA SRSLY (more on this later)
5. Carolina Panthers: 12-4 (a home/home split with the Saints seems likely)
6. San Francisco 49ers: 11-5 or 12-4 (Carolina has the tiebreaker, so even if they win out, there’s a good chance they’ll be No. 6)
Here’s what I think:
– Even if Aaron Rodgers comes back and the Packers win out, it looks like they’ll miss out on the playoffs.
– The Cardinals will likely have to win in Seattle (hahahaha… unless they rest their players in Week 15?), AND vs. San Francisco to make the playoffs.
– The Eagles/Cowboys division loser probably won’t win the Wild Card, but it could feasibly happen if SF and ARI mess up.
– The Cowboys play in Denver, with Jay Cutler expected to come back, and vs. Green Bay, with Rodgers maybe back, the next two weeks.
– The Eagles/Cowboys Week 17 winner will probably win the division, but it’s not a guarantee. Dallas will be slight favorites, most likely, because they’re at home. So, they’re slight favorites to win the division.
Here’s my best guess at the whole outcome, but I will likely be wrong, because my head is spinning.
I’m somewhat confident in the Steelers making the playoffs. But they’ve been putrid at times, so don’t bet on it. And Dallas will need to beat the Eagles. I’m not confident about that. I am confident the 49ers make it. The rest of the teams all seem safe, too.
Then what happens? Just like in the AFC, the top two seeds will be HEAVY favorites to meet in the championship, and then the home team will be a pretty big favorite, presuming that it’s Seattle. Then, depending on how the rest of the season goes, one team would probably be a small favorite in the Super Bowl. As of now, I think it’d be the Broncos.
So, we’re looking at a Broncos/Seahawks Super Bowl… unless shit hits the fan. And as you know, the fan perennially reeks of shit.