Well, once again I’ll be glued to the TV next weekend. It’s really nice to have Monday off 2 weeks in a row because the Sunday night games are relevant to the playoff picture.
It all starts next Saturday night with the late game:
New York Giants (10-5) at Oakland Raiders (4-11), 8 p.m. Saturday (ESPN)
The Giants can win the NFC East with a win, but they did get some help from the Ravens tonight. By beating Minnesota, Baltimore knocked the Vikings out of the playoff picture and allowed the Giants to back into a spot despite losing to Washington yesterday.
At the moment, the Giants are the #4 seed in the NFC. They could finish anywhere from #3 to #6 depending on results of theirs and other games.
To be a #3 seed, the Giants must win and Tampa Bay must lose to New Orleans. If that happens and Carolina wins their finale over Atlanta, the Giants must hope that enough of their beaten opponents win to carry the “strength of victory” tiebreaker. Currently the Giants’ defeated opponents have 3 more victories between them than Carolina’s defeated opponents do.
If the Giants simply defeat Oakland, or if Philadelphia beats Washington, New York is assured no worse than a #4 seed and a home game next week.
If the Giants lose to Oakland and do not win the NFC East, their seeding is determined by the NFC South contests. If both Carolina and Tampa Bay win, the Giants would finish as the #6 seed. If one wins and the other loses (or both lose), the Giants most likely finish #5. That would depend on how Tampa Bay’s defeated opponents do, since both teams would stand with both their conference record and common opponent record in a tie.
Carolina Panthers (10-5) at Atlanta Falcons (8-7), 1 p.m. Sunday (FOX)
Carolina needs to win and hope Tampa Bay loses to win the NFC South title. They currently could get the #3 seed if they win and both Tampa Bay and the Giants lose. Even if they don’t win the NFC South title, a win would give them a playoff berth as the #5 seed.
If Carolina loses they could miss the playoffs entirely if both the Dallas Cowboys and Washington emerge with wins.
Cincinnati Bengals (11-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (9-6), 1 p.m. Sunday (CBS)
Cincinnati needs to win to hold on to the #3 seed in the AFC, or else they need New England to lose to either the New York Jets tomorrow night or Miami Dolphins next Sunday.
Kansas City may hold the largest contingent of Detroit Lions fans outside the state of Michigan next week since the Chiefs must win and the Lions must beat the Pittsburgh Steelers for Kansas City to sneak into the playoffs as the #6 seed – possibly setting up a rematch in Cincinnati. If I were running the FOX station in KC, I’d be putting the Detroit-Pittsburgh game on.
Late edit: According to nfl.com, a win by San Diego against Denver on Saturday would also eliminate the Chiefs.
Detroit Lions (5-10) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5), 1 p.m. Sunday (FOX)
For Pittsburgh, it’s very simple. Win and they’re in as the #6 seed in the AFC. Lose and they need help from the Cincinnati Bengals. But it’s possible this game becomes irrelevant if San Diego wins Saturday afternoon. (see above.)
Miami Dolphins (8-7) at New England Patriots (
most likely 10-5 after tomorrow night’s game), 1 p.m. Sunday (CBS)
If New England chokes against the hapless 3-11 Jets, they deserve the #4 seed. This only becomes relevant as a game if they beat the Jets, otherwise New England is locked in as the #4 seed. Either way, I’m sure CBS is drooling over the possible matchups for the Patriots against either the Steelers in the first round or the Colts in the second round. The Steelers matchup only occurs if the Patriots win out and Kansas City wins over Cincinnati, while the Steelers knock off Detroit.
New Orleans Saints (3-12) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-5), 1 p.m. Sunday (FOX)
If Tampa Bay wins, they are set as the #3 seed in the NFC race, as they will be NFC South champions and win the tiebreaker over the Giants on the basis of conference record.
A loss could possibly eliminate them, but it would be highly unlikely as they defeated Washington earlier this season and Dallas would have to win on strength of victory where they are 4 wins behind Tampa Bay. Basically all three NFC East leaders and Tampa Bay would have to finish 10-6.
Washington Redskins (9-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-9), 4:15 p.m. Sunday (FOX)
If the Redskins win, they’re in. If they win and the Giants lose, they’ll win the NFC East. But because Tampa Bay beat the Redskins earlier this year, there’s no way Washington could be higher than a #4 seed.
If the Redskins lose, they’ll become huge St. Louis Rams fans because they’ll need the Rams to beat Dallas later that night in order to make the playoffs.
St. Louis Rams (5-10) at Dallas Cowboys (9-6), 8:30 p.m. Sunday (ESPN)
The final game of the regular season is only meaningful if Philadelphia wins earlier over Washington – otherwise they are both playing for pride.
So there’s 7 teams in each conference vying for 6 playoff spots. At the moment, their order is:
1. Indianapolis Colts (have won AFC South with a 13-2 record)
2. Denver Broncos (have won AFC West with a 12-3 record)
Both of those teams will get a bye through the opening round.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (have won AFC North with a 11-4 record)
4. New England Patriots (have won AFC East with a
current 9-5 10-5 record)
5. Jacksonville Jaguars (have locked up a wild card with a 11-4 record, 2nd in the AFC South)
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (currently have a 10-5 record, 2nd in the AFC North)
On the outside but still alive:
7. Kansas City Chiefs (currently have a 9-6 record, 2nd in the AFC West)
If the playoffs were held by the current standings, Indianapolis and Denver would get byes, Jacksonville would play at New England, and Pittsburgh would play at Cincinnati. I think this is the way things will shake out anyway after next week.
1. Seattle Seahawks (have won NFC West with a 13-2 record)
2. Chicago Bears (have won NFC North with a 11-4 record)
Both of those teams will get a bye through the opening round.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (lead NFC Sourth with a 10-5 record)
4. New York Giants (lead NFC East with a 10-5 record)
5. Carolina Panthers (currently have a 10-5 record, 2nd in the NFC South)
6. Washington Redskins (currently have a 9-6 record, 2nd in the NFC East)
On the outside but still alive:
7. Dallas Cowboys (currently have a 9-6 record, 3rd in the NFC East)
If the playoffs were held by the current standings, Seattle and Chicago would get byes, Carolina would travel to New Jersey to play the Giants, and Washington would be at Tampa Bay. Again, I think this is the way things will work out next week. But the team with the toughest game to me is Carolina, so it could be 3 NFC East teams in the playoffs.
Another interesting guessing game to me is who plays at what time and which day. The TV networks split the first-round coverage three ways. ABC gets the two Saturday games and FOX and CBS take care of Sunday’s. I’m not sure who picks the games covered, but I think FOX and CBS get their preferred games.
So let’s say the matchups above are the ones that occur. Here’s my prediction of the TV schedule.
Saturday (January 7th):
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, 4:30 p.m. (ABC)
Washington at Tampa Bay, 8:00 p.m. (ABC)
Sunday (January 8th):
Carolina at New York Giants, 4:30 p.m. (FOX)
Jacksonville at New England, 8:00 p.m. (CBS)
I’d like that schedule if it panned out. I especially hope that they do play the late Sunday games, so I can watch bowling beforehand!
There was another thing that happened today on account of the games played. Those results almost locked up the 2006 schedules for my two favorite teams, the Lions and the Browns. There’s only one question left for each schedule.
Lions 2006 opponents will be:
Home: Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota, San Francisco, Seattle, Buffalo, Miami, and Atlanta.
Away: Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota, Arizona, St. Louis, New England, New York Jets, and the 3rd place NFC East team (currently Dallas but possibly Washington).
I predict right now that the Thanksgiving game will be Miami at Detroit. The other turkey day game will be Washington at Dallas.
Browns 2006 opponents will be:
Home: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Denver, Kansas City, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and
most likely the New York Jets (unless the Jets win both their remaining games, then the Browns would host Buffalo in 2006.)
Away: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Oakland, San Diego, Atlanta, Carolina, and Houston.
The great thing about Baltimore winning tonight is that it knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs (since I hate the Viqueens) and it assured Cleveland of getting the “easier” fourth place schedule even if they kick the shit out of the Ravens next week (which I hope they do.)
Of course, Green Bay losing earlier tonight did the opposite for the Lions – instead of easier games against New Orleans and Philadelphia, the Lions will get two teams who will finish at .500 or better this year in Atlanta and the NFC East team.
But right now the combined record of Detroit’s opponents for next season is 113-127. The teams of the NFC North get a big advantage playing full slates against two weak divisions (NFC West and AFC East) next season.
Cleveland’s opponents combined are 124-116. This is mainly because the AFC North draws two tough divisions for most of its games (AFC West and NFC South.) So all four teams are in the same boat, but it may hurt them if the Browns are in the playoff hunt next season.
It will be interesting to see what happens next week. Hopefully things will work out best for teams I want to get into the playoffs.
I’ll update this tonight as needed if New England
runs into trouble with the Jets.