Just when you thought it was going to stay tight in various NFL divisions, 2016 Week 13 came along. We saw DALLAS gain a firm 3-game lead in the NFC East, DETROIT jump out to a 2-game lead over Minnesota and Green Bay in the NFC North, SEATTLE maintain its 3-game lead in the NFC West and NEW ENGLAND vault to a 3-game lead in the AFC East. Other division races remain either tied (NFC South, AFC North and AFC South) or within one game at the top (AFC West).
That separation in various divisions has us looking at three division title clinching scenarios this week and Dallas and New England can first-round playoff byes, with Dallas also having a shot at claiming homefield advantage throughout the playoffs as the #1 seed.
Before we get to those scenarios and one involving Oakland gaining a playoff berth, let's recap Week 13. With DALLAS' win over Minnesota last Thursday and Washington's loss at Arizona, the COWBOYS clinched a playoff berth. Week 13 is the earliest DALLAS has clinched a playoff spot since 2007 when they clinched playoffs in Week 13, Division title in Week 14, a playoff bye in Week 15 and homefield advantage Week 16. That was also the year the 10-6 NY GIANTS beat the 13-3 COWBOYS on the road in the Divisional Round 21-17. :-)
Two teams were also eliminated from playoff contention during Week 13 as JACKSONVILLE's loss to Denver was the Jaguars final nail in the coffin and the NY JETS loss on Monday Night at home to Indy spelled their playoff doom. Jacksonville has failed to make the playoffs since 2007 and the NY Jets haven't seen Postseason since 2010. That leaves 28 teams in Super Bowl contention with four weeks to play which is 5th best in last 9 years, but 3 off last year's record number of 31 teams in contention.
QUIZ TIME: Which NFL team hasn't made the playoffs in ANY YEAR since the League realigned in 2002? Answer Below (and it might surprise you).
HERE ARE YOUR 2016 WEEK 14 OFFICIAL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS:
Dallas clinches division title:
1) DAL win
Dallas clinches a first-round bye:
1) DAL win + DET loss or tie
2) DAL win + SEA loss
Dallas clinches homefield advantage throughout NFC playoffs:
1) DAL win + DET loss or tie + SEA loss
Seattle clinches division title:
1) SEA win + ARI loss or tie
2) SEA tie + ARI loss
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
New England clinches division title:
1) NE win + MIA loss or tie
2) NE tie + MIA loss
New England clinches a first-round bye:
1) NE win + MIA loss or tie + PIT loss or tie
Oakland clinches a playoff berth:
1) OAK win + MIA loss or tie
2) OAK win + DEN loss
3) OAK tie + MIA loss + BAL loss or tie
4) OAK tie + MIA loss + PIT loss or tie
MORE NFL: SHOULD THE REDSKINS' OL TAKE SOME OF BLAME FOR RECENT LOSS?
OAKLAND's situation is interesting as the Raiders have two-team tiebreaker advantage over both New England and Miami (whichever one doesn't win the division when looking at playoff berth clinching scenarios). You then have to look to see if eitehr Miami or New England can use Kansas City or Denver to jump over Oakland in this exercise. Miami loses tiebreaker to Denver based on common opponents and canít use Kansas City since there is no scenario where the three-way KC-OAK-DEN tie ends with DEN finishing first, KC second and OAK third. Kansas City would win the AFC West in that tiebreaker in this scenario no matter what happens in future games after this Thursday. However, Miami CAN use Kansas City if Denver ties this week instead of loses and Denver wins division at 11-4-1 and KC and OAK tie at 11-5. New England can beat KC and jump Oakland in that same Denver division winner scenario. THUS...the need for a DENVER LOSS with an OAKLAND WIN as one clinching option this week.
TIEBREAKER NOTES AND ANECDOTES:
- If DALLAS were to clinch the #1 seed this week, not only will it be interesting to see what the COWBOYS do with playing time for Tony Romo and the Rookies, but it will also mean that DALLAS won't have "must-win" motivation when they face TAMPA BAY Week 15 and DETROIT Week 16...two teams firmly in the Playoff hunt.
- If NEW ENGLAND clinches the AFC East title this week, it will be the EIGHTH consecutive division title for the Patriots and 13 titles in the last 14 years. Amazing.
- If DALLAS were to clinch the #1 seed in week 14, it will be the earliest any NFL team has accomplished that since the 2009 Indianapolis Colts (who also did the same thing in 2005). No NFC team has clinched the #1 seed with three weeks to play since the 1985 Chicago Bears. Super Bowl Shuffle anyone?
QUIZ ANSWER: THE BUFFALO BILLS have not made the playoffs since realignment in 2002 (only NFL team) and haven't made the playoffs since 1999 which be remembered as the year Buffalo lost to Tennessee in the Wild Card Playoffs 22-16 in what is known as the "MUSIC CITY MIRACLE". Can you say Frank Wycheck?
PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS FOLLOWING WEEK 12:
SEED AFC NFC
1 New England Patriots Dallas Cowboys
2 Kansas City Chiefs Seattle Seahawks (jumps ATL for #2)
3 Pittsburgh Steelers Atlanta Falcons
4 Houston Texans Detroit Lions
5 Oakland Raiders New York Giants
6 Denver Broncos Washington Redskins (need to go 3-1 vs. TB 2-2)
Enjoy Week 14 and best of luck to your favorite team!