Thursday, November 18, 2010

NFL Playoff Picture: Week 11 Edition

The byes are over, and now every team has played 9 games. Let's take a look at this previous week and how the results went for the Jets.

Jets 26, Browns 20 - A big AFC win for the Jets. At 7-2, Gang Green is tied for the best record in the NFL, but if they aren't careful, they can slip to the #5 seed. That's because of the next score on this list.

Patriots 39, Steelers 26 - New England and New York are going to go wire-to-wire to determine who wins this division. The Jets hold the tiebreakers now with a 3-0 divisional record and a head-to-head win over the Patriots, but if New England beats the Jets on Monday, December 6th, both those tiebreaker advantages immediately disappear. Pittsburgh on the road was arguably the most difficult game on the Pats' schedule, so winning it now puts the pressure back on the Jets. For the Jets to win the division, they will most likely need a win over either the Steelers or the Patriots on the road, both difficult tasks. If the Jets do win the division, however, Pittsburgh's loss helps a little, as it drops them to 6-3, a game behind the Jets.

Dolphins 29, Titans 17 - A huge win for the Dolphins. They lost both of their quarterbacks, but Tyler Thigpen isn't much of a downgrade. Miami was all but done with a loss here. While their playoff hopes are still in deep trouble considering their two game deficit and head-to-head losses to the Jets and Patriots at home, the Dolphins will have chances against both their AFC East rivals later in the season. Both games will be on the road, but with three winnable games coming up before traveling to the Meadowlands, you can't count out the Dolphins just yet. Tennessee had an outside shot at getting a bye in the playoffs, but at 4 losses, they now need to win out to have a chance.

Falcons 26, Ravens 21 - This result and the Patriots' result ensured that the only two 2-loss teams in the AFC were the Patriots and Jets. This was the best result of the week for the Jets as the Ravens already hold the tiebreaker between the two teams. Baltimore still has to battle with the Steelers for the division title. Right now, the Ravens hold the tiebreaker with the head-to-head win. Regardless, the Jets want to remain ahead of the Ravens because of that week one result, whether it's for seeding or for a wild card spot.

Colts 23, Bengals 17 - If the Jets want a bye week, the Colts will be a factor. At 6-3, the Jets are a game ahead right now, but you can never count out Peyton Manning.

So let's look at the standings.

AFC East (overall, division, conference)

New York: 7-2,  3-0, 6-2
Remaining Opponents: HOU, CIN, @NE, MIA, @PIT, @CHI, BUF
4 games home, 3 games away
Combined Record: 31-32

Having edged out the Browns last week, the Jets now have two games in a row at home against teams they have no excuse losing to. If the Jets get to 9-2 as expected, they should be a lock for the playoffs. While the schedule gets much more difficult the next few weeks, a home game against the Bills in week 17 should be an easy win, putting the Jets at 10 wins and likely into the playoffs. If the Jets split the other four games, they have a good chance of winning the division. If one of those wins are against New England, and the Jets get to 12-4, the Patriots would have to win the rest of their games for the Jets not to win the AFC East.

New England Patriots: 7-2, 2-1, 6-2
Remaining Opponents: IND, @DET, NYJ, @CHI, GB, @BUF, MIA
4 games home, 3 games away
Combined Record: 33-30

With the Steelers out of the way, the Patriots' schedule doesn't look as daunting as it did previously. The three toughest tests on the schedule are all at home, where the Patriots rarely lose. However, there are only two teams you can classify as pushovers, and the Lions aren't that bad at home. If the Patriots win this week, the Jets-Patriots game should essentially decide the AFC East. If the Jets win, they own the tiebreaker and a one game lead, assuming both teams win the next two games. From that point, the Patriots have a slightly easier schedule, but with four games left, it would be very difficult for the Pats to leapfrog the Jets.

Miami Dolphins: 5-4, 1-2, 3-4
Remaining Opponents: CHI, @OAK, CLE, @NYJ, BUF, DET, @NE
4 games home, 3 games away
Combined Record: 31-34

Miami can ill-afford to lose any games the rest of the season. Losing tonight to Chicago won't end their season, since it's an NFC loss, but after that, the Dolphins pretty much need to run the table. With four losses already, all in conference and two within the division, they have a steep uphill climb. But with games still on the schedule against the two teams ahead of him, the Dolphins have a chance to pass them. It's unlikely the Dolphins get the wins they need on the road in December, but if they do, the rest of their games are all winnable, particularly when Buffalo and Detroit come to Miami between the two divisional games.

It's all still a little too complicated to look at seeding, but for argument's sake, here is the race for the #1 seed in the AFC.

1. New York Jets: 7-2, 5-1
2. New England Patriots: 7-2, 6-2
3. Baltimore Ravens: 6-3, 6-2
4. Indianapolis Colts: 6-3, 4-2
5. Pittsburgh Steelers: 6-3, 4-2
6. Oakland Raiders: 5-4, 3-2

The Jets will have head-to-head tiebreaker possibilities with New England, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. The Jets already beat the Pats once, but they will play again later in the year. Same goes for Baltimore over Pittsburgh, except the rematch will be in Baltimore. That's bad news for the Jets, who don't have the tiebreaker over the Ravens after Baltimore's win in week one. The Jets-Steelers week 15 matchup will determine who holds that tiebreaker.


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