nfl playoff scenarios

I’m always pretty nerdily fascinated by the quirks of the NFL playoff scenarios as the season gets to its end, where we get into the tie breaker scenarios and have teams needing this or that to happen to get in.  This year we have a bit of a doozy heading into this final week, with four teams vying for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC… and none of them in control of their own destiny.  (Unlike, say, the NFC where the New Orleans Saints would be in if they win or if they Arizona Cardinals lose.)

8-7 Miami Dolphins … play the 7-8 New York Jets
8-7 Baltimore Ravens … play the 10-5 Cincinnati Bengals
8-7 San Diego Chargers … play the 11-4 Kansas City Chiefs
7-8 Pittsburgh Steelers … play the 4-11 Cleveland Browns

The Dolphins, Ravens, and Steelers all play in the early game slot, and the Chargers play the late time slot — the league does a good time in rearranging the last week to assure as much possible meaning as they can get out of the match-ups, but here they’re stuck with a bit of a possible non-game matter.

The permutations go like this
If the Dolphins Win and the Ravens lose
OR if the Ravens Win and the Dolphins lose…
the winner is the 6th seed, and the Chargers / Chiefs game means nothing for the playoffs.

If the Dolphins and the Ravens both lose, and the Steelers win…
The Chargers / Chiefs game will decide whether the Chargers are in or the Steelers… the Chiefs would be playing for the Steelers playoff lives.
It should be noted that the Steelers playoff chances hinge on the fact that the Jets won last week, to set up a 5 team tie possibility.

And here’s where things get really nutty.
If the Dolphins and the Ravens both lose and the Steelers lose…
The Dolphins / Chiefs will determine if it’s the Chargers or the Ravens… the Chiefs would now be playing for the Ravens.
If the Dolphins and the Ravens both win…
The Chargers / Chiefs game will be a proxy where the Chargers are now playing for the Ravens and the Chiefs now playing for the Dolphins.

All very amusing.  I would have liked it if the Chargers / Chiefs were playing with the other games, so that the Ravens and Dolphins fans wouldn’t be sure who the hell they’re rooting for in that game, and cascade back and forth with how the teams’ fortunes go…

And it’s all a moot point probably.  The Kansas City Chiefs coach seems to be ready to play things conservatively, locked as they are in the 5th seed, so the game becomes a gimmie for the Chargers.  Sorry, Steelers fans.  And… either the Ravens or Dolphins… dunno.

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