No power rankings this week, or continuing forward. After Thanksgiving, they just seem even doubly pointless, since this is not the BCS. We’ve narrowed it down to less than a third of the season remaining, the end line comes into a little more focus, and we can start to at least get a sense of tiebreaker scenarios. Early in the season, it’s at least a fun discussion point to evaluate and argue teams. At this point, does it matter if the Eagles go 3-2 or 2-3 down the stretch? Or what I think of Kansas City or Cleveland? I’ll still make the game picks in the weekly Pigsplosion, and any thought I have about those teams will tend to come through there.
So rather than continuing the Power Rankings, I’m going to do a playoff rankings post, setting forth the teams in each conference who are mathematically still alive by projected wins, seed, and discussing the impact of the week’s games.
AFC PLAYOFF PROJECTION RANKINGS
- New England (12.0 wins)
- Baltimore (11.7 wins)
- Houston (11.5 wins)
- Oakland (9.5 wins)
- Pittsburgh (11.9 wins)
- Cincinnati (9.5 wins)
- Denver (8.6 wins)
- New York Jets (8.5 wins)
- Tennessee (8.3 wins)
- Buffalo (7.4 wins)
Not officially out, but need to win all and get lots of help: San Diego (4-7), Kansas City (4-7), Cleveland (4-7), Jacksonville (3-8), Miami (3-8)
Officially eliminated: Indianapolis (0-11)
Analysis: If you will notice, I have Baltimore listed as the #2 seed for now even though Pittsburgh has a slightly higher win projections with the remaining schedule. It’s close enough, and Baltimore has the tiebreaker over Pittsburgh. New England and Baltimore are neck and neck. The tiebreaker is not decided (they will go to conference record, then common games).
The key game that could decide Baltimore and New England is the Baltimore at San Diego game. It is a conference game, and also comes into play as a common game, which Baltimore would win if they beat San Diego (because of New England’s loss at Pittsburgh).
My Houston projection takes into account the QB situation. They should still easily win the division, but will have to win a swing game (vs. Atlanta or @ Cincinnati) to jump into bye consideration.
Cincinnati is the current projected final wildcard, though they would lose a tiebreaker to Denver on head to head. Denver also has the tiebreaker over the Jets. If Cincinnati gets to 10 wins, I think they are in. At 9-7, they are vulnerable to losing tiebreakers.
The Jets have issues with a potential conference tiebreaker, with all 5 losses coming to AFC teams so far. Buffalo and Tennessee are still alive, but have several swing type games that could go either way, and must win virtually all of them, including their contest this week.
Most important games this week: Tennessee @ Buffalo is basically an elimination game, though both will probably end up coming short. Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh, of course, has big importance both for the #1 seed, and to see if Cincinnati can be caught for the #6 seed. Houston probably needs to beat Atlanta to have a chance at a bye.
NFC PLAYOFF PROJECTION RANKINGS
- Green Bay (15.0 wins)
- San Francisco (12.2 wins)
- New Orleans (11.8 wins)
- Dallas (10.2 wins)
- Atlanta (9.6 wins)
- Detroit (9.6 wins)
- Chicago (9.7 wins)
- NY Giants (8.5 wins)
Still technically alive: Philadelphia (4-7), Seattle (4-7), Arizona (4-7), Tampa Bay (4-7), Washington (4-7), Carolina (3-8), Minnesota (2-9)
Eliminated: St. Louis (2-9)
Analysis: Green Bay put the stranglehold on the one seed, and the question is whether New Orleans can catch San Francisco for the #2. New Orleans has tiebreaker issues right now because of conference losses (3 vs. 1 for SF).
New York needs a win against Green Bay and should be in desperation mode for several reasons. One, to keep pace with Dallas, who I now project to have 1.7 more wins even with a season split. Two, because it could be a key win for a tiebreaker if common games come into play with Atlanta/Detroit/Chicago, where the Giants are currently hurting with 5 conference losses and probably cannot afford a sixth.
I have Chicago with a slightly higher win projection, but out of the playoffs because of the current tiebreakers. Detroit likely wins a common games tiebreaker with Chicago if they beat Minnesota because of the loss to San Francisco, whom Chicago did not play (that common games tiebreaker win would not be true if Chicago somehow still ends in a tie despite losing at home to Seattle, and it would not get there if the Bears upset the Packers). Because ties are broken within divisions before they are broken across, that is a potential hurdle to winning a tiebreaker against Atlanta. And the Falcons own the tiebreaker over the Lions. The chase for the #5, #6 seeds and being out is narrow.
Most important games this week: Green Bay @ NY Giants is huge for the Giants. If they want to make the playoffs, they likely need the upset. Detroit @ New Orleans, with Suh likely suspended, is another big one. New Orleans can basically put a stranglehold on securing a playoff spot with a win, while Detroit would get a huge win and likely become a favorite for the #5 seed.
[photo via Getty]