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Playoffs for Dummies - Part III

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In Playoffs for Dummies - Part I, we discussed the playoff race as it pertains to our division.  In that story, we also went over the tiebreaking rules in gory detail.  Conclusion?  Win the division; it's a far better option than being thrown into the wildcard race with the entire cast of well performing AFC teams.  In Playoffs for Dummies - Part II, we discussed how teams move through the playoff system, how they're seeded, and who plays who.  In this installment, we will opine about wildcards and the current situation in the AFC.  As always, there's a few links you should keep open during this discussion: tie breaking procedures and the Playoff Tree.  In addition, our links guru, Marima, was a busy elf today; not only did she scribe our links, but she did a bang up job pulling together the AFC Wildcard Race - remaining schedules.  Santa owes you diamonds or maybe a signed, authentic Wes Welker jersey.  Uhhmm... moving on.

There are 4 divisions within each conference and 4 teams in each of those divisions, for a total of 16 teams per conference, 32 teams in all.  Concentrating on the AFC for now, 4 division champions are crowned at the end of the regular season.  These are the teams who a) have the best record in THEIR division or b) win a tie breaker with another team to take the division.  The remaining 12 team's records are then evaluated for the awarding of 2 wildcard spots.  Always remember, as in divisional championships, record is king with the awarding of a wildcard spot.  The 2 teams with the best record out of the remaining 12 are awarded wildcard spots 1 & 2.  If there's a tie, we visit our friend, the tie breaking rules.

The current situation in the AFC is this:

  • AFC South - 12-1 Titans have clinched division title
  • AFC West - 8-5 Broncos are 1 game away from clinching the division
  • AFC North - 10-3 Steelers and 9-4 Ravens are in a battle
  • AFC East - 3 way 8-5 tie between Jets, Dolphins, and Patriots

The divisions will most likely shake out like so: Titans (South), Broncos (West), Steelers (North).  The East is a mess.  If the Fins win out (that means beating the Jets in Week 17 and the Jets sink to 10-6), they take the division with an 11-5 record.  Hey, wait a cotton pickin' minute!!  If the Pats win out, we're 11-5, too!!  Hold on a dog gone minute!!  Tie breaking rules apply and guess what?  The Fins will have an 8-4 conference record while we'll be at 7-5.  We'll be thrown to the wolves in hopes of a wildcard spot.  Luckily, we'd beat out the Jets with a better percentage against common opponents.

That brings us to other AFC teams.  The Colts at 9-4, and an easy schedule to boot, are the odds on favorite for WC1.  That leaves WC2.  The Ravens are favored for that spot, but have Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Jacksonville remaining; there's a loss somewhere in there and methinks its Pitt.  They'd be 11-5 with a conference record of 8-4, beating our 7-5 conference record.

All we can do is win out and hope the football gods hand some losses to our division rivals.  If not, let's pray for a sudden downward spiral for the Ravens.  So you don't get too depressed: 2001.  That's the year another backup quarterback led us to an 11-5 season and a Super Bowl win against the greatest show on turf.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...