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Posted: Tuesday December 22, 2009 1:34PM; Updated: Tuesday December 22, 2009 2:08PM
Dom Bonvissuto
Dom Bonvissuto>INSIDE THE NFL

NFL Playoff Projections, Week 16

Story Highlights

Two NFC games in Week 17 could repeat in wild-card round

Eight teams vying for final two AFC playoff spots is complicated

If Cowboys win out, they'll take the NFC East division title

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Despite last week's loss to the Raiders, Brandon Marshall and the Broncos still control their own destiny for the postseason.
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Groundhog's Day isn't until February, but in the Bill Murray movie sense it could come a month earlier in the NFL. That's because two Week 17 games --Packers-Cardinals and Eagles-Cowboys -- could repeat on the schedule the very next week in the wild-card round. In fact, we project that exact scenario will play out in the NFC.

As for the AFC, everything isn't so neat and tidy. With two 8-6 teams (Ravens and Broncos) and six 7-7 teams (Jaguars, Dolphins, Jets, Steelers, Titans, Texans) vying for two playoff spots, the scenarios are complicated, to say the least. The simplest projection, obviously, is for Baltimore and Denver to win out. However, to provide as much clarity as possible, we have figured out the team vs. team tiebreakers for all eight teams should they finish at 9-7. They're listed in the corresponding Extra Points (in italics) below.

Additionally, we lay out the playoff picture two ways: 1) As though the season ended today, and 2) As though the season will play out the way we predict it will. We will use the NFL's official tiebreaker procedures to determine seeding. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail us or find us on Twitter. Week 16 clinching scenarios can be found here. Without further ado...

AFC

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (14-0)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 1 seed
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. N.Y. Jets (W); at Buffalo (W)
Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 16-0; No. 1
Extra Point: As evidenced by last Thursday's win over Jacksonville, the Colts do not appear to be letting up, so we're now projecting them to run the table.

***

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (11-3)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 2 seed
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Tennessee (L); vs. Washington (W)
Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 12-4; No. 2
Extra Point: There's no reason to believe the red-hot Chargers will lose their final two games. But should they stumble, and the Patriots win out, San Diego would fall to the No. 3 seed because they lose the common games tiebreaker with New England.

***

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (9-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 3 seed (wins tiebreaker with Cincinnati based on strength of victory)
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Jacksonville (W); at Houston (W)
Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 11-5; No. 3
Extra Point: The Patriots are a power broker in the race for the No. 5 and 6 seeds because they play two of the 7-7 teams. Ironically, by beating both the Jags and Texans, the Patriots will be helping clear a path for the division rival Jets and/or Dolphins to make the postseason.

***

CINCINNATI BENGALS (9-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 4 seed
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Kansas City (W); at N.Y. Jets (L)
Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 10-6; No. 4 (wins tiebreaker with Baltimore based on head-to-head)
Extra Point: Should the Bengals finish tied with the Patriots at either 10-6 or 11-5, the tiebreaker will be strength of victory, which is the combined winning percentage of the opponents a team has beaten. It currently favors New England, and likely still would after Week 17.

***

BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-6)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 5 seed (wins tiebreaker with Denver based on head-to-head)
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Pittsburgh (W); at Oakland (W)
Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 10-6; No. 5
Extra Point: We project the Ravens will win out, making their 9-7 tiebreakers moot. However, on the microscopic chance we are wrong, here's how the Ravens would stand:

At 9-7 (with loss to Steelers and win over Raiders), Baltimore would win tiebreaker with Steelers (division record), Broncos (head-to-head), Titans (conference record) and Texans (conference record); Baltimore would lose tiebreaker to Jags (conference record), Dolphins (common games), Jets (common games).

At 9-7 (with win over Steelers and loss to Raiders), Baltimore would win tiebreaker with Steelers (h2h), Broncos (h2h), Dolphins (common games), Titans (conference record) and Texans (conference record); Baltimore would lose tiebreaker to Jags (conference record) and Jets (common games).

***

DENVER BRONCOS (8-6)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 6 seed
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Philadelphia (L); vs. Kansas City (W)
Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 9-7; No. 6 (wins tiebreaker with Tennessee on conference record)
Extra Point: Oddly enough, we project the Broncos will lose to Philly this weekend but still make the postseason. Here's how the Broncos would stand at 9-7:

At 9-7 (with loss to Eagles and win over Chiefs), Denver would win tiebreaker with Dolphins (common games), Titans (conference record) and Texans (conference record); Denver would lose tiebreaker with Ravens (h2h), Jaguars (conference record), Jets (common games) and Steelers (h2h)

At 9-7 (with win over Eagles and loss to Chiefs), Denver would win tiebreaker with Titans (conference record); Denver would lose tiebreaker with Ravens (h2h), Jaguars (conference record), Dolphins (conference record), Jets (conference record) and Steelers (h2h). The Broncos tiebreaker with the Texans would be strength of victory (can't project right now).

***

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (7-7)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at New England (L); at Cleveland (L)
Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 7-9; out
Extra Point: First thing's first. Winning in Foxboro is a long shot for the Jags, not to mention a trip to rejuvenated Cleveland to end the season. But should Jacksonville find a way to get to 9-7, here's how its tiebreakers would look:

At 9-7, Jacksonville would win tiebreaker with Titans (division record), Jets (h2h), Steelers (conference record) and Texans (h2h); Jacksonville would lose tiebreaker with Dolphins (h2h). For a tiebreaker with the Ravens or Broncos, see Baltimore and Denver entries above.

***

MIAMI DOLPHINS (7-7)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Houston (W); vs. Pittsburgh (L)
Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 8-8; out
Extra Point: Wins over the Texans and Steelers would put the Dolphins in great shape, but they'd still need the Ravens or Broncos to lose one of their final two.

At 9-7, Miami would have a better record than the Texans and Steelers. Miami would win tiebreaker with Jaguars (h2h) and Jets (h2h); Miami would lose tiebreaker with Titans (h2h). For a tiebreaker with the Ravens or Broncos, see Baltimore and Denver entries above.

***

NEW YORK JETS (7-7)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Indianapolis (L); vs. Cincinnati (W)
Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 8-8; out
Extra Point: The bad news? The Jets have to beat the unbeaten Colts and the playoff-bound Bengals to reach 9-7. Worst news? They'd still have to get significant help to have a shot at the postseason.

At 9-7, New York would win tiebreaker with Steelers (conference record), Titans (h2h) and Texans (h2h); New York would lose tiebreaker with Jaguars (h2h) and Dolphins (h2h). For a tiebreaker with the Ravens or Broncos, see Baltimore and Denver entries above.

***

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (7-7)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Baltimore (L); at Miami (W)
Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 8-8; out
Extra Point: A common theme among the 7-7s is that winning out guarantees them precisely nothing, the Steelers included. Even with a win over the Ravens, Pittsburgh would still lose the division record tiebreaker with Baltimore. Here's how the tiebreakers break down for the Steelers:

At 9-7, Pittsburgh would have a better record than the Dolphins. Pittsburgh would win tiebreaker with Titans (h2h) and Broncos (h2h); Pittsburgh would lose tiebreaker with Jaguars (conference record), Jets (conference record), Ravens (division record or h2h), and Texans (common games).

***

TENNESSEE TITANS (7-7)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. San Diego (W); at Seattle (W)
Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 9-7; out
Extra Point: The Titans' poor conference record (5-7, if they win on Christmas) is crippling, but there's still hope.

At 9-7, Tennessee would win tiebreaker with Dolphins (h2h) and Texans (division record); Tennessee would lose tiebreaker with Jaguars (division record), Jets (h2h), Steelers (h2h), Ravens (conference record) and Broncos (conference record).

***

HOUSTON TEXANS (7-7)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Miami (L); vs. New England (L)
Final Projected Record; Playoff Seeding: 7-9; out
Extra Point: The only team in worse shape than the Titans is Houston, who lose tiebreakers with every team but the Dolphins and Steelers (and possibly the Broncos). Still, there's hope:

At 9-7, Houston would have a better record than the Dolphins. Houston would win tiebreaker with Steelers (common games); Houston would lose tiebreaker with Jaguars (h2h), Jets (h2h), Titans (division record) and Ravens (conference record). For a tiebreaker with Broncos, see Denver entry above.

AFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
Scenario No. 1 seed No. 2 seed No. 3 seed No. 4 seed No. 5 seed No. 6 seed
If Playoffs Started Today Indianapolis San Diego New England Cincinnati Baltimore Denver
SI.com Projections Indianapolis San Diego New England Cincinnati Baltimore Denver

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