Week 14 was very good for the Patriots playoff chances. Not quite a home run, but good enough that their playoff seed is standing at third base, waiting for week 15 to drive it in. Here is a review of the week that was, with updated scenarios for the Pats.
First the important news. The Patriots victory over Baltimore did two things: gave them the inside track to the #1 seed, and pushed the Ravens much closer to missing the playoffs entirely. Oakland’s loss gave the Patriots the pole position for that coveted #1 spot. And FiveThirtyEight gives the Pats more than a 99% chance of a first round bye. The Ravens, who are 2-2 versus New England in Foxboro playoff games, have just a 27% chance of making the playoffs at all. Phew!
The Patriots also inched closer to a division title, which will happen the next time they don’t lose or the Dolphins don’t win. New England can also earn a playoff bye if they win and get either: (a) losses or ties by Miami and Pittsburgh, or (b) a Miami loss or tie coupled with a Kansas City win.
The aforementioned loss by Oakland came at Kansas City. Both teams are tied at 10-3, a game behind the 11-2 Patriots. Their game also provided evidence that the Raiders aren’t the juggernaut some thought they were. And KC’s three turnovers and various other mistakes make it appear to be a much clearer path to the Super Bowl for the local team.
All that said, the AFC West co-leaders each have a 99% chance of making it to the playoffs. And both clinch post-season berths with victories this weekend.
Speaking of the AFC West, the Broncos lost to Tennessee, putting a severe dent in a fading attempt to defend their title. They are two games behind both the Raiders and Chiefs. And even though they have a 54% chance of making the tournament, they have almost no chance to get a bye or a home game.
Pittsburgh’s win over Buffalo essentially ended Rex Ryan’s hopes for the post-season. Not that Ryan was much of a threat. But you’d rather avoid divisional opponents in the playoffs, especially when the head coach in question beat you at home in the 2010 playoffs.
Pittsburgh is now a game up on the Ravens, but the Steelers can’t count their chickens yet. Even though they are listed with an 82% chance to win the division, they have a road game against Cincy and then a showdown with the Ravens in the Steel City on Christmas day.
Having the one-game lead is huge, but that schedule makes it seem like their chances are less than 82%. Neither team can clinch anything this weekend, but a Baltimore loss would effectively knock them out of post-season contention.
The AFC South is a muddled mess. Houston leads the division right now, owning a 4-0 record in the division for a tie-breaker lead over Tennessee. Both teams are 7-6, and the Colts are one-game back at 6-7. The Texans stellar division record gives them a 75% chance of winning the AFC South, with the majority of the balance going to the Titans. They might be headed for a week 17 showdown in Nashville. Indy is just about cooked, with only a 3% chance to extend their season.
The Dolphins appeared ready to pounce if the Broncos faltered. Both teams are 8-5, and Miami has the easier schedule down the stretch. But starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is out indefinitely with a knee injury, and their playoff hopes got a lot dimmer this weekend. FiveThirtyEight has them at 27%, but that probably doesn’t factor in the injury to Tannehill.
And you can get ready to play “Taps” for the Bengals and Chargers. Both are hanging on by a thread but are behind too many teams to climb that mountain. Better luck next year, guys.