Shaping the playoffs – weeks 16 & 17

Shaping the playoffs – weeks 16 & 17
Reading Time: 11 minutes.

In the last in this series I’m taking a look at the final two weeks of the season together. Seeing how they might impact the seedings headed into the playoffs. With the new expanded playoffs, and the additional third wildcard spot in each conference, the number 1 seed is the most coveted. As it is the only way to guarantee your team a much-needed bye week. There is less emphasis though on ensuring you have a home game, with little or no crowds in the stands. As a result, the matchup may be as important as whether you are home or away.

The key games to look out for over the next two weeks are as follows:

Week 16

Miami Dolphins @ Las Vegas Raiders. Will the Raiders try to drag the Dolphins down into the depths of missing out on the playoffs?

Indianapolis Colts @ Pittsburgh Steelers. Can the Colts keep pace with the Titans or will it be the Steelers trying to stop their slide down the seedings?

LA Rams @ Seattle Seahawks. The Rams have been stung by the loss to the Jets, can the Seahawks hold them off and hang on to the division?

Everything NFC East – nobody is out of it yet!

Week 17

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns. The Steelers finish to the season is as tough as any, where will the Browns priorities be in week 17?

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills. Will Miami still be alive in week 17? If so, will the Bills look to finish off their division rivals?

Washington Football Team @ Philadelphia Eagles. I think this is the only game that matters in the East by week 17.

NFC West Divisional Games – last chance for the Rams, Seahawks and Cardinals to jockey for position in the seedings. Will the 49ers be the berserker and upset the Cardinals and Seahawks chance in these last two weeks?

Here is how I think the final seedings and first round of the playoff matches will pan out:

AFC Playoffs

#1 Kansas City Chiefs (predicted 15-1)

The Chiefs are now strolling towards the first seed. Lock it in now, the route to the AFC Super Bowl representative runs through Arrowhead Stadium. Their last six wins have been by one score but they have played some of the better defenses in recent weeks (Saints, Dolphins, Broncos, Buccaneers). Neither of their last two opponents (Falcons, Chargers) should prove a struggle to overcome. The Chiefs will get an all important week off to start the playoffs.

#2 Buffalo Bills (13-3)

Another of the AFC powerhouses who are in full flow as the regular season draws to a close. The question for the Bills will probably revolve around what do they do in week 17 against the Dolphins and whether they rest any starters. I think the opportunity to put away a divisional rival and to maintain their second seeding will be the priority.

#3 Cleveland Browns (12-4)

The Browns have efficiently dealt with half of New York and the other half should follow next week against the Jets. In the final week, I’m mapping out that the Browns will have the chance to steal the division title away from the Steelers, they simply look the better outfit as the season draws to a close. As the Browns beat the Titans in week 13 they would take the third seed.

#4 Tennessee Titans (12-4)

The Titans offense is rolling. They have scored more than 30 points each of the last five games. Their defense remains the achilles heel, in the ‘“bend but don’t break” image giving up yards and points. Can a team with little or no pass rush or pass defines win a title? The week 16 clash versus the Packers is a nice AFC/NFC matchup but I’m taking the Titans as the form team and they will sweep the Texans away in the final week to take the division.

#5 Indianapolis Colts (12-4)

As stated above, I think the Colts can make it past the Steelers on Sunday and the Jaguars should provide almost no competition. This will give the Colts their wildcard spot and the fifth seed as the team with the best wildcard record. The Titans hold the advantage in the division to keep the Colts to a wildcard position.

#6 Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

The Steelers are imploding. They have the toughest slate to end the season and will be mighty glad of that 10-0 start. They finish home to the Colts and away at the Browns. Big Ben versus Philip Rivers should be fascinating, a cold weather game between two ageing quarterbacks with diminishing powers. The Steelers need to stop the bleeding but I think the damage is done. The Colts defense will prove too much and the Browns will send the blood in the water and a shot at snatching the division title in week 17. The Steelers two victories over the Ravens stops the slide at sixth.

#7 Baltimore Ravens (11-5)

The Ravens have little by way of troublesome opponent as they complete the season (Giants, Bengals) and will achieve the five game winning streak to give them momentum headed into the playoffs. Even though they will be going in as the seventh seed, no one is going to relish a match up with Baltimore in January! Apologies to Miami Dolphins fans but I think you will end up 10-6 and missing out despite an excellent season.

This would give us the following games in the AFC wildcard round of the playoffs (interesting that it would set up two divisional clashes!):

Baltimore Ravens @ Buffalo Bills

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns

Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans

NFC Playoffs

#1 Green Bay Packers (predicted 12-4)

As mentioned in the AFC section, I think the Packers meet the Titans at the wrong time and they will need the final season game against the Bears to secure a twelfth win and the number one seeding. Remember they hold the tie-breaker over the Saints after their week 3 meeting.

#2 New Orleans Saints (12-4)

The Saints are in that fortunate position where a loss resulted in them bumping up to the second seed, courtesy of the Rams capitulation to the Jets. They should be able to take full advantage in the final two weeks to cement that seeding. Their defense is Super Bowl calibre so all that remains is to work out if they can find a way on offense to match it. Even with a 12-4 final record a trip to Lambeau Field probably beckons in January.

#3 LA Rams (11-5)

Nobody saw that coming. The Rams were an embarrassment against the previously winless Jets, and coach Sean McVay is not going to let them forget it. There remain serious questions about Jared Goff’s ability to lead the Rams back to the Super Bowl but they have knack of beating the Seahawks. That should secure the division but I’m predicting a final day loss to the Cardinals that will keep the nagging doubts about the Rams in mind.

#4 Washington Football Team (6-8) – Panthers, @Eagles

The NFC East is fascinating. At the moment no one is out of it but Washington hold a slim lead I don’t expect them to relinquish, mainly because the other teams are not good enough to overtake them. A week 16 win over the Panthers should be enough to clinch the most unlikely of divisional wins in 2020.

For the wildcard spots, two of the three sides could finish 11-5, and I think(!) based on tie-breaking procedures Tampa Bay could snatch the fifth seed away from Seattle.

#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)

The Buccaneers remain a curate’s egg as they will stroll towards the playoffs. Last week they gave the Atlanta Falcons 17-0 head start during the first half but managed to come away with the win. They finish against the Lions and a second meeting with the Falcons. I can see a relatively straightforward two further wins and a final 11-5 record but they will struggle in the playoffs if they continue to start slow on offense.

#6 Seattle Seahawks (11-5)

Seattle cannot believe their luck. They stumbled their way to a 20-15 win over Washington, then sat back and watched the Rams lose to the Jets. For me, the Seahawks are the “just about’ team of the NFC, everything is just about good enough to get them to the playoffs. The schedule has been kind with only five games against teams with a better than .500 record (W2 L3). The problem is Seattle have not beaten the Rams since December 2016. I think a second loss to the Rams next week restricts Seattle to a wildcard spot, but the final day should see them beat the 49ers.

#7 Arizona Cardinals (10-6)

The Cardinals are going to be one of the most exciting teams to watch in the playoffs. Their offense, in a one-off playoff game, is always going to be dangerous, and they will have nothing to fear. Similar to the Ravens in the AFC, I think they are going to take momentum into the playoffs by beating both the 49ers and the Rams in the final two weeks of the season. They may not go all the way in the playoffs but they will cause considerable difficulties for their opponents. The wildest of all the wildcards.

This would give us the following games in the NFC wildcard round of the playoffs:

Arizona Cardinals @ New Orleans Saints

Seattle Seahawks @ LA Rams

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Washington Football Team

Who knows how it will all pan out? All that remains is to wish all our ninetynineyards.com readers a happy and healthy Merry Christmas and see you in the New Yea

In the last in this series I’m taking a look at the final two weeks of the season together and how they might impact the seedings headed into the playoffs. With the new expanded playoffs, and the additional third wildcard spot in each conference, the number 1 seed is the most coveted as it is the only way to guarantee your team a much-needed bye week. There is less emphasis though on ensuring you have a home game, with little or no crowds in the stands. As a result, the matchup may be as important as whether you are home or away.

The key games to look out for over the next two weeks are as follows:

Week 16

Miami Dolphins @ Las Vegas Raiders – will the Raiders try to drag the Dolphins down into the depths of missing out on the playoffs?

Indianapolis Colts @ Pittsburgh Steelers – can the Colts keep pace with the Titans or will it be the Steelers trying to stop their slide down the seedings?

LA Rams @ Seattle Seahawks – the Rams have been stung by the loss to the Jets, can the Seahawks hold them off and hang on to the division?

Everything NFC East – nobody is out of it yet!

Week 17

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns – the Steelers finish to the season is as tough as any, where will the Browns priorities be in week 17?

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills – will Miami still be alive in week 17 and, if so, will the Bills look to finish off their division rivals?

Washington Football Team @ Philadelphia Eagles – think this is the only game that matters in the East by week 17.

NFC West Divisional Games – last chance for the Rams, Seahawks and Cardinals to jockey for position in the seedings. Will the 49ers be the berserker and upset the Cardinals and Seahawks chance in these last two weeks?

Here is how I think the final seedings and first round of the playoff matches will pan out:

AFC

#1 Kansas City Chiefs (predicted 15-1)

The Chiefs are now strolling towards the first seed. Lock it in now, the route to the AFC Super Bowl representative runs through Arrowhead Stadium. Their last six wins have been by one score but they have played some of the better defenses in recent weeks (Saints, Dolphins, Broncos, Buccaneers). Neither of their last two opponents (Falcons, Chargers) should prove a struggle to overcome. The Chiefs will get an all important week off to start the playoffs.

#2 Buffalo Bills (13-3)

Another of the AFC powerhouses who are in full flow as the regular season draws to a close. The question for the Bills will probably revolve around what do they do in week 17 against the Dolphins and whether they rest any starters. I think the opportunity to put away a divisional rival and to maintain their second seeding will be the priority.

#3 Cleveland Browns (12-4)

The Browns have efficiently dealt with half of New York and the other half should follow next week against the Jets. In the final week, I’m mapping out that the Browns will have the chance to steal the division title away from the Steelers, they simply look the better outfit as the season draws to a close. As the Browns beat the Titans in week 13 they would take the third seed.

#4 Tennessee Titans (12-4)

The Titans offense is rolling. They have scored more than 30 points each of the last five games. Their defense remains the achilles heel, in the ‘“bend but don’t break” image giving up yards and points. Can a team with little or no pass rush or pass defines win a title? The week 16 clash versus the Packers is a nice AFC/NFC matchup but I’m taking the Titans as the form team and they will sweep the Texans away in the final week to take the division.

#5 Indianapolis Colts (12-4)

As stated above, I think the Colts can make it past the Steelers on Sunday and the Jaguars should provide almost no competition. This will give the Colts their wildcard spot and the fifth seed as the team with the best wildcard record. The Titans hold the advantage in the division to keep the Colts to a wildcard position.

#6 Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

The Steelers are imploding. They have the toughest slate to end the season and will be mighty glad of that 10-0 start. They finish home to the Colts and away at the Browns. Big Ben versus Philip Rivers should be fascinating, a cold weather game between two ageing quarterbacks with diminishing powers. The Steelers need to stop the bleeding but I think the damage is done. The Colts defense will prove too much and the Browns will send the blood in the water and a shot at snatching the division title in week 17. The Steelers two victories over the Ravens stops the slide at sixth.

#7 Baltimore Ravens (11-5)

The Ravens have little by way of troublesome opponent as they complete the season (Giants, Bengals) and will achieve the five game winning streak to give them momentum headed into the playoffs. Even though they will be going in as the seventh seed, no one is going to relish a match up with Baltimore in January! Apologies to Miami Dolphins fans but I think you will end up 10-6 and missing out despite an excellent season.

This would give us the following games in the AFC wildcard round of the playoffs (interesting that it would set up two divisional clashes!):

Baltimore Ravens @ Buffalo Bills

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns

Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans

NFC

#1 Green Bay Packers (predicted 12-4)

As mentioned in the AFC section, I think the Packers meet the Titans at the wrong time and they will need the final season game against the Bears to secure a twelfth win and the number one seeding. Remember they hold the tie-breaker over the Saints after their week 3 meeting.

#2 New Orleans Saints (12-4)

The Saints are in that fortunate position where a loss resulted in them bumping up to the second seed, courtesy of the Rams capitulation to the Jets. They should be able to take full advantage in the final two weeks to cement that seeding. Their defense is Super Bowl calibre so all that remains is to work out if they can find a way on offense to match it. Even with a 12-4 final record a trip to Lambeau Field probably beckons in January.

#3 LA Rams (11-5)

Nobody saw that coming. The Rams were an embarrassment against the previously winless Jets, and coach Sean McVay is not going to let them forget it. There remain serious questions about Jared Goff’s ability to lead the Rams back to the Super Bowl but they have knack of beating the Seahawks. That should secure the division but I’m predicting a final day loss to the Cardinals that will keep the nagging doubts about the Rams in mind.

#4 Washington Football Team (6-8) – Panthers, @Eagles

The NFC East is fascinating. At the moment no one is out of it but Washington hold a slim lead I don’t expect them to relinquish, mainly because the other teams are not good enough to overtake them. A week 16 win over the Panthers should be enough to clinch the most unlikely of divisional wins in 2020.

For the wildcard spots, two of the three sides could finish 11-5, and I think(!) based on tie-breaking procedures Tampa Bay could snatch the fifth seed away from Seattle.

#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)

The Buccaneers remain a curate’s egg as they will stroll towards the playoffs. Last week they gave the Atlanta Falcons 17-0 head start during the first half but managed to come away with the win. They finish against the Lions and a second meeting with the Falcons. I can see a relatively straightforward two further wins and a final 11-5 record but they will struggle in the playoffs if they continue to start slow on offense.

#6 Seattle Seahawks (11-5)

Seattle cannot believe their luck. They stumbled their way to a 20-15 win over Washington, then sat back and watched the Rams lose to the Jets. For me, the Seahawks are the “just about’ team of the NFC, everything is just about good enough to get them to the playoffs. The schedule has been kind with only five games against teams with a better than .500 record (W2 L3). The problem is Seattle have not beaten the Rams since December 2016. I think a second loss to the Rams next week restricts Seattle to a wildcard spot, but the final day should see them beat the 49ers.

#7 Arizona Cardinals (10-6)

The Cardinals are going to be one of the most exciting teams to watch in the playoffs. Their offense, in a one-off playoff game, is always going to be dangerous, and they will have nothing to fear. Similar to the Ravens in the AFC, I think they are going to take momentum into the playoffs by beating both the 49ers and the Rams in the final two weeks of the season. They may not go all the way in the playoffs but they will cause considerable difficulties for their opponents. The wildest of all the wildcards.

This would give us the following games in the NFC wildcard round of the playoffs:

Arizona Cardinals @ New Orleans Saints

Seattle Seahawks @ LA Rams

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Washington Football Team

Who knows how it will all pan out? All that remains is to wish all our ninetynineyards.com readers a happy and healthy Merry Christmas and see you in the New Year for the playoffs and Super Bowl LV.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top
%d bloggers like this: