Thursday, November 16, 2006

Playoffs?!? Playoffs!?!

Since Israel has gone through all this trouble, I figure the least I can do is post it. And while the Steelers' playoff chances are unlikely, stranger things have happened. Like Tommy Maddox winning the XFL MVP award (or the Vince McMahon Award, or whatever it was called).
OK, here is my promised Week 11 analysis of the Steelers chances for a playoff spot. I am sure some of you will be critical. Please just do it politely. I am older than the rest of you. Given that, I shall not apologize for the length of this post.

Let us stipulate that the Steelers win their last seven games and finish 10-6. If they don’t, there is no purpose to this exercise. There is little chance that a 9-7 team will make the AFC playoffs this year and if one does, the Steelers probably lose all the tiebreakers.

Let us also stipulate that all the contenders will reliably beat Buffalo, Houston, Oakland, Cleveland, San Francisco, Detroit and Arizona.

Let us also stipulate that Cincinnati is done. They have lost five games and they still have to play the Steelers, Colts, Broncos, Saints and Ravens. They may win one – max two – of those games, so 8-8 is their limit.

Finally let us stipulate that we needn’t consider the Colts in this discussion, aside from the fact that they will play in Jacksonville in Week 14.

So here are the records of the contenders, with conference losses in parentheses followed by the remaining unstipulated opponents and my comments

BAL: 9-4 (3) @Atl, @Cin, @KC .

If they lose two of those three, the Steelers win the division and the rest of this discussion is irrelevant. Interesting that these are their first games, so the Steelers would be masters of their own fates with three (or four) weeks left in the season.

SD: 10-2 (1) Den, @Den, KC, @Sea.
Den: 9-2 (1) @SD, @KC, Sea, SD, Cin.

One of these teams win the division and the other is probably the fifth seed. But if SD beats Denver twice and Denver loses two other games, they could fall into the 10-6 tiebreaker calculations.

KC: 8-4 (4) Den, Bal, @SD, Jax. The first two could go either way and they will probably split the last two. They are a good shot at 11-5 and the West could get both wild cards. But the point to consider is that if KC is 10-6, they will have more conference losses that the Steelers, in addition to the Steelers head-to-head tiebreaker.

JAX: 6-4 (3) NYG, @Mia, Ind, @Ten, NE, @KC.

This team has been playing unpredictably all year, so let’s just say that they won’t be 11-5 and are more likely to fall short of ten wins than to get there.

The East is more interesting that you would think, and I am nowhere close to conceding the division to New England.

NE: 8-3 (3) @GB, Chi, @Mia, @Jax, Ten
NYJ: 8-4 (4) Chi, @GB, @Min, @Mia

The Jets may lose this week and win out, finishing 11-5. Assuming the Jets and Pats are equally likely to beat the common opponents (Miami, Green Bay, Chicago), I’d say that the Pats are very likely to fall into a tie with the Jets by losing one more to Jax-Ten than the Jets lose to Min. (The Titans are improving and the Patriots get them in Week 17.) I don’t know how the divisional tiebreaker plays here, but I am also not sold on the Pats beating Miami and Green Bay. THIS IS GOOD FOR THE STEELERS, because the Jets will not likely have a fifth conference loss. If the Patriots lose the division, they might have five conference losses.

What do I think will happen? I haven’t a clue. But if Atlanta, Green Bay and the Giants win this weekend, I might be willing to venture some guesses.