There are times that the science of nuclear fission is easier to figure out than the NFL playoff formula, but with the Baltimore Ravens 34-27 win over the Saints in New Orleans on Monday Night Football, the Kansas City Chiefs found themselves moving UP in the playoff standings and the Pittsburgh Steelers fell out of the post-season without either team playing a game.
And, like last year, the San Diego Chargers have snuck past everyone and taken the sixth and final AFC playoff spot, meaning the AFC West would have three teams in the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Of course, this will all change again this weekend when all the AFC teams play. The three Thanksgiving Day games all involve NFC teams.
Here’s how the AFC playoff picture looks right now with tiebreaker information in parentheses:
KEEP ON WINNIN’ AND THESE TEAMS WILL BE GRINNIN’
1. New England Patriots (9-2, .818). AFC East leader. Earn first-round bye, home-field advantage.
2. Denver Broncos (8-3, .727). AFC West leader. Earn first-round bye.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (7-3-1, .682). AFC North leader. Host Chargers in wild-card game.
4. Indianapolis Colts (7-4, .636). AFC South leader. Host Chiefs in wild-card game.
5. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4, .636). Wild card No. 1. Hold No. 5 seed on basis of head-to-head win vs. Chargers (first divisional tiebreaker) and better AFC record than Ravens (5-3 vs. 3-4 — second wild-card tiebreaker).
6. San Diego Chargers (7-4, .636). Wild card No. 2. Hold No. 6 seed on basis of better AFC record than Ravens (5-3 vs. 3-4 — second wild-card tiebreaker).
ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
7. Baltimore Ravens (7-4, .636). AFC North’s second-seeded team because of 2-1 mark in head-to-head games vs. Steelers and Browns (first divisional tiebreaker). This tops the Steelers’ 2-2 mark and the Browns’ 1-2 record.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4, .636). AFC North’s third-seeded team because of superior record in common games to Browns (4-2 vs. 2-3 — third divisional tiebreaker).
9. Cleveland Browns (7-4, .636).
10. Miami Dolphins (6-5, .545). Hold No. 10 seed on basis of superior AFC East record to Bills (2-1 vs. 3-2 — second divisional tiebreaker).
NOT DEAD YET, BUT ON LIFE SUPPORT
11. Buffalo Bills (6-5, .545).
12. Houston Texans (5-6, .455).
In the NFC, the playoffs look like this as of Monday night. Don’t wait too long to read it because with six potential playoff teams playing on Turkey Day, this is guaranteed to be different on Friday morning. (Yes, we’ll consider Chicago a potential playoff team for this week!)
1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2, .818). NFC West leader. Earn first-round bye, home-field advantage.
2. Green Bay Packers (8-3, .727). NFC North leader. Earn first-round bye. Owns tie-breaker over Eagles based on head-to-head win percentage.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (8-3, .727). NFC East leader. Hosts Seattle in wild-card game. Owns tie-breaker over Atlanta because Eagles still show a pulse.
4. Atlanta Falcons (4-7, .364). NFC South “leader”. “Wins” tie-breaker over Saints based on head-to-head win percentage. Poster child for re-seeding playoffs. Hosts Cowboys in wild-card game. Cowboys gleefully book non-refundable tickets for second round.
5. Dallas Cowboys (8-3, .727). Wild card No. 1.
6. Seattle Seahawks (7-4, .636). Wild card No. 2. Win tie-breaker over Detroit on best win percentage in common games. Division tie-breaker used initially to eliminate 49ers.
OUT OF PLAYOFFS AND WONDERING WHY THEY DON’T PLAY IN NFC SOUTH:
7. Detroit Lions (7-4, .636). Wins tie-breaker over 49ers based on best win percentage in conference games (5-2 vs. 6-3)
8. San Francisco 49ers (7-4, .636).
GET THE FORK READY BECAUSE THEY’RE ALMOST DONE:
9. Chicago Bears (5-6, .636).
10. New Orleans (4-7, .364). Owns tie-breaker over St. Louis and Minnesota based on best win percentage in conference games.
11. Minnesota Vikings (4-7, .364). Wins tie-breaker over Rams based on head-to-head win percentage. Shocked reaction of “Wait … we won a game????”
12. St. Louis Rams (4-7, .364) Checking out real estate in Los Angeles.