The NFL Playoff Picture In 1,000 Words Or Less

By Tony McClean
Updated: December 26, 2006

NEW HAVEN, Ct. — As a public service to all BASN readers and puzzle solvers everywhere, your good buddy Tony Mack is about to tell you the second greatest story ever told. At least for this week anyway.

It may be a bit complicated, so go ask your kin folks for a calculator, abacus, or what every sort of fancy device y’all use to figure out these things. I hold in my hand, the playoff scenarios entering the final week of the 2006 NFL regular season.
As I’m writing this, nine teams (four in the AFC, five in the NFC) already have officially either clinched their respective division crown or a postseason berth. 11 other teams are trying to grab the other three playoff spots.
Now even us folks who aren’t exactly math scholars know that 11 just won’t fit into three no matter how you try and do it. Not even the bassackwards logic of Professor Irwin Corey (remember him???) can make that happen.
We’ll slowly try to walk you through this week’s hornet’s nest of possibilities and probabilities as best as we can. If you get lost along the way, take a deep breath and just backup a few paragraphs.
Are we ready? Okay, lets get it started. For those of you who may be new to this, remember that six teams from each conference will qualify for the playoffs. The four division winners and two wild card teams.
The two division winners with the best records will get a first-round bye, meaning that they will host a playoff game during the weekend of January 13-14. The playoffs begin next weekend on January 6-7.
AFC
These four teams have already qualified as division champs: the Chargers (13-2, West); the Colts (11-4, South); the Ravens (12-3, North); and the Patriots (11-4, East). The Chargers have also clinched at least a first-round bye.
They can clinch home field advantage for the entire playoffs (i.e. the number one seed) if they either win or tie against Arizona (5-10) Sunday or if Baltimore loses or ties against Buffalo (7-8). Conversely, the Ravens can clinch home field advantage with either a win or a Chargers loss.
Baltimore can also clinch at least a first-round bye with a win or a Colts loss or tie against Miami (6-9). And yes, before you ask, the Colts can clinch a first-round bye with a win or a Ravens loss.
Okay?? So far so good?? Now get ready for complications.
The Broncos (9-6) and Jets (9-6) have the inside track on the last two AFC spots, while the Bengals (8-7), Titans (8-7), Jaguars (8-7), and Chiefs (8-7) will need to win and get some help.
How much help you ask? We’ll get to that.
Denver can clinch a playoff berth with a win or tie against San Francisco (6-9) or a Chiefs loss or tie to Jacksonville. The Jets can also clinch a playoff berth with a win or tie against the Raiders (2-13).
Alright, now please, please follow these four next statements very, very carefully. I can only say them once.
The Bengals can only clinch a playoff berth with a win against the Steelers (7-8) along with a loss by the Jets and Broncos, and a Chiefs win.
The Titans can only clinch a playoff berth with a win against the Patriots along with a loss by the Bengals and Broncos, and a Chiefs win.
The Jaguars can only clinch a playoff berth with a win against the Chiefs along withe a loss by the Jets, Bengals, and Titans.
And finally, the Chiefs can only clinch a playoff berth with a win against the Jags along with a loss by the Bengals, Broncos, and Titans.
Whew!!! Now that was just one conference.
NFC
Believe it or not, this conference is pretty much set except for a few things. The Bears (13-2, North), Saints (10-5, South), and Seahawks (8-7, West) are all in as division champs. Chicago and New Orleans both have first-round byes, with the Bears holding home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Eagles (9-6) and Cowboys (9-6) have also clinched playoff berths. Philly has the inside track for the Eastern Division crown because they’ve already beaten the Cowboys twice this season.
A win or tie against Atlanta (7-8) or a Dallas loss to Detroit (2-13) will give the Eagles the division. And of course, a Dallas win or tie along with a Philly loss or tie will give the Cowboys the division.
There are four teams fighting for the NFC’s last postseason spot: the Giants (7-8), Packers (7-8), Panthers (7-8), Falcons, and Rams (7-8). New York has the inside track for that spot because of numerous tiebreakers. If I mentioned them all, 2007 training camps would be open at the end of the list.
Here’s the simple part. New York gets in with a win or tie against the Redskins (5-10) along with a loss or tie by Green Bay, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Carolina.
Okay, now prepare yourself for some confusion. Please follow this very, very carefully because it won’t be repeated (Man, this thing sounds too much like a warning label for aspirin).
The Packers can only clinch a playoff berth with a win against Chicago along a loss or tie by the Giants and Rams and wins by Carolina and Atlanta. Also, if the Giants and Packers end up tied in strength of victory (don’t ask!!!), then the tie would be decided by strength of schedule. That wouldn’t be determined until the end of all the games.
And just to confuse you even more, Green Bay can clinch the strength of victory tiebreaker over New York if all of this occurs: wins by Arizona, Detroit, Miami, Minnesota and San Francisco along with losses by Carolina, Houston, and Tampa.
What the……….??? (Remember, this is the league office, folks. Not me!!!)
Now as for the other three teams:
The Panthers can only get a playoff berth with a win or tie against the Saints along with a loss or tie by the Giants, Packers, Rams, and Falcons.
The Falcons can only get a playoff berth with a win or tie against the Eagles along with a loss or tie by the Panthers, Packers, Giants, and Rams.
And finally, the Rams can only get a playoff berth with a win or tie against Minnesota (6-9) along with a loss or tie by the Giants, Panthers, Packers, and Falcons.
That’s about as clear as it’s gonna get until the games are played. Week 17 begins with the Giants at the Redskins Saturday night on the NFL Network.
I hope that helps you just a little bit. Please, please no more questions.