NFL Nation: playoff seeding

Thanks to ESPN Stats & Information for providing the following breakdowns showing how teams could be seeded in the NFL playoffs pending Week 17 results:

No. 1 seed
No. 2 seed
  • The San Francisco 49ers would become the second seed if they defeated Arizona and if Green Bay lost to Minnesota.
  • The Packers would become the second seed if they defeated the Vikings, or if the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks both lost.
  • The Seahawks would become the second seed if they defeated St. Louis, and if the Packers and 49ers lost.
No. 3 seed
  • The 49ers would become the third seed if they defeated Arizona and Green Bay also won, or if the 49ers and Seahawks lost.
  • The Packers would become the third seed if they lost and if the 49ers won, or if the Packers lost and the Seahawks won.
  • The Seahawks would become the third seed if they won and Green Bay won and the 49ers lost.
No. 4 seed
  • The Cowboys would become the fourth seed if they defeated Washington.
  • The Redskins would become the fourth seed if they defeated or tied the Cowboys.
No. 5 seed
  • The 49ers would become the fifth seed if they lost to Arizona and Seattle defeated St. Louis.
  • The Seahawks would become the fifth seed if the 49ers won or if the Seahawks lost.
No. 6 seed
  • The Bears would become the sixth seed if they defeated Detroit, and if Minnesota lost.
  • The Giants would become the sixth seed if they won and if Dallas lost and if Minnesota lost and if Chicago lost.
  • The Redskins would become the sixth seed if they lost and if Minnesota lost and if Chicago lost.
  • The Vikings would become the sixth seed if they defeated the Packers, or if Chicago lost and Dallas lost and the Giants lost.

Three NFC West teams in playoffs? Maybe

December, 16, 2012

The San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams could conceivably all earn postseason berths from the NFC this season.

This could happen if the Rams won their final three games to finish 9-6-1, edging out second-place teams with 9-7 records from other divisions. Under such a scenario, the Seahawks could qualify at 9-7 or better and the 49ers, currently 9-3-1, could qualify even if they failed to win another game this season.

It's all possible, and all calculable through ESPN's Playoff Machine.

Many potential scenarios exist. Some depend on results beyond the control of NFC West teams. Yet, while it's tough to say with certainty how NFC West teams' fans should root in games involving other teams, there are some general principles to consider.

Fans of the 49ers, Seahawks and Rams will obviously want to root for their teams every week.

The 49ers could improve their seeding in the conference if they continued to win and the Atlanta Falcons stumbled. Having Green Bay lose would also potentially help that cause. To be safe in the division, the 49ers should root against the Seahawks and Rams.

Seahawks and Rams fans can employ a two-pronged rooting strategy. They should of course hope for outcomes enabling their teams to win the NFC West title. But if the wild-card route appears more likely, they should wish bad things upon second-place teams from other divisions. For example, let's say Washington, Green Bay and Atlanta were to win the other NFC divisions. In that case, the Seahawks and Rams would be better off in the wild-card race if Dallas, Chicago, Minnesota and Tampa Bay finished 9-7 or worse.

The chart lists Week 15 games in the first column. The other columns show which teams fans for each NFC West team might want to support this week. I put them together based on general assumptions.

The first five games listed are straightforward. A look at my thinking for some of the others:
  • Green Bay at Chicago: The 49ers have beaten both teams, but Green Bay has a better record than Chicago, making the Packers a more immediate threat to the 49ers for one of the top seeds. The Seahawks have also beaten both teams. A Bears victory would leave Green Bay with five defeats, giving Seattle a better chance to move past the Packers. The Rams lost to Green Bay and Chicago. Their wild-card hopes might be best off if the Bears faded from playoff contention entirely.
  • Tampa Bay at New Orleans: The Buccaneers are a greater wild-card threat than the Saints. NFC West teams should hope for Tampa Bay to lose this game.
  • New York Giants at Atlanta: The 49ers and Seahawks could still overtake the Falcons in the seeding order. For that reason, I think they should root for the Giants in this game. The Rams cannot catch the Falcons, but they could wind up fighting with the Giants over a wild-card spot. For that reason, they should hope for a Giants defeat.

Again, these choices have not been mathematically verified to improve the corresponding NFC West team's postseason chances under every scenario or even under most of them. Please do point out any flaws you might see in my thinking. Not that anyone has ever needed any encouragement on that front.

Sizing up the early NFC playoff standings

November, 19, 2012
The NFC playoff picture is taking shape heading into the final six weeks of the season.

Seattle is one of the leading wild-card contenders at present, but the Seahawks could still win the NFC West and its automatic berth. The team would qualify for the playoffs as the NFC's sixth and final seed if the season were finished already.

Seattle, Minnesota and Tampa Bay are tied with 6-4 records.

Head-to-head tiebreakers come into play if one team has defeated or lost to both other teams. Conference record is the next tiebreaker.

In this case, Minnesota lost to both Seattle and Tampa Bay. That would eliminate the Vikings from consideration. Seattle would then prevail over Tampa Bay based on superior record against NFC opponents.

Of course, much will happen before any tiebreakers come into play.

The first chart shows the remaining schedules for the Seahawks, Buccaneers and Vikings. The first column includes week numbers. The final row shows strength of remaining schedule, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

The second chart shows current NFC order. "SOS" refers to strength of schedule. "SOV" refers to strength of victory.

Playoff Machine: Ah, the NFC scenarios

November, 28, 2011
A trip into ESPN's Playoff Machine with Week 12 nearly complete produced the following just-for-fun seeding orders for the NFC:
None of these scenarios will play out, of course, but the Playoff Machine allows users to tweak individual game results to their liking. The links in this item are not specific to this week. That means the results will change in the future.

Saints headed to Seattle or St. Louis

January, 2, 2011
SEATTLE -- The view from Qwest Field has become as clear as the cloudless sky here in chilly Seattle.

The New Orleans Saints will visit the winner of the St. Louis Rams-Seattle Seahawks game, scheduled to kick off at 8:20 p.m. ET. The Saints became the fifth seed after losing to Tampa Bay. The NFC West champ will be the fourth seed.

The Rams and Seahawks both lost at New Orleans this season. The Rams played the Saints tough in St. Louis last season, but much has changed since then and much more will be on the line this time, should a rematch take place.

Vikings' big lead affects Cardinals

January, 3, 2010
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Vikings' 17-0 lead over the Giants is likely affecting the Cardinals' mindset heading into their game against Green Bay.

A Minnesota victory prevents the Cardinals from challenging for the second seed in the NFC.

In that case, the Cardinals will likely rest some starters.