When the NFL expanded its playoffs to include a seventh seed in each conference, I hated it. The NFL had the perfect playoffs and there was no reason -- beyond money, of course -- to augment the postseason.
No matter, the expansion to 14 teams seemingly ensured two things. First, that the team who gets the No. 1 overall seed would have an incredible advantage over the field by virtue of earning the only bye week in its conference. And secondly, that 10 wins would probably get you into the playoffs and 11 wins definitely would.
Well ... about that second part.
The AFC is barreling toward a scenario where that won't happen. By next Sunday evening the music will stop, and it's very possible that one 11-win team won't have a chair to sit in.
The events of Sunday afternoon on Week 16 have set the table for a wacky Week 17. The Jets beat the Browns 23-16 to move Cleveland to 10-5. The Steelers took the AFC North with that loss, and by taking care of their own business against the Colts 28-24 in the comeback. That means Tennessee just has to beat either the Packers or the Texans to win the AFC South and clinch a home playoff game.
The Ravens just improved to 10-5 by trouncing the Giants. They get the Bengals next week to move to 11 wins and into the playoffs.
Here's what the AFC playoffs look like: The Chiefs will take the No. 1 overall seed. They're followed by the Steelers and Bills in some order. After that, you have four spots for the Ravens, Colts, Titans, Dolphins and Browns.
It was a wild Week 16 Sunday and playoff races are going down to the wire. Will Brinson and the Pick Six Podcast Superfriends break everything down; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
We can go through all the various permutations and wind up dizzy, or I can lay it out fairly easily. The Titans will make the playoffs with one win in their next two games. The Ravens will also make the playoffs with a win next week. That leaves the Browns, Colts and Dolphins for the final two spots.
The Colts are facing a Jacksonville team that has now locked up the No. 1 pick for 2021. That means they no longer have to tank, and they can throw everything at trying to win in Week 17 and spoiling their rival's postseason dreams.
Next week the Browns have the Steelers, a team they've beaten once in the past 11 tries. Pittsburgh may rest its starters for all or some of the game, though I'd advise against it considering the way they've played the last four weeks.
And Dolphins face the AFC East champion Bills in a game where head coach Sean McDermott will have to weigh how much he wants to rest his guys versus earning the No. 2 overall seed. (Knowing McDermott, I'd think he'd want to make sure he gets the No. 2 seed.)
Assuming a Ravens win against Cincinnati and the Titans winning one of their last two, that puts Baltimore and Tennessee in the dance. If the Dolphins beat Buffalo, Miami is in. And if the Browns beat the Steelers, Cleveland is in. Indy's game against Jacksonville wouldn't matter at that point thanks to the Colts losing the tiebreakers with Baltimore and Cleveland.
Going into Week 17, fans of those fringe AFC playoff teams have to be in knots. But no one has less control over their fate than the Colts.
More Week 16 notes
- Foye Oluokun has been an absolute force for the Falcons this year. It's OK if you don't know his name because, ya know, he's playing for the Falcons. But he's manning the middle of their defense this year, has racked up over 100 tackles and picked off Patrick Mahomes at the goal line Sunday for his second interception of the season. Atlanta got him in the sixth round of the 2018 draft and if you've watched enough Falcons this season, you've seen this guy prime himself for a big 2021.
- With Seattle, Arizona, Cleveland and Baltimore in the closing weeks of the season, it was hard to see how the Giants were going to get into the playoffs. I keep going back to that first Philly game where Evan Engram dropped what would have been the game-clinching pass. It's incredible he made the Pro Bowl, and it's not even something I get riled up about.
- Can the Coach of the Year come from a team who lost to the Jets? That's what voters will soon have to decide. It would seem Brian Flores, who continues to pull the right strings at the right time, will have earned the award over Kevin Stefanski should his team make the playoffs next week.