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Posts Tagged ‘Playoffs’

Explaining NFL Playoff Scenarios

In NFL on December 27, 2018 at 12:13 PM

I’ve done this a few different times over the years since there is kind of a lull in college football action, at least among the top teams. Also, I like solving the puzzles presented by tiebreaker scenarios. It’s like sudoku except fun and informative.

SECTION I: TEXT EXPLANATIONS

NFC

I’m going to start with the NFC to get it out of the way. The AFC if you get into some of the tiebreakers is very difficult to follow, but the NFC is pretty simple.

The division winners are the Saints, the Rams, the Bears, and the Cowboys. The Seahawks will be one of the two wild card teams.

The Saints are definitely the top seed (and as a result will have a first round bye, followed by playing the lowest-remaining seed), and the Cowboys are definitely the fourth seed, who will play the better of the two wild card teams in the first round.

Saints QB Drew Brees escapes the Steelers’ pass rush in New Orleans on Sunday. As a result of the Saints’ win, New Orleans clinched the #1 seed and put the Steelers on the brink of elimination from playoff contention.

The Rams have the inside track for the #2 seed, which entails a first-round bye. They clinch if either they win or the Bears lose. If neither of those happens, the Bears will be the #2 seed since Chicago beat Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago.

The Seahawks have the inside track on the #5 seed, the top wild card. They clinch with a win or a Vikings loss. If the Seahawks lose and Vikings win, the Vikings will take the #5 seed.

The Vikings have not clinched the playoffs yet, but they have the inside track against the Eagles. Minnesota would have to lose and Philadelphia would have to win for the Eagles to take the last playoff spot. In that scenario, the Seahawks wrap up the #5 seed regardless of the outcome of their game.

I don’t think any charts are even necessary for the NFC.

AFC

Intro and Making the Playoffs

The AFC, simply put, is a mess. It’s very weird to only have one known division champion of the four divisions. And that one known champion could be the best division winner or the worst division winner, so even that doesn’t clarify things as much as usual.

In the discussion below, except for one clearly marked paragraph, I will basically be pretending ties aren’t possible.

In order to finish as a top-4 seed (which also means your first game will be at home), you must win your division. So I’ll start by covering what needs to be done in order to win each division.

The one team I referred to who completed this process is the Patriots of the AFC East.

Patriots QB Tom Brady throws over the middle of the Bills defense in a lackluster win in Foxborough, Mass., on Sunday. With the win, the Patriots clinched the NFC East for the 10th year in a row.

In the AFC North, the Ravens only have to win in order to clinch. But if the Ravens lose and the Steelers win, the Steelers win the AFC North. If both lose, the Ravens win the AFC North. Without a tie, neither the Ravens nor the Steelers can make the playoffs as a wild card team.

In the AFC South, there are three potential champions. The Texans are one win away. If the Texans lose, the champion will be the winner between the Colts and the Titans (again, I’m excluding ties, but for that one I looked it up).

The AFC West is the only division that is tied going into the final week. Since the Chiefs have lost two games outside of the AFC (to the Rams and Seahawks) and have lost only once (against the Chargers) in the division, they hold the tiebreaker. So the Chargers would need to win and hope the Chiefs lose to the Raiders.

I’m going to reserve discussion of how the divisional champions will be seeded until the end since it’s the most complicated.

Wild Cards

An AFC wild card team would have to finish 10-6. I mentioned that the Texans haven’t clinched the division, but they have clinched at least a wild card spot. Both possibilities in the AFC West have clinched at least a wild card and could not fall below #5, which is the top wild card team.

The winner of the Colts and the Titans will get the last remaining playoff spot. As mentioned earlier, the playoff spot could be a division champion and in the case of the Titans could be as high as #2. Regardless, the loser is out.

For this one paragraph, I did look up what happens in the event of a tie in that game. First of all, the Texans would win the AFC South regardless of the outcome of their game since they start out a full game ahead. If the Titans and Colts tie and the Steelers win, all three will have the same record. If in addition to that the Ravens win, the Steelers will then have to compete for a wild card (if the Steelers win and the Ravens lose, the Steelers win the division and don’t compete for the wild card). The way the tiebreakers work is ties within a division are resolved first. The Colts beat the Titans earlier in the year, so they would eliminate the Titans. Then the Steelers would win the tiebreaker against the Colts with a better record in common games. If the Steelers lose, the Colts would take the spot.

Number One Seed

That wasn’t even the trickier aspect of the AFC. The real headache is how the division winners would be seeded in the event of ties. As many as five teams could finish with 11-5 records, and as many as four teams could finish with 10-6 records.

These are the main scenarios (“AFC West” refers only to Chargers and Chiefs.):

Two AFC West losses + Patriots win = Patriots #1 (Patriots would win tiebreakers against the Chiefs and/or Texans)

Chiefs lose + Chargers win = Chargers #1 (Chargers would finish with the best AFC record outright regardless of other outcomes.)

Two AFC West losses + Patriots lose = Texans #1 (Texans would win tiebreaker over Chiefs.)

Any other scenario = Chiefs #1

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes looks to throw against the Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday night. Despite two losses in two weeks, the Chiefs have one more chance to wrap up the #1 seed against the Raiders next Sunday.

Number Three and Number Four Seeds

I’m putting the scenarios for #2 last since that’s the most complicated.

I’ll start with the simplest and most likely situation. If the Patriots and either (or both) the Chiefs or the Chargers win, this will be the Texans’ to lose.

If the Patriots lose, Houston will be in the top two with a win though. In that case, the Ravens would pass up the Patriots for the #3 spot.

If Houston does lose, they would not be in the running for a top four seed. The Ravens and Titans could then rise as high as #2 with wins, and the Colts could rise as high as #3 with a win. It’s likely that the Patriots would keep all of the above an additional spot lower with a win though.

A three-way tie between the Patriots, Colts, and Ravens (meaning the Patriots lose while Colts and Ravens win) would make the Ravens #2 and the Patriots #3.

A three-way tie between the Patriots, Titans, and Ravens would make the Ravens #2 and the Titans #3.

In the event of a loss, Houston would lose the tiebreaker to the Titans/Colts winner for the division, so the Texans would fall to the second wild card (#6 seed).

Number Two Seed

In the discussions above, I mentioned a couple of routes to the #2 seed.

If one of the two relevant AFC West teams win, the simplest route to #2 would be for either the Patriots or Texans to win and finish as the only 11-5 team (which would require the other to lose). If both win to finish 11-5, the Patriots win the head-to-head tiebreaker.

I mentioned in the previous subsection that if both the Patriots and Texans lose to finish 10-6, the Texans become a wild card team and the Patriots would end up tied with the Titans/Colts winner and/or the Ravens.

I covered the three-way ties, but the Patriots would lose a two-way tie for the #2 seed with the Titans but win a two-way tie with the Colts. The two-way tie is what happens if the Ravens and Patriots lose.

If both AFC West teams lose and the Texans win, the Texans don’t necessarily finish ahead of the Chiefs. As mentioned in the “#1” subsection, if the Patriots win in this scenario, they will take the #1 seed since they beat both the Texans and the Chiefs (who have not played each other).

The next step – and this is what I’ve been saving for last – is to resolve the tie between the Chiefs and the Texans. I mentioned they didn’t play each other, so the next step is common opponents. Both lost to the Patriots and beat the Browns. The Texans beat the Jaguars twice and the Chiefs beat the Jaguars once, which gives the Texans a half-game lead. But in return the Chiefs beat the Broncos twice, and the Texans only beat the Broncos once. So both teams are 4-1 in total against the 4 common opponents.

How a Chiefs-Texans tie in the standings would actually be resolved if everything favorable to the Chiefs happens. The italicized teams are involved in the five game the Chiefs would need to go in their favor. The bolded teams are involved in games where it won’t matter either way because the numbers at the bottom wouldn’t change. The numbers at the bottom would be the final strength of victory for the respective teams.

The next tiebreaker is “strength of victory”. If it were strength of schedule, the Chiefs would win regardless of any other outcome, and there would never be a need to talk about any NFC games (the Texans and Chiefs played completely different NFC teams, but since every team of one conference only plays a single division of another conference and every division has two intra-divisional games in the final week, none of the outcomes would matter), but the NFL apparently thinks strength of schedule is a completely useless way to resolve a tie between two teams.

Since the teams that beat the Chiefs were all very good, this takes the better teams away from the Chiefs’ average. As a result, strength of victory (which is an assessment of who beat the best collection of teams) gives the Texans a clear edge.

That edge can be overcome, but only if the Ravens and both of the NFC teams who lost to the Chiefs (the Cardinals and 49ers) win and both of the NFC teams who lost to the Texans (the Cowboys and Redskins) lose. I’ll warn you that ESPN’s “Playoff Machine” contradicts me here, so if I’m missing something, let me know. I checked my numbers thoroughly (I even briefly thought I made a mistake in one of the records. I doubt Excel is wrong in its computation.

Same key as the chart above, but the games below the thick black horizontal line are the games that were (or would be) lost. Even if every relevant game were changed to an unfavorable result for the Chiefs, the Chiefs would still win the tiebreaker. I think it’s a sign of a better team if you only lose once to a team with single-digit wins rather than three times, but the NFL didn’t ask me.

The Cardinals and the 49ers winning would be bizarre results, especially since they’re both playing much better teams with something meaningful to play for, but remember that we don’t even have this conversation unless the Chiefs and the Chargers both lose, so we’re pretty far down the rabbit hole anyway.

Finally I have a historical note to make this a little weirder. The original nickname for the franchise that became the Kansas City Chiefs was the Texans. Those were Dallas Texans though.

Team Possibilities

This is the range of possible outcomes for the various AFC teams, excluding ties:

The Chiefs could get the #1, #2, #3, or #5 seed.

The Patriots could get the #1, #2, #3, or #4 seed.

The Chargers could get the #1 or #5 seed.

The Texans could get the #1, #2, #3, or #6 seed.

The Titans could get the #2, #3, #4, or #6 seed (or nothing).

The Ravens could get the #2, #3, #4, or #6 seed (or nothing).

The Colts could get the #3, #4, or #6 seed (or nothing).

The Steelers could get the #4 seed (or nothing).

SECTION II: AFC SCENARIO LISTS

I already covered a couple of these when I discussed the AFC #1 seed, but this is a more mathematical way of explaining the various scenarios (again, this is ignoring ties; and “AFC West” refers to the two competitive teams, the Chiefs and the Chargers). This is also kind of my proof of the last subsection:

Patriots win + at least one AFC West win = Patriots #2

Chiefs win + Patriots lose + Texans lose + Titans lose + Ravens lose = Chiefs #1, Patriots #2, Colts #3, Texans #6

Chiefs lose + Chargers win + Patriots lose + Texans lose + Titans lose + Ravens lose = Chargers #1, Patriots #2, Colts #3, Texans #6

Chiefs lose + Chargers lose + Patriots lose + Texans lose + Titans lose + Ravens lose = Chiefs #1, Patriots #2, Colts #3, Texans #6

Patriots lose + Texans win + at least one AFC West win = Texans #2

Patriots win + Chiefs win + Texans win = Texans #3

Patriots lose + Texans win + Ravens lose = Patriots #3

Patriots lose + Texans win + Ravens win = Patriots #4

Titans win + Patriots lose + Texans lose + Ravens lose = Titans #2, Patriots #3, Texans #6

Titans win + Patriots lose + Texans lose + Ravens win = Ravens #2, Titans #3, Patriots #4, Texans #6

Patriots win + Texans lose + Ravens win = Ravens #3, Titans/Colts winner #4, Texans #6

Patriots win + Texans win + Ravens win = Ravens #4

Titans win + Patriots win + Texans lose + Ravens lose= Titans #3

Titans win + Patriots win + Texans lose + Ravens win = Titans #4

Titans win + Patriots win + Texans win = Titans #6

Colts win + Texans lose+ Ravens lose = Colts #3

Colts win + Texans lose+ Ravens win = Colts #4

Colts win + Texans win = Colts #6

Steelers win + Ravens lose = Steelers #4, Ravens eliminated

Steelers lose = Ravens at least #4

SECTION III: AFC CHARTS

This is mostly from the New York Times, except I had to add the Eagles/Redskins game to the flow chart of the Chief’s various routes to their playoff seed. Previously, it said “50% chance of div. champ” on the right after “the Ravens win”. In this scenario, the Chiefs would already be the division champs, so that’s not really true (#fakenews); but I guess that was like an error message trying to tell the makers of the chart they didn’t provide enough information. The red box around “#2 BYE” means in that scenario the #1 team is the Texans. The blue box means in that scenario the #1 team is the Patriots. Where it says “#3 DIV. CHAMPS,” that would mean the Patriots are #1 and the Texans are #2. The various scenarios to the right of the red asterisk only apply to breaking the tie between the Texans and the Chiefs.

I’m starting with the most complicated situation since that is what seemed like it may require a chart the most. Also, it covers the Patriots’ and Texans’ potential routes to #1 seeds. Also, if the Chargers win, they would be #1 under the scenario above where it says “#5 wild card”.

As a supplement to that, these are the potential results if the Texans win and the Patriots lose. If the Texans and the Patriots both win, the Texans lose the tiebreaker and stay at the #3 spot.

It’s also pretty simple if the Patriots win. They’re #2 unless the Chiefs and the Chargers both lose, in which case they would be #1. But it gets a little more confusing if they lose, so here is the chart to cover that situation. The Patriots win the tiebreaker against the Colts but not against the Titans. If either the Patriots win or the Texans win, that game doesn’t really matter to anyone except the teams involved though.

The Ravens would win a tiebreaker against either the Titans or the Colts, so that game wouldn’t matter to them even if the Texans lose. They do want the Texans to lose though, because that will move them up a spot, either from fourth to third or from third to second.

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NFL Playoff Scenarios for Every Seed

In NFL on December 26, 2016 at 10:44 AM

I don’t talk about the NFL too much, but it’s always fun for me to analyze the playoff scenarios since there aren’t one-game playoffs and it’s much easier to tie on multiple levels with 16 games than 82 games.

I couldn’t figure this out last night without visiting a number of sites and wasting a lot of time, so I just wanted to let people know all the different playoff scenarios, not just who’s in and who’s out.

Discussions overlap, but I try to indicate which seed I’m talking about in the sections for the respective conferences.

The Tampa Bay scenario needed its own section, but if they make it they’ll be the sixth seed in the NFC. It’s probably more likely for the Buccaneers to play in snow on Sunday (which is a home game) than make the playoffs, but I thought it was interesting. You can skip it if you just want realistic scenarios.

afc
AFC

We know all the AFC playoff teams, but we don’t know the order very well.

1 – The Patriots have the #1 seed at the moment, but the Raiders could still get that if the Dolphins beat the Patriots and the Raiders beat the Broncos. The Raiders would win the tiebreaker based on common games.

2&5 – Even though Oakland still has a chance at the #1 seed, they could fall to the #5 seed with a loss and a Chiefs win (over San Diego).

3&4 – We already know that Pittsburgh will have the #3 seed and Houston will have the #4 seed.

6 – I mentioned how the Chiefs can move up to #2 (which comes with a bye), but they can also fall to #6 with a loss to San Diego and a Miami win over New England.

nfc
NFC

In the NFC, 8 teams are still alive for six spots.

1 – The Cowboys have clinched the #1 seed, but #2 is still up in the air.

2 – If the Falcons beat the Saints, they clinch the #2 seed. If they do not and the Lions (who currently have the #3 spot) beat the Packers next week, the Lions can take the #2 seed (regardless of whether they win tonight). If there is a tie, the Lions would win based on common games.

This might be common sense to most NFL fans, but just to explain, a team must win its division to be eligible to get higher than the #5 seed. The Giants can finish with a better record than the Falcons; but since the Cowboys have clinched the NFC East and the Falcons have clinched the NFC West, the Falcons are guaranteed a higher seed than the Giants.

So other than the Lions, the only other team who can take the #2 seed is the Seahawks. This is because if Seattle beats San Francisco, the Seahawks would finish 10-5-1, which puts them ahead of Atlanta if the Falcons lose to the Saints.

3 – If the Seahawks win, the only way an NFC North team can finish higher is if the Lions win tonight and next week (which would push Seattle down to #3). If the Seahawks lose, either Lions/Packers winner gets the #3 spot.

The reason the Lions haven’t clinched the division is that the Packers (at worst) both tie them and gain the tiebreaker with a win next week. (This is more applicable to the lower seeds, but…) Neither team has clinched the playoffs because (1) either can finish 9-7 and (2) the Redskins by beating the Giants would finish 9-6-1.

4 – Seattle will finish #4 at worst because the Seahawks HAVE clinched their division.

5 – The Giants have clinched the #5 seed. The worst they can finish is 10-6. The only team who can get to 10-6 and yet not win its division is the Lions, whom the Giants beat.

6 – So that last part is one scenario in which we resolve the #6 seed. (Basically it would mean the Lions win tonight and lose next week.) A Giants win over the Redskins would also guarantee the Lions a playoff spot even if Detroit loses both games.

A Giants win over the Redskins would also guarantee the Packers a playoff spot even if the Packers were to lose.

With a win by the Redskins, however, the Packers would be eliminated with one loss and the Lions would be eliminated with two losses. Either way, eliminating the Green Bay/Detroit loser would put Washington in the playoffs.

bucs
Tampa Bay

(The only way I could make this seem like it might be interesting to an average person was to talk to myself.)

Wait a minute. A win by the Giants makes the NFC North loser safe, and a win by the Redskins potentially puts the Redskins in place of the NFC North loser. How in the world does that leave room for Tampa Bay?

Well, I didn’t say what happens if NO ONE wins the Giants/Redskins game.

So the Bucs must win, and that game must end in a tie? That’s unlikely (the tie alone is about a 300-1 chance), but I guess stranger things have happened. Is that all?

Not even close.

In my opinion, 8-6-2 should beat 9-7 (8/14=57% and 9/16=56%), but ties count as half-wins, so it doesn’t. This means that there could be a three-way tie including Washington. To help Tampa Bay, the tie must include the Packers, which means Green Bay must beat Detroit. Also, the Lions need to lose tonight, but we’ll get to why at the end.

The Redskins would then lose the tiebreaker to Green Bay and Tampa Bay based on having the worst conference record of the 3. In this case, you start over the tie breaking procedure at the beginning with the two remaining teams. Head to head doesn’t work, neither does common opponents. You need to go to strength of victory (which means beating teams with better records… for some reason, they don’t care as much about losing to teams with bad records, which the Buccaneers did more of).

But don’t the Packers have a better strength of victory than the Buccaneers?

Why, yes they do, but if only four more games (other than the ones we covered) go the right way for the Bucs, that will change: San Francisco (whom the Bucs beat) beats Seattle, Indianapolis beats Jacksonville, Dallas beats Philadelphia, and Tennessee beats Houston. The last three games matter because the Packers beat the would-be losers of those games (and also beat the Lions way back in week 3).

This was a race where a horse won despite 999-1 odds, but it only happened because he was the only horse to finish the race. The other horses were doing so badly, the rider of the winner was able to get back on his horse and complete the course. The Bucs are facing about 30,000-1 odds according to ESPN.

If Playoff System Existed Last Season

In Bowls, College Football, Rankings Commentary on July 26, 2014 at 3:15 PM

Expected top 4 had the College Football Playoff system been in effect last season.

Expected top 4 had the College Football Playoff system been in effect last season.

First off, there needs to be a better way to describe this. The “playoff” is four teams, but there was a championship game under the BCS and you could describe the other major bowls as “BCS bowls” without confusion. CFP (college football playoff) bowls maybe? I guess I’ll call them that.

If you’re not aware, there is a three-year rotation for the semifinals. Year 1: Rose and Sugar. Year 2: Orange and Cotton. Year 3: Fiesta and Peach. So I’m going to go through all three possibilities using last year’s pre-bowl rankings.

The Top Four

Going by the BCS standings, this is how the semifinal would have looked last year:

Rose: Florida St. vs. Michigan St.
Sugar: Auburn vs. Alabama

However, I don’t think it would have happened that way. I think given that Alabama did not have a particularly strong non-divisional schedule (Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Colorado St., Georgia St., Chattanooga), did not win the conference, and lost its final game, they would have been seeded no higher than 4th. When the loss takes place isn’t stated as a criteria, but I can’t imagine that wouldn’t influence the results.

I don’t think Stanford, which had the toughest schedule according to many and which won its conference, would have gone ahead of Alabama, but that’s another possibility. I would have picked Stanford myself.

I’ll just go with Alabama though for this exercise. I think making them #4 instead of #3 would have been a significant enough departure from all the major polls.

Year 1: Semifinal

So this is what I think the semifinal actually would have been:
Rose: Auburn vs. Michigan St.
Sugar: Florida St. vs. Alabama

Year 1: Other CFP Bowls (those bowls in the rotation but not semifinals in Years 1, 4, 7, etc.)

The Orange Bowl is the only one where we have any guidance really since the ACC #1 goes to the Orange Bowl if it’s a year where the Orange Bowl is not a semifinal. In this case, it’s actually the ACC #2 since the ACC #1 obviously would have made the semifinal. I think with a fairly highly-ranked alternate of the same conference, the Orange Bowl still would have picked Clemson. The other Orange Bowl spot is for and SEC or Big Ten #2 or Notre Dame. I don’t think they would have fought the Cotton Bowl over Missouri, and Ohio St. was a very attractive pick, so actually, that’s the one relevant bowl that I don’t think would have changed.

Orange: Clemson vs. Ohio St. (actual match-up)
Cotton: South Carolina vs. Oklahoma
Fiesta: Stanford vs. Baylor
Peach: Central Florida vs. Missouri

Year 2: Semifinal

Cotton: Auburn vs. Michigan St.
Orange: Florida St. vs. Alabama

Year 2: Other CFP Bowls (those bowls in the rotation but not semifinals in Years 2, 5, 8, etc.)

It’s a little more straightforward not to have the Rose and Sugar as part of the semifinals. My understanding is that in Years 2 and 3, the SEC takes the highest non-semifinal Big XII and SEC teams no matter what, and the Rose Bowl takes the highest Big Ten and Pac-12 teams no matter what.

To editorialize for a moment, I don’t know why the Rose and Sugar would be paired as semifinals. It should be like Sugar Fiesta one year, Rose Peach the next, and Orange Cotton the next. That way you’re only disrupting one major bowl arrangement at a time. In the years that the Pac-12/Big Ten game doesn’t take place, there should still be the SEC/Big XII game and vice versa.

Sugar: South Carolina vs. Baylor
Rose: Stanford vs. Ohio St.
Orange: Clemson vs. Missouri
Fiesta: Oklahoma vs. Central Florida

Year 3: Semifinal

Fiesta: Auburn vs. Michigan St.
Peach: Florida St. vs. Alabama

Year 3: Other “Playoff” Bowls (those bowls in the rotation but not semifinals in Years 3, 6, 9, etc.)

These years will be the most restrictive since there are three bowls with pretty specific formulas.

Sugar: South Carolina vs. Baylor
Rose: Stanford vs. Ohio St.
Orange: Clemson vs. Missouri
Cotton: Oklahoma vs. Central Florida

All years: Other Bowls (rough guess)

I looked at the anticipated bowl lineup and used my best guess as to how it would have worked had next year’s bowls all been in place last year. Keep in mind that there were two more bowl slots among the major bowls since last season, there was a national championship game made up of two separate teams, but this season it will be made up of winners of bowl games. Oklahoma St. would have been bumped in my estimation so it would not have played in the Cotton Bowl. The Peach Bowl will be very different, so neither Duke nor Texas A&M would have been under consideration for the new CFP bowls. In the case of Texas A&M, however, I think their spot in what will be a major bowl would have been taken by another SEC team: in this case South Carolina. So that would leave the Big XII and the ACC with another team for the remaining bowls, pushing the other teams of that conference down the ladder.

I do think some of the bowls would have been the same due to regional interests. It made sense to have two Louisiana teams in the New Orleans Bowl, for instance. It made sense to have Maryland playing in Maryland and North Carolina playing in North Carolina. The bolded teams are those who were bowl-eligible but did not actually play in bowls last season. There were a record number of bowl-eligible teams last year, so I’m not entirely sure there will even be enough bowl-eligible teams next year. I guess the NCAA will cross that bridge when it comes to it.

This is just an informal sort of exercise, so don’t make a big deal out of it. I’m going by what I’m told the rules will be next year as far as the preferred conferences, etc. Most conferences do not fill all their contractual slots though. I wasn’t always sure which bowls would have gotten the #8 team from a given conference and which would have had to find another team.

New Orleans: Tulane vs. ULL
New Mexico: Washington St. vs. Colorado St.
Las Vegas: USC vs. Fresno St.
Idaho Potato: San Diego St. vs. Buffalo
Camelia (new; Montgomery, AL): Ohio vs. Troy
St. Petersburg: Middle Tennessee vs. South Alabama
Boca Raton: Toledo vs. Florida Atlantic
Miami Beach (new): BYU vs. Texas St.
Poinsettia (San Diego): Utah St. vs. Navy
Bahamas (new): Northern Illinois vs. Boston College
Hawaii: Oregon St. vs. Boise St.
Russell Athletic (Orlando): U. Miami vs. Ball St.
Armed Forces (Ft. Worth, TX): East Carolina vs. Louisville
Heart of Dallas: North Texas vs. UNLV
Military (Annapolis, MD): Marshall vs. Maryland
Pinstripe: Notre Dame vs. Rutgers
Sun (El Paso): UCLA vs. Texas
Holiday (San Diego): Nebraska vs. Arizona St.
Liberty (Memphis): Rice vs. Western Kentucky
Texas: Texas Tech vs. Mississippi St.
Detroit: Pittsburgh vs. Minnesota
Independence (Shreveport, LA): Arizona vs. ULM
Music City: Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech
Belk (Charlotte): North Carolina vs. Cincinnati
San Francisco: Washington vs. San Jose St.
Outback (Tampa, FL): Iowa vs. Georgia
CapitalOne (Orlando): LSU vs. Wisconsin*
Tax Slayer (formerly Gator; Jacksonville): Duke vs. Texas A&M
Alamo: Oklahoma St. vs. Oregon
Valley of the Sun (Tucson, AZ): Michigan vs. Kansas St.
Birmingham (formerly BBVA Compass): Vanderbilt vs. Houston
GoDaddy (Mobile, AL): Bowling Green vs. Arkansas St.

*It may have been the case that due to the fact that LSU plays Wisconsin to start this season, this match-up would not have been made. It’s possible that Georgia would have leapfrogged LSU, leaving the Tigers playing Iowa anyway. But as I said at the top of the section, it’s just sort of a rough guess. I left LSU there because they were apparently seen as the more desirable team. Also, some may recall Miami played Florida St. in a bowl game in 2003 only to play them again at the start of the 2004 season.

NFL Playoff Scenarios 12/22/13

In NFL on December 22, 2013 at 8:07 PM

Source: Wikipedia

I’m not an avid NFL fan, but I do have a few favorites (Saints, Chiefs, and Dolphins). I pick who’s going to win games (I was second in a group going into this week) and I monitor results, but that’s mostly it. This is my only other NFL Blog this year: “How I Would Re-Align the NFL”. I just don’t get into it enough to blog about it generally.

I’m writing this because even though I’m pretty good with this stuff, I had some trouble figuring out the playoff scenarios with today’s results in mind, so I thought I’d share what I found out. I’m sorry if this comes across as too pedantic, but I try to write it so that people who might not be extremely familiar with the process can still follow along.

I’ll go into more details about the divisional spots at the end (at least one team makes the playoffs from each division regardless of how they compare to teams in other divisions).

NFC Wild Cards

These are the three teams competing for the remaining two spots in the NFC after the two that have clinched (Carolina of the South Division and Seattle of the West Division) and the two to-be-determined division winners of the East and North (if a scenario requires more than one step, I use a “+”, not a new numbered section):

–New Orleans playoff scenarios
(1) Win
(2) Falcons beat 49ers
(3) 49ers beat Cardinals

–San Francisco playoff scenarios
(1) Win at least one game
(2) Tie Arizona

–Arizona playoff scenarios
(1) Win + Saints lose
(2) Win + 49ers lose to Falcons

If you didn’t know, New York (Giants), Washington, Detroit, Minnesota, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis have all been eliminated.

AFC Wild Card

Less complicated for the top 5 seeds here, since we at least know who the 5 teams are. Four teams are competing for one wild card spot. All four division winners are known: New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Denver. Kansas City has clinched the #5 seed (top wild card).

I guess it depends on how your brain works, but I’m going to explain it in a less formulaic way first. Baltimore wins a two-way tie with Miami or a three- or four-way tie that includes the Jets. Miami wins any tie that (1) doesn’t involve the Jets or (2) isn’t a two-way tie with Baltimore. Pittsburgh would win a five-way tie that includes the Jets. San Diego wins no relevant ties, but they can finish with the #6 AFC record outright.

I won’t be addressing what happens if a relevant game is tied next week, so keep the previous paragraph in mind. Since Pittsburgh is the the only team still alive with 8 losses, they would be eliminated if they tie next week regardless of any other results. The Jets have the same record as the Steelers do (7-8), but they have been eliminated due to their 4-7 record in conference.

–Baltimore playoff scenarios
(1) Win + Miami loss
(2) Win + San Diego loss
(3) Miami loss + San Diego loss + Pittsburgh loss

–Miami playoff scenarios
(1) Win + San Diego win
(2) Win + Baltimore loss

–San Diego playoff scenario
(1) Win + Miami loss + Baltimore loss

–Pittsburgh playoff scenario
(1) Win + Miami loss + Baltimore loss + San Diego loss

If you didn’t know, New York (Jets), Buffalo, Cleveland, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Houston, and Oakland have all been eliminated.

NFC Divisions

I’m putting this last because I thought people would worry more about who’s going to be completely eliminated from the playoffs first.

As of right now, Seattle and Carolina have clinched the playoffs in the NFC; but no division has been clinched.

NFC East – The Eagles win the East by beating or tying the Cowboys. If the Cowboys win, they win the East.

NFC North – The Bears win the North by beating or tying the Packers. If not, the Packers win the North.

NFC South – If the Saints win and the Panthers lose, the Saints win the South. If not, the Panthers win the South.

NFC West – If Seattle beats (or ties) the Rams or San Francisco loses (or ties) either remaining game, the Seahawks win. San Francisco only wins the division with wins in both remaining games and a Seattle loss.

How I Would Reorganize College Football….. Part I: Intro

In College Football, Realignment on October 9, 2011 at 12:36 AM

I started writing this for suggestions of some additional changes to the conference “alignments”. But with this interest that many seem to have in the idea of 16-team conferences, I wondered how popular this idea could get. I know there are a variety of interests at play here, and it would be hard to get them to work together, but I’m mostly just imagining what I would do if I were appointed czar of college football.

I know that’s not going to happen, but as someone who frequently criticizes the powers that be, I thought I would put my own proposal out there. It comes across as cynical grumbling otherwise. But I’m not complaining because I like complaining, I’m complaining because I’d sincerely like there to be a better system, and I know I’m not alone.

For the record, I’m opposed to most of the expansion ideas because one wouldn’t really be in a conference with teams in the other division. It would just be a guaranteed quasi-playoff opponent at the end of the season. But as czar of college football, I would be an enlightened despot. If the people petitioned me through their AD’s and college presidents, I would listen.

Besides, if you did it for all of the guaranteed BCS/playoff spots, it could be good because (1) there would be fewer such spots, (2) more teams could play for those spots, and (3) there would be a more uniform process of playing for those spots.

I think the first two arguments are evident, but I’ll give some more explanation for the third. The Big East is an 8-team conference and the team with the best record in the seven conference games is named the champion. 12-team conferences play either 8 or 9 games just to determine the division winners, and then an additional game is played between the division winners. There are more hurdles in getting there from a 12-team conference, even if you assume equal competition.

Something else I dislike about the expansion/realignment talk is the idea that a conference should add one or two teams in another region in order to generate great recruiting and revenue. Meanwhile, the argument seems to go, natural and traditional rivals should be discarded if they conflict. So for instance, the Big East can have teams from Connecticut to Florida to Texas (thankfully it looks like Texas won’t happen after all), the formerly Big XII can have teams from Kentucky (suggested) to Utah (suggested) to Iowa, and the ACC can teams from Boston to Miami to somewhere inland yet to be determined (Pittsburgh, but maybe farther West). Who cares if it makes sense for the team from Boston to play the team from Connecticut or the team from Miami to play the team from Tampa? They’ll just have to try to squeeze it into the ever-dwindling non-conference schedule. I didn’t even mention the WAC (Manoa, HI, to Ruston, LA, to Moscow, ID), the CUSA (El Paso to Huntington, WV, to Orlando), the Mountain West (San Diego to Boise to Ft. Collins, CO), or the Sun Belt (Denton, TX, to Bowling Green, KY, to Miami).

There is sometimes some conflict between traditional and natural rivalries. South Florida (the Tampa team I mentioned) and Connecticut haven’t had major football programs for very long. Even though they’re about as far away in terms of latitude as any two teams are, there is some history between Boston College and U. Miami. But I tried to balance those concerns. I don’t know the history of every individual rivalry but in an effort to be comprehensive, I put each team somewhere.

What I’ve done is put 80 teams into one of 5 16-team BCS-like conferences. The remaining 40 teams (ones that aren’t as good) have been put into one of 4 10-team conferences.

Producing a playoff

My ideal would be to find a way to turn that into 8 playoff teams. The 10-team conferences could either produce one or two of those teams, and there could be one or two at-large teams.

I would not only have a way for those bottom 40 programs to win the national championship, but I would also come up with a system where the best of those teams, at least the top two would be allowed to move up and two other teams would be allowed to move down, sort of a European soccer league arrangement.

The catch is having so many potential playoff games after a 9-game schedule. My solution would be that there wouldn’t be any extra games for those teams, or there might be one. Even if there is a 4-team play-in system to be the best of the worst followed by three more potential playoff games, that would be a total of 5 post-season games. 5 + 9 =14, which is accepted as appropriate (most teams already play up to 14 games, factoring in possible conference championship, bowl games, and trips to Hawaii {I’m not being facetious, that’s actually an exception to the 12-game limit}). There could also be an 8-game conference schedule instead (the team that isn’t played can be drawn out of a hat), and maybe just one play-in game, so that would allow two additional teams to be played. And since that 14th game is so unrealistic, a third game outside of the system could also be allowed.

The schedules for the top 80 teams wouldn’t really change much. My proposal would be that they play the 7 other divisional opponents, along with one inter-divisional rival (I think an even number of home and away games is fairer; the tie-breaker system could be adjusted for inequalities that might result). And playing 8 such games instead of 9 allows three games outside of the system without risking a team having to play more than 14 games. I wouldn’t prohibit other inter-divisional games, they just wouldn’t count toward the division title.

As to which teams move down from the top 80 after the season, there could be anything from something completely objective, like a combination of computer formulas or something more transparently mathematical, to something completely subjective like a NCAA-basketball-like committee that evaluates strengths and weaknesses. There could even be a short playoff to determine who those teams are.

Next Blog… Part 2: SEC/Southern Conference

I’ll try to write these weekly until completion, but I’ve only really had time for one non-rankings blog a week, so if other things come up, they might cause me to spread it out a little more. I’ve done the second part already, but I knew the blog had gotten too long for many people to realistically read everything I’ve written so far on this topic.