2016 GREEN BAY PACKERS PLAYOFF SCENARIOS – WEEK 16

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On Sunday the Packers won while the Bears, Lions and Vikings all lost as Aaron Rodgers added to his legend. It was a good day, and vastly improves Green Bay’s chances to qualify for postseason.

Colin Cowherd now endures another week without digging dirt from ex-teammates about Rodgers. The Packers now ‘control their own destiny’ for the NFC North crown should they beat the Vikings and Lions over the next fortnight and finish 10-6. Green Bay would likely finish as a four seed and host the New York Giants in a first round playoff game.

The Packers could finish as high as a number two seed and earn a first round bye. Green Bay would have to win out coupled with two Seattle losses, two Atlanta losses and possibly one Tampa Bay loss. That is asking a lot.

Should Green Bay defeat the plummeting Vikings at home on Saturday, look for the Week 17 game in Detroit to air on Sunday Night Football.

CAN GREEN BAY WIN THE DIVISION AT 9-7?

A home loss to Minnesota does not necessarily doom the Pack, provided the Lions lose at Dallas next Monday night. Then Week 17 still decides the division. The Vikings can finish 9-7, but are eliminated from division title consideration. Should the three teams finish at 9-7 the Packers would prevail due to a 4-2 divisional record. In head-to-head play, the Vikings would have swept the Packers who swept the Lions who swept the Vikings.

Minnesota needs monumental help on multiple fronts to get a wild card spot, which includes two Packers losses.

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CAN GREEN BAY GET A WILD CARD AT 9-7?

If the Packers beat Minnesota but lose in Detroit, the waters become much murkier with Washington and Tampa Bay in the mix.

Starting with Monday night’s home game v. Carolina, Washington would have to lose two of their last three contests to finish 8-7-1. The Dan Snyder-owned team will also be slightly favored in Chicago and against a Giants team likely be locked into the number five seed.

The Packers would also need Tampa Bay to lose at least once. Should Green Bay and the Buccaneers finish tied at 9-7 the scenario becomes complex as both teams finished 3-2 against common opponents and would be 7-5 in conference.

The next criteria involves ‘strength of victory’ and currently too close to call. Should Carolina beat Washington, both the Pack and Bucs would have 49 1/2 wins over the eight teams they have beaten. Should strength of victory end tied, strength of schedule would be the next determining factor, Green Bay holds a slight edge there (115 wins of their 16 opponents v. Tampa’s 111).

Combined conference rankings (or league rankings if necessary) for net points scored and allowed would be the tie-breaker after strength of schedule . The criteria of net points was deemphasized by the league following the 1999 season when the Packers and Carolina Panthers ran up the score in their respective season finales played simultaneously.

However, it is highly unlikely much math will be needed to determine the Packers ultimate playoff fate.

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WAKEYLEAKS COULD DOOM PETRINO FOR GOOD

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Coach Bobby Petrino’s resume as a football coach is impressive. In his first stint at Louisville he lead the program to a BCS bowl game and did the same at the University of Arkansas in 2010. Most recently he lead Louisville to a 9-3 and produced the school’s first Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Petrino’s true signature moments are far less flattering. In 2007 he bolted from the Atlanta Falcons with a 3-10 record to accept the Arkansas position, leaving laminated notes on players lockers to inform them on his decision. In April 2012 he infamously showed up at a Razorbacks presser in a neck brace due to a motorcycle accident. The subsequent investigation revealed a former volleyball player on the bike who worked for the school and had a relationship (along with other perks) with Petrino, which led to the coach’s dismissal.

Petrino eventually got right (it seemed), coached Western Kentucky for a year and then returned to Louisville. With a trip to the Citrus Bowl on the horizon, Petrino should be a feel-good story of redemption.

‘Wakeyleaks’ may destroy all of that in the coming days.

The scandal started earlier this week with revelations that former Wake Forest quarterback and assistant coach turned radio analyst Tommy Elrod leaked game plans to Wake Forest’s ACC opponents as far back as 2014.

The bread crumbs led to a November game where Wake lost to Louisville 44-12. There is one coaching connection between the two programs, Louisville Offensive Coordinator Lonnie Galloway previously worked at Wake Forest alongside Elrod.

On Wednesday, embattled Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich acknowledged that Elrod indeed shared playbook information with Elrod prior the game.

This does not bode well and the dominoes may fall fast. The daytime FOX Sports  talk shows quickly jumped on the topic. Shannon Sharpe suggested on his daily duet with Skip Bayless that Petrino be terminated immediately if he indeed had firsthand knowledge of Wake Forest’s playbook. Later in the day Jason Whitlock chimed in that the ‘rest of the story’ has yet to surface, suggesting gambling as a motive for Elrod’s actions.

Jurich’s head is likely to roll as well, he is already in hot water over investigations of the men’s basketball program, which includes an assistant coach who allegedly hired prostitutes to cater to players and recruits on 15 occasions.

The Atlantic Coast Conference as called for an investigation involving Wake Forest opponents. The smart money says this gets very ugly, very fast for those involved. Wake Forest has its own questions to answer while Louisville now finds itself in scandals involved spying, prostitution and indirectly, gambling.

Do not be surprised if Louisville has an interim football coach for its bowl game while they seek a new AD to repair a damaged athletic program.

THE 2017 NFL ‘BOWL SEASON’

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As writers and college football executives clamor for an expanded College Football Playoff, someone has to wonder if it is actually the National Football League that must change course.

I feel the NFL product must ensure that their best products appear in the Super Bowl. Based on the standings, chances seem good for a Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks or Oakland Raiders to make an appearance in the big game.

That would be good, all four franchises bring either tons of recent success and/or huge fanbases. But a 12-team playoff can jeopardize that possibility. What if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dare crash the party?

That can be solved with a ‘Pro Football Playoff’ along with a bowl season. Four teams get a chance at the Lombardi trophy while nine other games give the majority of teams a taste of the postseason life and massive bowl playoffs paid by the television networks.

Through Week 13, 20 teams stand ‘bowl eligible with 6-6 records. That can be stretched into an 11-game bowl season over one weekend, perfect for the daily fantasy industry.

Here is the projected model:

Pro Football Playoff:

  • PlayStation Bowl: No. 2 New England Patriots (10-2) v. No. 3 Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1)
  • Chick-Fil-A Bowl: No. 1 Dallas Cowboys (11-1)  v. No. 4 Oakland Raiders (10-2)

The Patriots and Seahawks return to Phoenix for a sequel of their Super Bowl XLIX classic while two of the league’s flagship franchises square off in Atlanta. The winners square off in Super Bowl LI, which for the first time could feature two conference rivals.

Can their possibly be a better format!

‘Week After New Year’s Six’:

  • Rose Bowl: Kansas City Chiefs (9-3) v. Detroit Lions (8-4) – The Raiders/Chiefs Thursday night game in frigid Arrowhead Stadium already looms large. But imagine if a PFP spot was on the line? It would be the NFL version of Michigan v. Ohio State. Whatever the case the game and setting sells itself with its traditional ‘West Division’ v. ‘North Division’ matchup.
  • Sugar Bowl: Atlanta Falcons (7-5) v. New York Giants (8-4) – The Sugar Bowl committee gets its ‘SEC’ team in the Falcons while Odell Beckham makes his New Orleans homecoming.
  • Orange Bowl: Miami Dolphins (7-5) v. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) – The Orange Bowl often has problems selling tickets. That would be solved this year with the hometown Dolphins and the Steelers traveling fan base.
  • Cotton Bowl: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5) v. Denver Broncos (8-4) – The Bucs late season surge lands Tampa into the Week After New Year’s Six while Cotton Bowl officials are overjoyed to see the Broncos still available.

Rest of the Bowls:

  • Citrus Bowl: Baltimore Ravens (7-5) v. Washington (6-5-1) – The newly sponsored B-Dubs bowl lands the two Beltway teams, not bad for the local hotel business.
  • Outback Bowl: Green Bay Packers (6-6) v. Tennessee Titans (6-6) – The Packers late-season surge earns them a postseason bid where they try to avenge a regular season humiliation at the hands of Marcus Mariota and the Titans.
  • Holiday Bowl: Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1) v. Indianapolis Colts (6-6) – That tie against the Seahawks could come back to haunt the Cardinals although their APR score (least amount of suspensions and fines) should help Arizona get in at 7-8-1 if necessary.
  • Pinstripe Bowl: Minnesota Vikings (6-6) v. Buffalo Bills (6-6) – The Vikings really need to finish the season at 8-8 because the franchise usually does not do well on APR. Meanwhile Buffalo fans will be overjoyed to make the trip downstate for postseason action.
  • Independence Bowl: Houston Texans (6-6) v. New Orleans Saints (5-7) – In real life, the Texans could very well host an AFC Wild Card Game at 4:30 ET on Jan. 7. Here their 6-6 record only gets Brock Osweiler and company a short trip to Shreveport to take on New Orleans in a regional clash.

PIECES OF EIGHT – MY 2016 COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF

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I got my knee brace but peddle Mountain Dew instead of Dr. Pepper.

Last year college football would had been better served to immediately fast-forward to the Clemson/Alabama championship game over the two mismatch semifinals served up on New Year’s Eve.

This year would had been a good time to ‘invent’ the eight-team College Football Playoff. I would stop short of going Dan Wetzel and invite Western Michigan (how about North Dakota State while we’re at it?), but the best eight teams of 2016 make for great theatre. It’s all hypothetical and will not be a reality anytime soon, but here would be the four ‘quarterfinal’ games.

  • No. 8 Oklahoma (10-2) v. No. 1 Alabama (13-0) – Boomer Sooner will be represented at the Heisman Trophy dinner, with quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Dede Westbrook both invited. The Sooners went 1-2 in non-conference but swept through the Big XII schedule to earn OU its place among the top eight teams.
  • No. 7 USC (9-3) v. No. 2 Clemson (12-1) – In the actual final CFP rankings, USC finished No. 9, behind Wisconsin. I disagree, USC is the argument for an eight team playoff and finished as college football’s best team outside of Tuscaloosa and Washington privately celebrated when the Trojans were left out of the Pac-12 title game. As for the Badgers, they played Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State close, but as Washington State Coach Mike Leach would say, ‘(screw) playing them close.’.
  • No. 6 Michigan (10-2) v. No. 3 Ohio State (11-1)  I made a case for Michigan’s inclusion for the actual four-team CFP, but the Wolverines lost two of their final three games, albeit the last one in ‘controversial’ fashion. Of course most double-overtime ‘instant classics’ deliver some controversy. I would like to see an actual eight-team playoff contested on neutral sites in its entirety, but would  settle for a Michigan return trip to the Horseshoe. It will be good for business, but be warned sequels tend to fall short of the original.
  • No. 5 Washington (12-1) v. No. 4 Penn State (11-2) – No, the CFP did not get it right, which they will realize when the Chick-Fil-A Bowl looks exactly like the SEC Championship game, only with the Crimson Tide rolling a team in purple instead of orange. Some would argue Penn State ahead of Ohio State, but that would mean Penn State facing a Michigan team they were routed by in the regular season. As for the Huskies, it is fitting their kicker’s name is Van Winkle because it has been more than 20 years since the football program was last relevant. Again, one of my criteria is how teams play late and the Nittany Lions finished as well as anyone outside of Alabama and USC.

How it would play out:

  • Oklahoma gives Alabama a better game than Washington but the Crimson Tide prevails.
  • Penn State defeats Washington.
  • Michigan loses for a second time to Ohio State, Coach Jim Harbaugh will be at the ready for more excuses.
  • USC upsets Clemson. I elevated the Trojans to No. 7 to avoid the possibility of a first-round Alabama ambush.

In the second round, Penn State gives Alabama a scare but falls short. The other semifinal features Tommy Trojan against THE. The two schools last met in 2009 when the late Joe McKnight lead USC to victory at the Horseshoe. This time around, Ohio State does not get the call in overtime and the Trojans advance to the championship.

One could pick Tommy Trojan to win the whole shooting match, but I do not live with cardinal and gold glasses and shout ‘Fight On’ to everyone I know. It would be a classic but Nick Saban and Alabama repeat as National Champions.