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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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.

1976 NFL SIM: CHUCKY MEETS CHUCKY

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In 1976 all the pieces seem to have suddenly fallen into place for the New England Patriots. They earned the AFC Wild Card and traveled to Oakland for a divisional playoff against a team they beat 48-17 in the regular season. The Patriots lost largely due to a roughing the passer call in the final minutes.

25 years later the Patriots evened history with their own controversial playoff win over the Raiders in Foxboro. Officiating psy ops become magnified in the playoffs, would home field advantage have changed anything in 1976?

Here is the sim, with one glaring exception it played similar to the actual season.

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  • The Patriots also finished 11-3 in real life and were the AFC Wild Card
  • The Colts are 10-4 and the Wild Card opposed to 11-3 and AFC East champions.
  • The Steelers go 13-1 in the sim v. 10-4 and also division champs in real life.
  • The Raiders win the AFC West at 10-4 v. their actual 13-1 record.
  • Dallas finishes 13-1 in the sim v. the real-life 11-3 division championship.
  • Washington finishes 11-3, in real life the team also earned the NFC Wild Card at 10-4.
  • Minnesota misses the playoffs at 9-5 in the sim, opposed to actual 11-2-1 record.
  • The Rams went through the sim at 12-2 opposed to their actual 10-3-1 finish.

The anomaly involves the Detroit Lions, who went 13-1 in the simulation. In real life the team represented classic Lions mediocrity, finishing 6-8 after they fired the coach after four games.

A trip to Wikipedia explains the metric that turns the Lions into world-beaters. Quarterback Greg Landry enjoyed a career season and the team ranked 12th of all teams from 1960-2009 in an advanced stat called Passer Rating Differential. Of the 11 teams ranked ahead of the 1976 Lions, seven either reached either the Super Bowl or a pre-Super Bowl league championship game. One member of the 1976 Lions staff included Bill Belichick.

And they let Tommy Hudspeth call the shots?

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers debuted as historically bad as they did in real life with an 0-14 record. Their closest game was a seven-point loss to the Seattle Seahawks. In the 13 games against other AFC teams the Bucs lost all of their games by at least 13 points. And now that current Commissioner Roger Goodell has scheduled a regular season in Beijing, Bucs coach John McKay can no longer claim a billion Chinese do not care.

The Seahawks faired somewhat better in year one – along with the Bucs, Seattle defeated the Atlanta Falcons (who they also beat in real life) and the Green Bay Packers.

Tampa nearly had company at 0-14 – The New York Giants started 0-11 before they recorded two late-season wins while the Packers averted an 0-14 season with a Week 14 win in Atlanta.

Now on the downside of his career, O.J. Simpson still exploded for a 265-yard rushing day against the Kansas City Chiefs.

In the Divisional playoffs, Baltimore lost at Pittsburgh 13-6 while the Patriots got a controversial call in their favor in a 26-21 win over the Raiders in Foxboro. In the NFC, Washington lost at Detroit 17-14 while the Cowboys lost at home to the Rams for the third time in five years, this time by a 10-9 score. Over the past five years Dallas has a 71-13 regular season record.

The Patriots post-season route continued to replicate their real postseason route of 25 years later. Behind Sam Cunningham’s 199 yards and two touchdowns, New England won at Pittsburgh 24-10 while the Rams recorded a 30-0 shutout at Detroit. The Rams win marked their fourth conference championship and third Super Bowl appearance in as many games played in the Los Angeles area.

In Super Bowl XI at Pasadena, Chuck Knox’s Rams would then defeat Chuck Fairbanks Patriots, 27-20 in the most competitive Super Bowl played to date.

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Steve Spurrier fared better as a future college coach than as the Buccaneers first quarterback.