AROUND THE LEAGUE

Greg Cote: NFL playoff watching begins

 

gcote@MiamiHerald.com

Two things traditionally happen with me the day after Thanksgiving. First, masticated turkey oozes out of my ears like toothpaste from a tube. (It isn’t a pleasant visual; I am just being honest). And, second, I start paying attention to the NFL playoff situation, sifting through remaining schedules and analyzing tiebreaker permutations.

I’m especially dialed in now because Miami is in the hunt and that — like a show of humility by Kanye West — is a rarity occurring maybe once every five or 10 years.

AFC playoff likelihood entering Week 13, via makenflplayoffs.com, found the top five teams perched solidly: Chiefs at 99.2%, Broncos 98.9, Patriots 95.9, Colts 93.4 and Bengals 80.0. Then it’s a scramble for that sixth and last spot. It’s an art farm, with six teams at 5-6 — including the Steelers and Ravens, who played each other Thursday night — and three others still somewhat alive at 4-7.

We focus on the six contenders at 5-6 entering the week:

Playoff likelihood, via makenflplayoffs.com computers — Steelers 25.6%, Ravens 24.3, Titans 22.8, Dolphins 20.0, Chargers 13.6 and Jets 13.4.

Strength of remaining schedule: Jets .473, Steelers .482, Dolphins .491, Titans .491, Ravens .518, Chargers .600.

Home games left: Chargers 4; Jets, Ravens & Steelers 3; Dolphins & Titans 2.

Super Bowl odds, via Bovada: Steelers 50-1, Ravens 66-1, Chargers 75-1, Titans 100-1, Dolphins 150-1 and Jets 250-1.

Playoff standings, or how the NFL currently ranks the teams in the AFC based on tiebreakers: 6. Titans, 7. Steelers, 8. Ravens, 9. Chargers, 10. Jets and 11. Dolphins.

The above excludes the Thursday Steelers-Ravens game, whose winner would at least temporarily hold that No. 6 seed. Sunday’s Dolphins-Jets game is the only other one between 5-6 AFC teams.

NFC playoff likelihood entering Week 13 found Seahawks (99.5%) and Saints (98.0) near-locks, and Panthers (86.5) close. Rounding out top six were Cowboys 61.4, 49ers 51.7 and Lions 47.7, then Eagles 46.0 and Cardinals 43.6.

Scatter-shooting

• Thirteen teams that were 5-6 after 11 games have made the playoffs since the current format started in 1990. But the only 4-7 teams to make it were the 1995 Chargers, 1996 Jaguars and 2008 Chargers.

• Three teams can clinch a playoff spot this week: The Seahawks would by winning, if the 49ers or Cardinals lose. The Broncos-Chiefs winner would, but only if several others results all fall just right.

• Broncos-Chiefs on Sunday and Saints-Seahawks on Monday mark the second time since the 1970 merger that the top teams from the AFC and NFC top teams have met the same week this late in a season.

• Seattle’s and New Orleans’ combined 19-3 record/.863 winning percentage is the second-best Monday Night Football matchup this late, trailing only a 1990 49ers-Giants game with 20-2/.909.

• Peyton Manning continues as a prohibitive MVP favorite at 4-11 odds, via Bovada, with Drew Brees next at 3-1, and Tom Brady and Cam Newton both 12-1.

• The Cowboys’ Tony Romo became fifth undrafted QB to throw for 200 career TDs, after Warren Moon (291), Dave Krieg (261), Jim Hart (209) and Kurt Warner (208).

• Chargers’ Philip Rivers pitched his fourth game of at least 390 yards last week. Only others to do that in a season: Dan Marino in 1984 and Joe Montana in ’90.

• The playoff race has not deterred apathy toward the Dolphins. Miami’s 14.4 TV rating for last week’s Carolina game ranked 28th of 28 markets where a home-team game led in ratings.

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