Greg Cote: NFL playoff watching begins

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, 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 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.


• 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.

Read more Greg Cote stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, left, and center Chris Bosh watch from the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Wednesday, April 16, 2014 in Miami. The 76ers defeated the Heat 100-87.


    Greg Cote: Miami Heat odyssey this time could be dynasty or dismantled

    A Heat playoff run is the annual gift we slowly unwrap together, our two-month emotional thrill ride ever since LeBron James grandly announced he was “taking my talents to South Beach” that summer night in 2010. Well, buckle up again, South Florida. Prepare for exhilarating highs and work-productivity lows. Prepare for late nights walking drained from the downtown bayside arena. Prepare for hearts to soar or plunge on whether a basketball swishes through a nylon net or bonks off a painted rim.

Charlotte Bobcats' Al Jefferson, left, drives past Miami Heat's Shane Battier, right, to dunk during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014.

    In My Opinion

    Miami Heat sweep would challenge rosy outlook by Bobcats’ Al Jefferson

    I think that Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson, not a star in the NBA but a good player, must lead the league in seeing the bright side, in trying to find the best in a bad situation. This talent figures to come in particularly handy in the next week-plus as his hopeless underdogs try to avert being swept in four games by the two-time, defending-champion Heat.

LeBron James cheers as he holds both trophies after the Heat won Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida on Thursday, June 20, 2013.

    In My Opinion

    Greg Cote: Element of doubt makes this Miami Heat quest intriguing

    This time it feels different, doesn’t it? The Heat in the Big3 Era always has found a way to keep things fresh and keep us fascinated, and now that means trying on a role unlike any the team has played in the previous three seasons. This time, for the first time since LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade, Miami enters a postseason seeming a bit vulnerable — something close to the unlikeliest of underdogs.

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