As we lay out the playoff situation entering NFL Week 16 — funneling all of the complex scenarios and what-ifs to keep it neat ’n easy — would you join me in wishing King Sport would finally do away with its division-winners/wild-cards format and simply let in the six best teams from each conference?
They “unconferenced” the Pro Bowl. They should “undivision” the postseason. Keep the divisions and tiebreakers as is, but admit the six teams with the best records regardless of division affiliation. No more automatic tickets to all division winners. Quit penalizing a 10-6 team that should have made it but got knocked out because some 9-7 team lucked to front a bad division.
OK, done ranting. Here’s the playoff situation entering Week 16 of 17, excluding the infinitesimal possibility of tie games:
▪ Already in (2) — Patriots and Raiders.
▪ Able to clinch this week, in order of probability (4) — Chiefs (with win or Baltimore loss); Steelers (with win); Texans (with win and Tennessee loss); and Dolphins (with win and Denver loss).
▪ Others still alive, in order of likelihood (5) — Ravens, Titans, Broncos, Colts and Bills.
▪ Eliminated (5) — Bengals, Browns, Chargers, Jaguars and Jets.
▪ Already in (2) — Cowboys and Seahawks.
▪ Able to clinch this week, in order of probability (5) — Giants (if they won Thursday night or if Detroit, Green Bay, Tampa Bay or Atlanta lose); Falcons (with win and loss by Tampa Bay, Green Bay or Detroit); Lions (with win and loss by Green Bay or Tampa Bay); Packers (with win and loss by Washington, Tampa Bay and Atlanta plus strength-of-victory tiebreaker over Tampa); and Buccaneers (with win and loss by Green Bay, Detroit and Washington).
▪ Others still alive, in order of likelihood (4) — Redskins, Vikings, Saints, Panthers.
▪ Eliminated (5) — Bears, Cardinals, Eagles, 49ers and Rams.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Dolphins DE Cam Wake and DT Ndamukong Suh making the Pro Bowl marked the fifth time the club has had two defensive linemen make it the same year. Also happened in 1983 (Bob Baumhower and Doug Betters), 2000 (Trace Armstrong and Jason Taylor), 2002 Tim Bowens and Taylor) and 2012 (Randy Starks and Wake).
▪ Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott needs 258 rushing yards in last two games to break Eric Dickerson’s durable rookie record of 1,808 set in 1983.
▪ Old Cane Frank Gore is 109 yards from becoming Colts’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Joseph Addai in 2007.
▪ Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. joined John Jefferson (1978-80) and Randy Moss (1998-00) as only receivers with at least 1,000 yards and 10 TDs in each of first three seasons.
▪ Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald finished his 200th game with 1,116 catches — one more than Jerry Rice had in his first 200.
▪ Green Bay's win last week tied its all-time series with Chicago at 93-93-6. The last time the rivalry was tied: 1933.
▪ Entering Week 16 there have been 165 games within one score in fourth quarter, most ever and most since 2002.
▪ Cowboy Dak Prescott 88.9 percent completion percent last week was second-highest ever in a game (minimum 30 attempts), to Rich Gannon's 89.5% in 2002.
▪ Ravens kicker Justin Tucker's tied NFL season mark with 10 made field goals of 50-plus yards.
▪ Rob Gronkowski gets all the tight end love, but Panthers' Greg Olsen (the ex-Cane) leads all TEs with 992 receiving yards and has most at the position (4,763) since 2012.