Week 12 Mailbag

Welcome to our weekly mailbag post! If you have any questions for future posts, feel free to send us a message here!

See the Playoff Picture entering week 12 here

Rushaan S:

When is the easiest way for Detriot to grab the 1 seed?

The simplest thing is for DET to win out & have PHI drop 2 games. If PHI loses only to BUF, PHI would get the 1 seed on conference record. If PHI loses only 1 game to NYG or ARI, PHI would get the 1 seed on common games. If PHI loses only 1 game, but it’s to DAL or SEA, the 1 seed would fall to Strength of Victory which is up in the air right now.

Twitter User @NightCat2800:

When can the Lions clinch the division?

The Lions clinching is complicated by the fact that they face MIN twice in the last 3 weeks. Thus, if DET is close to MIN by that point, and DET gets swept by MIN, they’ll lose the head-to-head tiebreaker. So DET’s earliest path would require winning on pure record. By week 13, the best case scenario for DET is to have 10 wins, but with MIN having a week 13 bye, they’d still be at 6 wins at worst, but in week 14, DET could get to 11 wins, with MIN at 7 losses.

Thus, the Lions can clinch the division in week 14, but it would require DET to win weeks 12-14 and MIN to lose weeks 12 & 14.

Chukwubuikem C:

Why can’t the Eagles clinch a playoff berth this week?

The basic answer to this is that they lose a lot of tiebreakers. If PHI won this week but lost the rest of their games, they’d be 10-7 with a 6-6 conference record.

Let’s let GB win every game from week 13 on. Let’s also get SEA, SF, DET, and DAL to 11 or more wins (this is pretty trivial without affecting anything else). Let’s let MIN win every game from week 14 with the exception of their loss to GB. This means our top 5 seeds are DAL, DET, SEA, SF, and the NFC South winner. MIN is 10-6, and GB is 10-6. If MIN wins/ties, they would also finish ahead of PHI in record, and even if GB loses, PHI/GB goes to GB on conference record (8-4 vs 6-6). Now, if MIN loses, things get a bit trickier, as PHI has head-to-head.

Division ties are always broken first. At 10-7, MIN would have a sweep of DET and would also win a 3-way tiebreaker with GB & DET on head-to-head. This means that if we get DET to 10-7 and GB to 10-7, with one of DET’s losses being to DEN (AFC loss), then 10-7 MIN would win the NFC North, and then DET & GB would get the 6 & 7 seeds on conference record.

Thus, regardless of results this week, we have a path to keep PHI out of the playoffs.

Amber A:

Why can’t the Panthers be eliminated this week?

Seems ridiculous that 1-10 CAR couldn’t be eliminated, doesn’t it? But the NFC South is so bad, CAR can’t even be knocked out of their own division this week! If CAR were to lose this week but win the remainder of their games, they’d be 7-10. If NO loses all of their games from week 13 onward, ATL loses all of their games from week 13 onward except to NO, and TB loses all of their games from week 13 onward except to ATL & NO, then NO & ATL would have 11 losses. TB would be 6-10, but even if TB won in week 12, CAR would have a sweep of TB, giving them the division at 7-10.

Chukwubuikem C:

Why can’t the Cardinals be eliminated this week?

This one is a little trickier, but not too bad. Let’s just go ahead and name PHI, DAL, DET, MIN, SF, and NO the top 6 seeds. We can let them win all the games they can. Also, let’s have SEA lose every game from week 13 on. From this point, it’s relatively trivial to get LAR, CHI, ATL, GB, CAR, TB, WAS, and NYG to 11 or more losses, so I won’t go over all the games for that.

With 8 teams at 11+ losses, we are left with SEA at 6-10, and ARI at 7-10 for the 7th spot If SEA loses/ties, ARI wins on record. If SEA wins, SEA/ARI falls to Strength of Victory, which SEA cannot clinch this week, leaving ARI a path to the playoffs.

Niko T:

What would the Bills need to have happen in order to win the division

The simple answer here would be to beat MIA and finish with the same or better record as them at the end of the season. If BUF defeats MIA in week 18, BUF would have a head-to-head sweep. Even if NYJ joins in the 3-way tie, BUF would still win the tiebreaker on head-to-head, so as long as BUF wins week 18 against MIA and stays even in record with MIA & NYJ, they would win the division. This is also by far their easiest path to the playoffs in general.

Niko T:

What is Houston’s path to clinching a playoff berth?

HOU’s best path is to just win their division. If they beat JAX this week, they will have a sweep of JAX. If they beat IND in week 18 as well, then a 3-way JAX/HOU/IND tie would also go to HOU on head-to-head. Thus, their best path is win week 12 vs JAX, week 18 vs IND, and otherwise keep pace in wins with those 2 teams.

Jennifer G:

Why does a Dallas win knock the Giants out of the division race?

Let’s start with the simple part: NYG is 3-8 and PHI is 9-1. The only way NYG doesn’t lose on record alone is if NYG wins out & PHI loses out. If DAL loses/ties and then loses the remainder of their games, and WAS loses all games from week 13 on except vs DAL, then DAL & WAS would have 8.5 or more losses, and NYG wins the division on head-to-head sweep.

However, if DAL wins, DAL would be at 9 wins as well when accounting for the win they get when PHI loses out, and DAL would then have to lose the remainder of their games. In this scenario, NYG is 2-2 vs DAL/PHI, DAL is 3-1 vs NYG/PHI, and PHI is 1-3 vs NYG/DAL. DAL wins the head-to-head, eliminating NYG. But what if we bring in WAS, make them finish 9-8 as well to get past this 3-way head-to-head? Then DAL & NYG are 4-2 in division, while PHI is 3-3 and WAS is 1-5. WAS/PHI would drop out on division record (4-way head-to-head), and DAL would win the division on a head-to-head sweep of NYG.

Thus, if DAL wins, NYG has no way of getting past DAL in the division.

Niko T:

What is the path for Cleveland to miss the playoffs?

The AFC is an absolute quagmire, and it is easy for any team to miss the playoffs. If CLE loses out, barring the most absurd sequence of events, they’ll miss. The tightness of the AFC, though, means that any attempt to qualify missing the playoffs at record X would be unreasonably complicated.

James L:

If Dallas and Philly both finish at 14-3, who wins the tiebreaker?

If DAL wins out, they give PHI a 2nd loss. Who wins the tiebreaker depends on who PHI loses their remaining game to. If PHI loses a game to NYG, DAL advances on division record. Otherwise, PHI would advance on conference record (DAL & PHI would be tied in common games).

Calvin C:

Should Seattle win out, what would it take for them to get the number #1 seed?

If SEA wins out, they will be 13-4. They will have also defeated SF twice and PHI and DAL once. With SF getting 2 losses from SEA to drop them to 5 wins, the only teams that could possibly finish 13-4 are DAL, PHI, and DET. However, SEA has head-to-head victories over all of them, so anything that results in all 3 getting to 4 wins give the 1 seed to SEA. SEA’s victory over DAL will give DAL their 4th loss, so they’re already out of the picture. So all SEA has remaining is for PHI & DET to drop 2 additional games each (beyond PHI’s loss to SEA).

Gerald G:

When is the soonest that Miami can clinch the division?

Similar to the DET situation above, MIA’s division clinching scenarios are hamstrung by the fact that they lost to BUF once, and they don’t play BUF again until week 18. Given that, and given that for clinching scenarios we assume the clinching team loses their games after the given week, any clinching scenario for MIA before week 18 would include a second loss to BUF. Thus, MIA will have to clinch over BUF on record alone, as BUF would win the head-to-head tiebreaker.

We also have to consider that BUF has their bye in week 13, so from week 12-14, while MIA can win 3 times, BUF can only lose twice. If MIA wins weeks 12-14 and BUF loses weeks 12 & 14, we would still have MIA at only 10 wins, and BUF at only 7 losses, keeping BUF alive.

Thus, the earliest MIA could clinch the AFC East title would be week 15.

Brady H:

What is the earliest the Giants could be eliminated from playoff contention?

NYG is helped by the fact that MIN & NYG don’t play in week 13. This allows NYG to get through week 13 and still be guaranteed to have no more than 9 losses. On the other end, manipulating only games from week 14 and beyond, we can still get MIN to 10 losses because they can’t get an 8th win by week 13.

If we let PHI, DET, SF, NO, and DAL have the top 5 seeds, we can let them win as many games as possible from weeks 14 on, and using only week 14 and beyond games, it’s fairly trivial to get MIN, CHI, ATL, GB, LAR, CAR, TB, WAS, ARI all at 10 or more losses. Given that NYG has at worst 9 losses at the end of week 13, this means that NYG can’t be eliminated in week 13. However, there is ample room for us to move week 14 stuff to eliminate NYG in week 14.

Thus, the earliest NYG could be eliminated from playoff contention would be week 14.

Alecha K:

What would need to happen for Baltimore to maintain the 1 seed even if they end up having the same record as Kansas City, Miami, Jacksonville, Cleveland, etc?

That is a tricky question to ask without any additional parameters. So let’s start by looking at what happens at 14-3.All of the 3 loss teams can’t finish at 14-3. BAL still plays MIA and BAL & CLE still play JAX The possible 3-way combinations at 14-3 are as follows

MIA/JAX/KC - 1) KC, 2) JAX, 3) MIA - KC gets 1 seed on head-to-head sweep, JAX gets 2 seed on common games

MIA/CLE/KC - 1) KC, 2) MIA, 3) CLE - KC gets 1 seed on conference record, MIA gets 2 seed on common games

CLE/BAL/KC - 1) KC, 2) CLE, 5) BAL - CLE beats BAL for AFC North title on conference record, KC gets 1 seed on conference record

BAL simply can’t get the 1 seed at 14-3 unless KC & CLE lose a 4th game.

Now, once we drop below 14-3, there are a lot of permutations, which are too massive to put together here, so just for fun, let’s look at how the 2-way tiebreakers would work at 13-4 and 12-5.

BAL/KC - at 13-4 or better, KC has conference record record. At 12-5, KC would have conference record on BAL unless BAL’s losses are to LAR & SF and KC’s 2 losses are both conference losses. In that case, it falls to common games, which BAL would win.

BAL/MIA - falls to head-to-head between MIA & BAL

BAL/JAX - falls to head-to-head between JAX & BAL

BAL/CLE - This one is massively in the air. It starts with the week 18 division games. If BAL wins & CLE loses, BAL takes the division. If CLE wins and BAL loses, CLE takes the division. If both win or both lose, it falls to common games. This is entirely up in the air. There’s 4 common games for both, and both are tied at 6-2 right now, so it comes down to who performs better on those 4 common games. If that ties, it falls to conference record. CLE has an edge right now, but there are enough conference games that this could even out. If that ties, it falls to Strength of Victory (which I’m not gonna analyze here).

BAL/HOU (12-4 or worse only) - BAL has head-to-head over HOU

BAL/PIT (12-4 or worse only) - This largely relies on BAL/PIT in week 18. If PIT wins, PIT wins head-to-head. If PIT loses, we’re stuck at 11-5. PIT would be 4-2 and BAL would be 4-2 in division, so it falls to common games. If one of BAL’s remaining losses is to LAC or MIA, BAL wins common games. If BAL wins both of those, we fall to conference record. PIT would be 8-4, and BAL would already have 8 conference wins. If BAL’s 2 losses are NFC games, BAL wins conference record. If BAL loses to JAX and one of their NFC games, then it falls to Strength of Victory.

BAL/BUF (11-5 only) - BUF would be 7-5 in conference. If either of BAL’s losses is to an NFC team, BAL has conference record. If both of BAL’s remaining losses is to AFC teams, we fall to common games. If one of BAL’s losses is to PIT, then BAL wins common games. Otherwise, we fall to Strength of Victory.

BAL/IND (11-5 only) - IND has head-to-head over BAL

BAL/DEN (11-5 only) - DEN would be 8-4 in conference. BAL could be anywhere from 7-5 to 9-3 depending on which 2 games they lose. If both losses are NFC, BAL wins. If both losses are AFC, DEN wins. If it is one AFC and one NFC, then if that AFC loss is to MIA or LAC, DEN wins common games. Otherwise we fall to Strength of Victory.

BAL/CIN (11-5 only) - BAL has head-to-head over CIN.