Updated NFL playoff scenarios

There are two games remaining on the Week 16 schedule (Saints vs. Falcons on Monday and Vikings vs. Eagles on Tuesday), but we know what teams have to do to clinch playoff berths, divisions, sixth seeds and everything else that’s clinchable. (Clinchable?)

Here’s a breakdown for each of the two conferences.

AFC

Steelers
Pittsburgh can clinch the AFC North and a first-round bye with a win or tie and Baltimore loss or tie. They also accomplish the same feat with a Baltimore loss this Sunday.

Ravens
Baltimore clinches the AFC North and a first-round bye with a win and a Pittsburgh loss or tie. They can also clinch with a tie and a Pittsburgh loss.

Colts
Indy can clinch the AFC South with a win or tie against the Titans, or a Jaguars’ loss or tie.

Jaguars
Jacksonville clinches the AFC South with a win and an Indianapolis loss to Tennessee at home.

NFC

Eagles
Philadelphia has clinched the NFC East and still ha sa chance to earn a first-round bye and homefield advantage next week depending on what happens Monday night in the Falcons-Saints game, as well as the Bears-Packers matchup on Sunday. As of right now, there are too many scenarios to list, so I’ll have another update next Monday.

Bears
Chicago clinched the NFC North and much like the Eagles, can earn a first-round bye and homefield advantage next week.

Falcons
If Atlanta beats the Saints on Monday night, it’ll win the NFC South and clinch the top seed in the playoffs. If the Falcons lose to the Saints but beat the Panthers on Sunday, they’ll accomplish the same feat.

Saints
The Saints can clinch a playoff spot with a win or tie against the Falcons on Monday and still has a chance to win the NFC South, a first-round bye and homefield advantage next week.

Packers
Green Bay just has to beat the Bears on Sunday and it’ll earn a playoff spot. They can also clinch a playoff berth with a tie and a Giants’ loss or tie to the Redskins, as well as a Bucs loss or tie to the Saints on Sunday. If all three teams lose this Sunday, the Packers would get it.

Giants
New York can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Redskins and a Packers’ loss or tie to the Bears. They can also clinch with a win and two New Orleans losses, or with a tie against the Redskins and a loss by both the Packers and Bucs.

Bucs
Tampa Bay can clinch a playoff spot with a win and a Saints’ loss to the Falcons, as well as a Giants’ loss or tie to the Redskins. They can also clinch with a win, a Saints loss to the Falcons and a Packers loss to the Bears. Or…a win and a Giants’ loss or tie, plus a Packers’ loss or tie. Or…with a tie, and losses by the Giants and Packers. Or…wait, no – that was it.

Rams & Seahawks
Which ever team wins this Sunday in Seattle will win the NFC West (also known as the greatest division known to man).

Sorry, if your team is not mentioned above, they have been eliminated. You may begin crying………………now.

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The Chiefs continue to prove doubters wrong

I’ll be the first to admit that I thought the Chiefs would have collapsed by now and the Chargers would have overtaken the top spot in the AFC West. Kansas City has been in control of the division for most of the year but I’ve patiently waited for disaster to strike.

But it hasn’t. Perhaps I should have considered that their win over the Chargers in Week 1 wasn’t a fluke and this team is for real. But I didn’t. And they are.

Matt Cassel was brilliant in the Chiefs’ 34-14 win over the Titans on Sunday. He completed 24-of-34 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns, all while showing no ill effects from the appendectomy surgery he had three weeks ago. It’s amazing to think that at the start of the year, many people believed KC would have to search for a new quarterback in 2011 and now it appears that the Chiefs will only go as far as he takes them. Understandably, it took a while for him to get comfortable in Charlie Weis’ system but now that he is, the skies the limit for both him and KC. (It also doesn’t hurt that he has a couple of great weapons around him in Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe).

Granted, things could still turn sour for KC next week and seeing as how I have deemed them “for real,” the jinx has probably been set.

But as of this writing, the Chargers are losing at halftime to the Bengals, so it looks like the Chiefs are in good shape. If Cincinnati holds on, KC would win the AFC West for the first time since 2003. If San Diego mounts a comeback and wins, then the Chiefs would have to beat the Raiders next week or have San Diego lose at Denver.

Let’s assume for a second that the Chiefs do win the division and wrap up the No. 3 seed in the AFC. How far could this team go? Well, given how bad the Jets’ (who will have the No. 6 seed) defense has looked in recent weeks, it’s not a stretch to think that KC would move to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. And then, who knows? Nobody outside of the Patriots looks indestructible in the AFC so there’s a chance that this pesky Chiefs team could be the dark horse of the conference.

But first things first: they need to get in and then they can worry about seeding and opponents. Either way, the Chiefs continue to make noise.

Are the Bears and Jets’ defenses overrated?

Here are five quick-hit thoughts on the Bears’ wild 38-34 win over the Jets in Week 16.

1. Are the Bears and Jets’ defenses overrated?
Not to take anything away from Jay Cutler (who has played well for most of the season) or Mark Sanchez (who has played well for most of his last two games), but what happened to the defenses for these two teams? The Bears came into this game with the 30th-ranked offense and Sanchez was playing with torn cartilage in his shoulder. Yet you would have sworn that this was an Arena League game with the way both teams went up and down the field. In the Jets’ embarrassing loss to the Patriots on Monday night a few weeks ago, their pass rush was non-existent. It was the same case on Sunday, as their front seven failed to lay a hand on Cutler in most situations. New York’s vaunted secondary was brutal in coverage as well, and the entire defense had a poor day tackling. In the past two games, the Jets have allowed 700 total yards, which is a concern to say the least (especially now that they’ve managed to back into the playoffs again). The Bears defense was no better, as it allowed Sanchez to complete 24-for-37 pass attempts for 269 yards and a touchdown. Granted, Chris Harris came up with a huge interception to seal the game for the Bears late in the fourth quarter, but Lovie Smith can’t be too pleased that his defense gave up 393 total yards of offense. With the way both teams played on Sunday, it makes you wonder whether these defenses are living off past reputations.

2. Teams still haven’t learned not to kick to Hester.
It’s amazing how teams foolishly believe week after week that they’ll be the ones to negate what Devin Hester can do in the return game. And I blame the kickers, because no coach that wants to retain his job is ordering his team to kick to the former Miami product. Jets coach Rex Ryan said earlier in the week that the Jets wouldn’t punt to Hester, but Steve Weatherford did it anyway. After successfully playing keep-away in the first half, Weatherford booted a line drive right to Hester in the third quarter, who returned the gift 32 yards to New York’s 32-yard-line. He caught a 25-yard touchdown three plays later to give the Bears a 31-24 lead. Later in the third quarter, he returned a kickoff 40 yards to set up a Cutler touchdown pass to Johnny Knox. The impact that Hester is having this year is eerily similar to the one he had when they went to the Super Bowl in 2006. Given how much more explosive the Bears are offensively than they were back then, teams that could play Chicago in the postseason better figure out a way to keep it out of his hands.

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