(Editor’s note: You might think that Chef spends all his time tasting beers and coming up with great menus for tailgating, well, this week, we let him out of the Kitchen, and had him figure out the various tiebreaker recipes for all remaining scenarios. The result is this post.)
Where do we stand?
The Patriots win and Jets loss on Sunday makes the playoff picture much clearer.
With an 11-2 record the Patriots have a magic number of 2 to clinch the AFC East over the Jets, and also a number of 2 to clinch the 1st seed over the Steelers/Ravens.
The Patriots can clinch the 1st seed with 2 wins.
They can clinch the AFC East and the second seed with any combination of 2 wins, Jets losses and Jets ties.
They can clinch the 1st seed with any combination of 2 wins and Pittsburgh losses. If the Patriots beat the Jets for the AFC East.
Obviously they win both of those scenarios by winning 2 out of their remaining three. But there is some breathing room built in because the Steelers and Jets play next Sunday.
Rooting interest depends on what you find more important.
If the Steelers win, the Patriots only need to win 1 game, or have the Jets lose 1 game to take the AFC East and the second seed.
If the Jets win, the Patriots still need to win 2 games, or win 1 and have the Jets lose 1 to take the AFC East. However if the Patriots take the AFC East they will also take the 1st seed.
Checking the schedules, this is the only game the Steelers should have a chance of losing
- The Patriots play Green Bay, @ Buffalo and Miami
- The Jets play @Pittsburgh, @Chicago and Buffalo
- The Steelers play Jets, Carolina, @ Cleveland
So if you want the Steelers to beat the Jets on Sunday, bear in mind the Patriots will need to win 2 games. The Steelers won’t be losing a game to help them out.
On the other hand, if the Jets win on Sunday, they could lose in Chicago the following week.
Either way, on Sunday night, when the Patriots play Green Bay if the Pats win they will clinch either the AFC East or they will clinch a higher seed than Pittsburgh.
Here’s a detailed rundown of the tiebreaker scenarios at play:
The Patriots stand at 11-2, 3-1 versus the AFC East and 8-2 against the AFC.
The Jets stand at 9-4, 3-2 versus the AFC East and 7-3 against the AFC.
If the Patriots and Jets should finish tied, then they will be tied on the third tiebreaker. Win-Loss-Tie percentage in common games. As the Patriots and Jets are in the same division they only play 4 games that aren’t in common. The Patriots beat Indy, SD and the Jets, and lost to the Jets for a 3-1 record. The Jets beat Houston, Denver and the Patriots, and lost to the Patriots for a 3-1 record.
With identical records in the 4 “uncommon” games, if the 2 teams finish tied then they must have identical records in the remaining 12 common games. So we can ignore the 3rd tiebreaker. We can also ignore the 1st tiebreaker as they finished 1-1 Head to Head.
In a tie it will come down to the 2nd, 4th or 5th tiebreakers. AFC East record, AFC record or Strength of Victory.
The Patriots play the Packers, Dolphins and Bills. The Jets play the Steelers, Bears and Bills.
So given their records the Patriots have 2 games to give right? Yes and No.
The Patriots can lose against the Packers and one of their AFC East opponents. They cannot lose to both AFC East opponents.
Here is why:
If the Patriots lose 2 games they’ll finish 12-4. If the Jets win all three of their games they will also finish 12-4.
For the Jets to finish 12-4 they will have won against the Steelers, Bills and Bears.
Their AFC East record will stand at 4-2.
If the Patriots lose to the Dolphins and Bills, their AFC East record will stand at 3-3.
The Jets would win on the 2nd tiebreaker AFC East record.
If the Patriots lose to the Packers and either the Dolphins and Jets, then we go deep into the tiebreakers.
Both teams would finish 12-4. They would also finish tied at 4-2 against the AFC East. And they’d also finish tied at 9-3 against the AFC.
So we go to the strength of victory tiebreaker.
As laid out last week, this is an advantage for the Patriots, and it got even better this week.
As a refresher strength of victory is the winning percentage of the teams you beat. Because the Patriots and Jets play such similar schedules there are only a few teams that make up the difference in their strengths of victory.
And remember we only get to this point if the Jets win all of their remaining games.
Eliminating the victories they have in common
Pats will have Indy (7-6), San Diego (7-6), Baltimore (8-4) and Dolphins (7-6) or Bills (3-10) 29-22 with a win against the Dolphins, 25-26 with a win against the Bills.
Jets will have Houston (5-7), Denver (3-10), Cleveland (5-8) and Bills (3-10) 16-35
With only 3 weeks remaining it is clear that this tiebreaker goes to the Patriots.
So what happens if the Jets lose to the Steelers:
The Jets could then only finish 11-5 at best, with a 4-2 AFC East record, 8-4 against the AFC
The Patriots could lose any 2 games, including losing both to their remaining AFC East opponents. Because the Patriots would still finish 12-4 and win outright..
The Patriots could NOT lose all 3 of their remaining games. Although this would tie them with the Jets at 11-5, the Patriots would finish 3-3 against the AFC East and the Jets would finish 4-2. The Patriots would lose on the 2nd tiebreaker.
So what happens if the Jets lose to the Bears:
Again the Patriots couldn’t lose both remaining AFC East games, due to that 2nd tiebreaker; but they could lose against the Packers and one AFC East opponent.
As far as it matters, that takes care of the Jets. So what about the 1st seed. That comes down to the Steelers.
The Steelers stand at 10-3 only one game behind the 11-2 Patriots and have games against the Jets, Panthers and Browns.
Because the Patriots hold the 1st tiebreaker against the Steelers it is only necessary to finish tied with them.
And looking at their games, lets just say the only one they should realistically have a chance of losing is to the Jets.
We also know the Patriots have 2 games in hand against the Jets, as long as they are the right 2 games.
So the Jets losing to Steelers doesn’t necessarily help the Patriots, but the Steelers losing to the Jets does help the Patriots.
So the answer is clear, hope for the Jets to beat the Steelers, because that brings the ‘lose to the Packers and either Dolphins/Bills for both the AFC East and 1st seed’ situation into play.