With two weeks left in the 2011 NFL season, more questions may be answered as early as this coming Monday night or as late as the last Sunday of the season. Several teams have already punched their dance cards for the 2011 playoffs, while others are hoping for some luck to get into the party. Granted, there are more questions than there are answers but as ESPN's Chris Berman once said, "that's why they play the games."
The next two weeks could be nice for NFL fans or so naughty even the lump of coal in the stocking might not turn into a diamond. Who makes it to the playoffs? Who stays home? Here's a list and check it twice to see if your team's on it. If they are, nice job; if not... NAUGHTY! (Just saying!)
Green Bay - Green Bay has clinched the NFC North and a first-round bye. The Packers can clinch home-field advantage with a win or a loss by San Francisco.
REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Bears (7-7), vs. Lions (9-5)
The bid for a perfect season is finished. With home-field advantage nearing and injuries potentially crippling championship hopes, the defending Super Bowl champs might now consider resting key starters.
San Francisco - The 49ers clinched the NFC West. San Francisco clinches a first-round bye with a win plus a New Orleans loss.
REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Seahawks (7-7), at Rams (2-12)
If both the 49ers and Saints win out, San Francisco would get the No. 2 seed. Next up for San Francisco is a suddenly tough test against surging Seattle, who the 49ers beat in week one at Candlestick.
New Orleans - The Saints clinched a wild-card berth. They can clinch the NFC South with a win over Atlanta (who they beat in week nine in overtime in the Big Peach.)
REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Falcons (9-5), vs. Panthers (5-9)
The division is close to being wrapped up, so the Saints can start focusing on the No. 2 seed. If they win out, they are not assured of a playoff bye because San Francisco owns the tiebreaker based on strength of schedule.
Dallas - Dallas clinches the NFC East with a win plus a Giants loss to the Jets.
REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Eagles (6-8), at Giants (7-7)
It sounds cliche but... the Cowboys control their playoff destiny. Win out (that is, beat Philly and the Giants) and they're in the playoffs.
Atlanta - Atlanta clinches a wild-card spot with a win or either of the following scenarios: 1) DAL loss + CHI loss + ARI loss; 2) NYG loss + CHI loss + ARI loss.
REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Saints (11-3), vs. Buccaneers (4-10)
If the Falcons want any shot of winning the NFC South, they have to beat the Saints, then get some help in Week 17. Realistically, the Falcons are playing for a wild-card berth. Looking good at this point, since they hold the tiebreaker with Detroit.
Detroit - The Lions can clinch a wild-card berth with a win. They can also clinch a wild-card berth with the following scenarios: 1) CHI loss + ARI loss + SEA loss + DAL loss; 2) CHI loss + ARI loss + SEA loss + NYG loss; 3) CHI loss + ARI loss + SEA loss + ATL win.
REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Chargers (7-7), at Packers (13-1)
With a season-saving rally over the Raiders in Week 15, the Lions have put themselves in a great position to earn their first playoff berth since 1999.
Seattle - The Seahawks might be a team no one wants to play if they could somehow manage to get into the playoffs. Unfortunately for Seattle, time is running out on a season where too much came too late.
REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. 49ers (11-3), at Cardinals (7-7)
Chicago - Realistically, Da Bears exited the playoff discussion when they lost Jay Cutler and Matt Forte. Only a matter of time when it becomes official. Gonna be a long winter in the Windy City, which will give Cubs fans some hope.
REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Packers (13-1), at Vikings (2-12)
New York Giants - The Giants had a chance to help themselves last Sunday against Washington and didn't. However... the Giants are in control of their playoff destiny. Win out and they win the NFC East.
REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Jets (8-6), vs. Cowboys (8-6)
Arizona - While still officially alive, the Desert Angry Birds would need a miracle to make the playoffs. They can take solace, however, in knowing John Skelton is part of their future and Kevin Kolb likely not.
REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Bengals (8-6), vs. Seahawks (7-7)
New England - The Patriots have clinched the AFC East. They can clinch a first-round bye with either of the following scenarios: 1) NE win + HOU loss; 2) NE win + PIT loss + BAL loss. New England clinches home-field advantage with a win + PIT loss + BAL loss.
REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Dolphins (5-9), vs. Bills (5-9)
With the division wrapped up, the Patriots now turn their attention to the No. 1 seed. The formula is simple: Defeat two division rivals who are sporting sub-.500 records.
Baltimore - The Ravens have clinched a playoff berth. They can clinch the AFC North with a win + PIT loss. They clinch a first-round bye with a win + PIT loss.
REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Browns (4-10), at Bengals (8-6)
The Ravens are back in the driver's seat in the AFC North, but their loss at San Diego raises questions about whether they can do what needs to be done to win it.
Houston - Houston has clinched the AFC South.
REMAINING OPPONENT: vs. Titans (7-7) (Houston lost at Indianapolis Thursday night)
The Texans first-ever playoff game will be at home at Reliant but will that come with a first-round playoff bye?
Denver - Denver clinches the AFC West with a win + OAK loss. Denver clinches a wild-card spot with a win + NYJ loss + CIN loss + TEN loss.
REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Bills (5-9), vs. Chiefs (6-8)
The Broncos still have the division lead but have left the door open for the Raiders and Chargers, both only a game back.
Pittsburgh - The Steelers have clinched a playoff berth.
REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Rams (2-12), at Browns (4-10)
The Steelers missed out on a golden opportunity to control their own destiny in the AFC North. Instead, their loss to the 49ers puts the Ravens back in the driver's seat.
New York Jets - Two tests remain on the schedule. The Dolphins would love nothing better than to send the Jets home for the holidays.
REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Giants (7-7), at Dolphins (5-9)
Cincinnati - The Jets and Bengals, tied at 8-6, would go to strength of victory as a tiebreaker if it came to that. Things could change but at the moment the Jets hold a slight edge there.
REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Cardinals (7-7), vs. Ravens (10-4)
Tennessee - Some might say if you can't beat a winless team, you don't deserve to get into the playoffs. With two games left, however, Titans still hanging on to hope.
REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Jaguars (4-10), at Texans (10-4)
Oakland - The Raiders don't control their own destiny and they would likely need to win out and get some help.
REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Chiefs (6-8), vs. Chargers (7-7)
San Diego - If the Chargers win out, they would be assured of finishing ahead of the Raiders. It's the Broncos, though, who are the bigger concern. Chargers still need help.
REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Lions (9-5), at Raiders (7-7)
Lumps of coal and switches
NFC - Washington (not even a stimulus could have saved the Redskins), Tampa Bay, Carolina, Minnesota, St. Louis.
AFC - Indianapolis (as if you didn't know already but they've won two in a row!), Jacksonville, Cleveland, Miami, Buffalo.
2011 NFL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS FOR WEEK 16
CLINCHED: Houston - AFC South
New England - AFC East
Baltimore - playoff spot
Pittsburgh - playoff spot
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: The Pats clinch a first-round bye with:
1) NE win
2) NE win + PIT loss or tie + BAL loss or tie OR
3) NE tie
4) NE tie + PIT loss + BAL loss
New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1) NE win + PIT loss or tie + BAL loss or tie
BALTIMORE RAVENS: The Ravens clinch the AFC North Division with:
1) BAL win + PIT loss
Baltimore clinches a first-round bye with:
1) BAL win + PIT loss
DENVER BRONCOS: The Bronco clinch the AFC West division with:
1) DEN win + OAK loss or tie OR
2) DEN tie + OAK loss + SD loss or tie
Denver clinches a playoff spot with:
1) DEN win + NYJ loss + CIN loss + TEN loss or tie
CLINCHED: Green Bay - NFC North and first-round bye
San Francisco - NFC West
New Orleans - playoff spot
GREEN BAY PACKERS: The Packers clinch home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:
1) GB win or tie OR
2) SF loss or tie
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: The 49ers clinch a first round bye with:
1) SF win + NO loss
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: The Saints clinch the NFC South division with:
1) NO win or tie
DALLAS COWBOYS: The Cowboys clinch the NFC East divison with:
1) DAL win + NYG loss or tie OR
2) DAL tie + NYG loss
ATLANTA FALCONS: The Falcons clinch a playoff spot with:
1) ATL win or tie OR
2) DAL loss or tie + CHI loss or tie + ARI loss or tie OR
3) NYG loss or tie + CHI loss or tie + ARI loss or tie
DETROIT LIONS: The Lions clinch a playoff spot with:
1) DET win or tie OR
2) CHI loss or tie + ARI loss or tie + SEA loss or tie + DAL loss or tie OR
3) CHI loss or tie + ARI loss or tie + SEA loss or tie + NYG loss or tie OR
4) CHI loss or tie + ARI loss or tie + SEA loss or tie + ATL win or tie