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NFL Playoff scenarios: Cowboys on the brink heading into Week 13

NFL Playoff scenarios: Cowboys on the brink heading into Week 13

Updated Dec. 2 at 10:00am ET

Welcome back NFL Playoff fans! As we head into Week 13 of the 2016 NFL season, I want to announce that my annual playoff scenario and tiebreaker analysis blog and associated videos have a new home! Since I now head up Content Strategy for NBC's Regional Sports Network in the "DMV" (Delaware, Maryland and Virginia) known as CSN Mid-Atlantic, I have moved the discussion from CBSSports.com, my home for the past 14 years, to CSNMidAtlantic.com. This information may also find its way to other NBC Sports/Yahoo properties as we move forward.

As veteran readers and comment participants in this blog already know, the playoff scenarios and related tiebreaker analysis you will find here each week is must-read material for NFL fans, teams/players and media members for the next five weeks. CSNMidAtlantic.com is your official home for NFL playoff scenarios as we will release the scenarios here every week prior to the NFL releasing the information. We are in this position as I am entering my 25th year of figuring out the official NFL playoff scenarios for all teams (along with incredible co-pilots from Elias Sports Bureau) and ultimately delivering the final product to the NFL each week.

WEEK 13 NFL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS

2016 has not had any single team significantly break out of the pack in their division, thus the lack of playoff clinching scenarios until Week 13.

We already have two teams eliminated from playoff contention this year, Cleveland on Week 11 and San Francisco on Week 12. Cleveland's elimination after week 11 made them the 5th team out with six weeks to play since the 2002 NFL realignment (Miami '07, Detroit '08, Carolina '10 and Oakland '14).

San Francisco's exit this past week with five weeks to play is only the second time since 1990 that the 49ers have been eliminated this early (2005).

That leaves us with 30 teams in Super Bowl contention with five weeks to play, which is the 4th most since 2007... largely due to record "bunching" in the middle (NFC has 11 of 16 teams between 7-4 and 4-7) and overall parity.

We do have our first playoff clinching scenario this week as the 10-1 DALLAS COWBOYS can secure a playoff berth with:

  1. TAMPA BAY loss or tie
  2. WASHINGTON loss

Update: Dallas' win on Thursday night leaves just the need for either of the scenarios above to occur for the Cowboys to clinch a playoff spot.  If both Tampa Bay and Washington lose this week, Dallas will be at least the #5 seed in the NFC.

Week 14 early scenario:  Dallas' win means that the Cowboys can clinch the NFC East division title with a win next week at the NY Giants, regardless of the Giants result at Pittsburgh this week.  This is based on a season split, equal division record at worst for Dallas and Dallas beating the Giants on record against Common Opponents 10-2 to 9-3 at best for NYG.

There are also a few teams that can be eliminated from playoff contention this week that would join Cleveland and San Francisco on the "maybe next year" list.

JACKSONVILLE will be eliminated from playoff contention with:

  1. LOSS
  2. TIE + HOU Win or Tie
  3. TIE + INDY Win

CINCINNATI will be eliminated from playoff contention with:

  1. LOSS + PIT Win + BALT Win + DEN Win

NY JETS will be eliminated from playoff contention with:

  1. LOSS + MIA win/tie
  2. LOSS + DEN win/tie
  3. LOSS + BUF win/tie
  4. LOSS + CIN win + PIT win/tie
  5. LOSS + CIN tie + SD win/tie
  6. LOSS + CIN loss
  7. TIE + DEN win
  8. TIE + MIA win
  9. TIE + MIA tie + BUF win

The Jets scenario is interesting in many ways but mostly since 3-7-1 Cincinnati plays so heavily in their loss scenarios. That's because the Bengals has games left with teams the Jets need to lose along the way like Houston, Baltimore and Pittsburgh and the only real scenario keeping the Jets alive if they lose is for Cincinnati to end 6-8-2 (effectively 7-9) and beat out Pittsburgh at 7-9 and beat other 7-9 teams in multi-team tie on conference record.

CHICAGO will be eliminated from playoff contention with (Updated after MIN loss on Thursday night):

  1. LOSS
  2. TIE + NO win/tie
  3. TIE + PHI win
  4. TIE + TB win/tie
  5. TIE + CAR win
  6. WAS win + DET win/tie
  7. TB win + ATL win/tie + NO tie

Here are some early tiebreaker notes and things to watch in the weeks ahead:

  • New England currently holds tiebreaker over Oakland for #1 AFC seed due to an extra conference game, but if both teams end up at 14-2 the RAIDERS would win the #1 seed based on record against common opponents (5-0 vs. 4-1).  The difference would be the Patriots week 4 loss at home to Buffalo.  Rex Ryan strikes again.
  • DETROIT has a one-game lead at 7-4 with 5 games to play, BUT if the Lions win their next two (@NO, CHI) and Minnesota loses next week (@JAX) and Green Bay loses their next two (HOU, SEA), then the DETROIT LIONS will be NFC North Champions.  Lions have swept the Vikings which is key.
  • The earliest a division can be clinched this year is week 14 as New England, Dallas, Detroit and Seattle have that goal in their sights.

As I like to do on this blog each week, here's a likely misguided early prediction of playoff seedings based on remaining schedules, current playing strengths and potential tiebreakers:

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS FOLLOWING WEEK 12:

AFC                

  1. New England Patriots        
  2. Kansas City Chiefs        
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers        
  4. Houston Texans            
  5. Oakland Raiders            
  6. Denver Broncos (battle w/MIA)    

NFC

  1. Dallas Cowboys
  2. Atlanta Falcons
  3. Seattle Seahawks
  4. Detroit Lions
  5. New York Giants
  6. Washington Redskins (win over MIN is key)

The beauty of this blog is that it's intended to be interactive. The comments area below is an opportunity to ask questions about any team and their playoff chances. "Are the Jaguars eliminated with a loss this week?" "What if the Patriots and Raiders both end up 14-2?" Sometimes the answers will come from me but they will often come from a great collection of tiebreaker enthusiasts that put a solid amount of work into their feedback and insights.

In addition, I will be participating in a Facebook Live interactive broadcast each Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. ET on CSN Mid-Atlantic's Facebook page ("Like" it now so you get notified each week). You can also get live updates throughout each weekend from me on Twitter @JoeNFL and @NFL_Tiebreakers where you can also ask key scenario questions about your favorite teams on the fly.  

Best of luck to your favorite team and enjoy the ride for the next five weeks!

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Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman caused quite a stir with his comments Sunday about the atmosphere at FedEx Field, and the Redskins cornerback made it clear he plans to do his part in making sure the stadium is packed for Sunday's game against the Texans. 

Norman told reporters Thursday he's going to be giving away "40 or 50" free tickets for the Houston game, online and perhaps even in person.

"Yes, I will be giving out free tickets," he said. "I'll be doing it on my socials as well, I think I'll probably post tonight or something about it."

"Who knows, you may see me coming out and being an early Santa somewhere in the mall or something, just handing out tickets."

And if you are one of the lucky fans who gets a ticket from "Santa Norman," he has specific instructions on how you should behave at Sunday's game:

"Whoever get(s) them, we want them loud and just obnoxious. Just really obnoxious."

Norman joins several Redskins players who have promised to give away tickets to the Texans game.

It may be November, but the Christmas spirit is alive and well at Redskins Park. 

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A Madden ratings performance adjustor explains what goes into the job that everyone's jealous of

A Madden ratings performance adjustor explains what goes into the job that everyone's jealous of

Even on a field filled with NFL players, experienced coaches and a few celebrities, Clint Oldenburg stood out. 

It wasn’t because of his stature or that he used to play pro football, either.

It was due to his jacket.

A jacket, which led to a photo, which led to a tweet, which led to unexpected Internet fame, all thanks to the four words written on Oldenburg’s back: “Madden Ratings Performance Adjustor.”

Oldenburg was spending Week 9 at FedEx Field, sent by EA Sports to get more information on Adrian Peterson at that afternoon’s Redskins-Falcons game. The future Hall of Famer is in the middle of a comeback season, so Oldenburg was charged with checking in on him.

4.5 million Twitter impressions later, Oldenburg now knows that countless people are supremely jealous of his weekend vocation.

"I wasn’t really engaging on my cell phone during the game, and then when I was catching my cab to the airport after the game I looked at it and said, ‘Holy crap,’” he said in a recent phone interview.

"I was in shock as to what was happening.”

A fifth-round pick of the Patriots in 2007, Oldenburg also had brief stints with the Jets and a few others, including the Redskins. These days, he spends Monday-Friday working to make Madden’s gameplay better.

But he’s also a part of the Ratings Adjustor team, a small group of evaluators who travel to stadiums, observe players and submit their notes to a fellow employee. That primary analyst takes their notes into account and then has the final say on every player’s precious overall rating, which can fluctuate with each Madden update. 

Now, you may find the idea of sending someone to the site of a matchup to do this gig a bit preposterous. But according to Oldenburg, being there in-person does make a major difference.

"The benefits of the sideline really are for pregame,” he explained. “Just seeing how guys are working in pregame, getting a close-up view of their actual athletic skills, their footwork.”

Oldenburg also likes the “better perspective” he gets once the action kicks off. For example, while focusing on Peterson during the Burgundy and Gold’s loss to Atlanta, he felt like No. 26 missed some cutback lanes, something Oldenburg always finds himself paying attention to thanks to his days battling along the line.

Much like the thousands of social media users who shared various reactions about his job, players take an interest in him as well.

While in Landover, kicker Dustin Hopkins found Oldenburg on the sideline and passed along a request: That day, the team was planning on kicking off short as opposed to through the end zone, so Hopkins wanted to make sure his kick power wouldn't be decreased. 

"They wanna come talk about what we’re doing,” Oldenburg said about the athletes he’s tasked with grading. "Information like that is always valuable."

After his playing career wrapped up, Oldenburg jumped into an internship working on the video game that he loved growing up. “Everything took off” after that 10-week program, and he’s been enjoying it ever since.

"I always had to scratch and claw for everything I got,” he said near the end of the call. "I wanted to find a career that I knew I’d be happy doing.”

In the end, he landed in a career that makes him happy. And as one viral tweet showed, plenty of others would be happy in his role too. 

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