Quick Links

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, my home for the past 14 years, to 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. 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.


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:



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


  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!

Quick Links

Chase Young, potential Redskins No. 2 pick, does not plan to work out during NFL Scouting Combine

Chase Young, potential Redskins No. 2 pick, does not plan to work out during NFL Scouting Combine

Chase Young has thrown a wrinkle into this week's NFL Scouting Combine, as the Ohio State pass rusher does not plan on participating in drills during the event. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the news first.

Young will still fly to Indianapolis for the combine, as he will be present for medicals and interviews, according to Rapoport. All 32 NFL teams are permitted to individually interview 45 different NFL Draft prospects at the combine.

With LSU quarterback Joe Burrow likely headed to the Bengals with the first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Young is widely expected to be selected by the Redskins with the No. 2 overall pick.

As it stands now, Young's draft stock is practically as high as it possibly could be. Thus, his decision to sit out combine drills is not necessarily a surprising choice. The 20-year-old also has the opportunity to showcase his talents during Ohio State's Pro Day, which will occur sometime between the middle of March and the beginning of April.

Several current Redskins, including Young's former Buckeye teammates Dwayne Haskins and Terry McLaurin, have lobbied for the Burgundy and Gold to select Young.

NFL experts have wavered back and forth on what Washington should do with the pick. NBC Sports' Peter King thinks Washington could "remake their franchise" by trading the pick and acquiring multiple assets. Chris Simms doesn't think the Redskins should lock in on Young, either.

But most NFL experts believe Young to Washington should be a done deal. Danny Kanell says the team should take Young and not look back. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said Washington should take Young unless a team "blows their doors off" with a trade offer. Almost every single mock draft across all websites has the Redskins inking Young with their pick.

The NFL Draft is eight weeks away and a lot can change between now and then. The Scouting Combine workouts begin on Thursday with tight ends, quarterbacks and wide receivers taking the field.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.


Quick Links

Former Redskins QB Josh Johnson destroys Defenders in Week 3

Former Redskins QB Josh Johnson destroys Defenders in Week 3

Former Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson carved up the visiting DC Defenders for 278 yards and three touchdowns Sunday night in the Los Angeles Wildcats' commanding 39-9 victory.

The Wildcats obliterated Cardale Jones (13-of-26, 4 INT) and the Defenders, who fall to 2-1 on the season.

Johnson completed passes to eight different receivers, including William and Mary standout Tre McBride, who was traded from the Defenders to the Wildcats in the preseason.

McBride finished the night with five catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns.

Johnson played for the Redskins during the 2018 NFL season, suiting up for the final four games after the team lost both Alex Smith and Colt McCoy to season-ending injuries. Johnson led the Redskins to a 16-13 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars during Week 15, throwing for 151 yards and a touchdown.

Johnson was selected by the Wildcats in the XFL Supplemental Draft in Nov. 2019. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.