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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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Ron Rivera doesn't anticipate Dwayne Haskins being bothered by Redskins talking to top QBs

Ron Rivera doesn't anticipate Dwayne Haskins being bothered by Redskins talking to top QBs

Ron Rivera figured he'd make headlines (like the one on this exact website). He just doesn't really think what he revealed deserved to be so newsworthy.

The comments that generated some chatter came on Wednesday, when the Redskins head coach told reporters at the Combine that the team will speak with both Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa.

Washington, of course, already has Dwayne Haskins on the roster and appears poised to take Chase Young second overall in the upcoming draft. But Rivera still wants to sit down with the two top passers in this year's class, and he doesn't really see what's wrong with that.

"I just think it's what you're supposed to do," Rivera told the Redskins Talk podcast on Thursday in Indianapolis. "Of course, that's one thing that people want to jump on and sink their teeth into and create stuff. All we're doing is our due diligence. If we don't look at those guys and something crazy happened, then we'd sit there and look silly."

Burrow is the overwhelming favorite to be selected by the Bengals to kick off April's event, but it makes sense for the Redskins to familiarize themselves with him just in case something wacky happens (it is the Bengals, guys). 

Tagovailoa, meanwhile, has been getting positive reports on his health, which is really the only thing to doubt about the polished product from Alabama. While Burrow currently seems like a complete longshot to end up with the Burgundy and Gold, Tagovailoa does not.

Still, Rivera maintained that the Redskins are just completing their research.

"We're going to cover all our bases and just see what happens," he said. "Everybody wants to know what we're going to do. We can't tell you what we're going to do because we don't know what's going to happen in front of us."

Now, is Rivera worried at all about how Haskins will take these meetings? His rookie year was rife with stories that the 2019 coaching staff didn't want him, after all, so isn't it risky to possibly restart those stories again in 2020? 

Short answer? Nope. Long answer? Here it is.

"I think Dwayne is smart enough to understand," the head man said. "I really do. It's been a neat development of a relationship right now between he and I. I think the one thing that I really do appreciate is his hard work already. And I think that's what everybody needs, to just take a step back and understand that all we're doing is our due diligence."

Rivera indicated that Burrow and Tagovailoa could very well visit the Redskins at their facility later this offseason, too, so this talk of QB drama may pop up again shortly. It doesn't feel like drama to him, though.

To him, and hopefully to Haskins, this is all a part of having the No. 2 pick in the draft, a spot that gives Washington a lot of options.

"I think if this is something that's bothering him, he'll say it," Rivera finished. "But he's a mature, young man who's just growing in his role. I just think that everybody needs to just relax and let us go through our process."

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Arizona State punter Michael Turk dominates the bench press at NFL Combine

Arizona State punter Michael Turk dominates the bench press at NFL Combine

As far as reputations go in the NFL, punters are not generally known as the tough, strong guys on the team.

Arizona State punter Michael Turk is working to change that.

At the NFL Combine on Thursday, Turk stepped up to the bench press with 225 pounds on the bar waiting for him. What did he do? Just casually ripped off 25 reps.

Yes, you are seeing that correctly. A punter just put up 25 reps on the bench press. That number is impressive as is, for anyone of any position. However, let's put it in context to show just how strong Turk is.

Jadaveon Clowney, Chandler Jones and Rob Gronkowski are all known as some of the strongest humans to ever hit the football field. Their bench reps? 21, 22 and 23, respectively. Michael Turk, the punter, out-did them

Turk will need his legs to impress teams and scouts as he looks to head to the NFL, but he clearly has plenty of power in the upper body as well. If whatever team he lands on wants to run a fake punt, defenders won't have an easy time taking him down.

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