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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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Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

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Associated Press

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons

This post was originally published on March 19. 

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details. 

Until now. 

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. 

Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer). 

But there I another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million. 

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith but since we have no details we’ll set those aside for now. 

The cap hits on the contract are as follows: 

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022. 

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Early returns show solid Redskins squad, with potential for more

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USA TODAY Sports

Early returns show solid Redskins squad, with potential for more

More than 100 days remain before the Redskins take the field in meaningful NFL action.

Any and all excitement needs to be tempered, significantly, because what happens on a practice field in May without pads does not represent what will happen in September, October and beyond. 

Still, the Redskins group that took the field this week for OTAs showed promise. 

New quarterback Alex Smith looked crisp, connecting with a variety of wideouts and commanding the huddle. New wideout Paul Richardson made the best play of the session when he streaked down the field past rookie cornerback Greg Stroman and hauled in a deep pass from Smith. The play showed Smith's ability to identify open receivers downfield, as well as Richardson's ability to go up and grab a contested catch. Even Stroman, the seventh-round rookie, positioned himself well, he just fell victim to a perfect pass and tremendous athleticism.

That was only one play in a two-hour session. Again, don't take too much from May, when players don't wear pads or engage in any of the violence that the NFL is predicated upon. But the OTAs do serve a purpose, both for players and coaches, and there were nuggets to absorb and try to project for the fall. Here they are:

  • Jay Gruden made clear he's not concerned about the health of his offensive line. Trent Williams and Morgan Moses are recuperating from offseason surgery, but Gruden believes both are on track for when things start to matter. It's a good thing the coach isn't concerned because this was the 'Skins line in OTAs (left to right): Geron Christian, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, John Kling. Should that lineup take the field this fall, there will be trouble. 
     
  • The Redskins lost Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland this offseason, and the secondary depth will be something to watch throughout training camp. At OTAs, newly signed veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick lined up opposite Josh Norman in the team's base 3-4 defense. In nickel and dime coverage, Quinton Dunbar lined up opposite Norman and Scandrick moved to the slot. As things progress, it will be interesting to see if Dunbar surpasses Scandrick in base coverage, and what becomes of 2017 third-round pick Fabian Moreau. Stay tuned.  
     
  • Rookie running back Derrius Guice looked every part of the first-round talent many judged him to be before draft season rumors caused him to slide to the late second round. Guice cuts with authority and is able to see holes before they form and patiently wait to hit the open space. Guice also looked fine in pass-catching drills, one area that was a question coming out of LSU (but that says more about LSU's prehistoric offense). Watching the Redskins offense work, it seems clear Guice will be the heaviest used runner this fall.
     
  • That said, don't count out Robert Kelley. He looks leaner and plenty quick, showing a few impressive runs during the session. Byron Marshall also looked good, and Gruden pointed out his success in his post-OTA press conference. The running back group will have plenty of competition all the way through Richmond. 
     
  • Jonathan Allen has switched jersey numbers from 95 to 93. Rookie Daron Payne is now wearing 95. Payne and Allen both went to Alabama, both are huge, and both play defensive line. The number switch will take some getting used to. 
     
  • Zach Brown missed the OTA session as he was moving, and interestingly in his spot with the starting defense was Josh Harvey-Clemons. The second-year pro out of Louisville showed impressive speed in coverage, and remember he played safety in college and performed quite well. He has ball skills and great size to be a coverage linebacker. Some were surprised when the Redskins kept JHC last season at the cut to 53, but his development appears to be paying off for the organization. 
     
  • Another linebacker that made a play was Zach Vigil. He impressed for the Redskins late last season and was running the Washington second-team defensive huddle. At one point, Vigil broke through the line of scrimmage and blew up a run play. That prompted D.J. Swearinger to yell from the sideline, "OK Zach. OK ZACH!"
     
  • Speaking of Swearinger, the Redskins defensive captain seemed in midseason form when it comes to yelling encouragement on the field. Nobody hypes up the defense like Swearinger, particularly when the secondary makes a big play. On one pass Dunbar made a nice diving play to break up a pass, and Swearinger and Josh Norman got very fired up, shouting and jumping around. The entire defense responded. Little stuff like that helps disrupt the monotony of offseason work. 
     
  • Jamison Crowder looks jacked and quick. The end. 

 

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