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Week 14 Playoff Scenarios: Cowboys and Patriots can earn playoff byes

Week 14 Playoff Scenarios: Cowboys and Patriots can earn playoff byes

Just when you thought it was going to stay tight in various NFL divisions, 2016 Week 13 came along.

We saw the Dallas Cowboys gain a firm three-game lead in the NFC East, the Detroit Lions jump out to a two-game lead over the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers in the NFC North, the Seattle Seahawks maintain its three-game lead in the NFC West and the New England Patriots vault to a three-game lead in the AFC East.

Other division races remain either tied (NFC South, AFC North and AFC South) or within one game at the top (AFC West).

That separation in various divisions has us looking at three division title clinching scenarios this week. The Cowboys and Patriots can clinch first-round playoff byes, with Dallas also having a shot at claiming homefield advantage throughout the playoffs as the #1 seed.

Before we get to those scenarios and one involving the Oakland Raiders gaining a playoff berth, let's recap Week 13.  

With the Cowboys' win over the Vikings last Thursday and the Redskins' loss at the Cardinals, Dallas clinched a playoff berth.

Week 13 is the earliest the Cowboys have clinched a playoff spot since 2007 when they clinched playoffs in Week 13, division title in Week 14, a playoff bye in Week 15 and homefield advantage Week 16. That was also the year the 10-6 New York Giants beat the 13-3 Cowboys on the road in the Divisional Round 21-17. 

Two teams were also eliminated from playoff contention during Week. The Jacksonville Jaguars' loss to the Denver Broncos elimianted the Jags from the playoffs. The same applies to the New York Jets following their loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football. 

Jacksonville has failed to make the playoffs since 2007 and the NY Jets haven't seen Postseason since 2010. That leaves 28 teams in Super Bowl contention with four weeks to play which is 5th best in last 9 years, but 3 off last year's record number of 31 teams in contention.

QUIZ TIME: Which NFL team hasn't made the playoffs in ANY YEAR since the League realigned in 2002? Answer Below (and it might surprise you).

HERE ARE YOUR 2016 WEEK 14 OFFICIAL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS: 

DALLAS COWBOYS
   Dallas clinches division title:
    1) DAL win
   Dallas clinches a first-round bye:
    1) DAL win + DET loss or tie
    2) DAL win + SEA loss
   Dallas clinches homefield advantage throughout NFC playoffs:
    1) DAL win + DET loss or tie + SEA loss

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
   Seattle clinches division title:
    1) SEA win + ARI loss or tie
    2) SEA tie + ARI loss

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
   New England clinches division title:
    1) NE win + MIA loss or tie
    2) NE tie + MIA loss
   New England clinches a first-round bye:
    1) NE win + MIA loss or tie + PIT loss or tie

OAKLAND RAIDERS
   Oakland clinches a playoff berth:
    1) OAK win + MIA loss or tie
    2) OAK win + DEN loss
    3) OAK tie + MIA loss + BAL loss or tie
    4) OAK tie + MIA loss + PIT loss or tie  

MORE NFL: SHOULD THE REDSKINS' OL TAKE SOME OF BLAME FOR RECENT LOSS?

The Raiders' situation is interesting since they have two-team tiebreaker advantage over both the Patriots and Miami Dolphins (whichever one doesn't win the division when looking at playoff berth clinching scenarios).

You then have to look to see if either the Dolphins or Patriotrs can use the Kansas City Chiefs or Denver Broncos to jump over the Raiders in this exercise.

Miami loses tiebreaker to Denver based on common opponents and can't use Kansas City since there is no scenario where the three-way KC-OAK-DEN tie ends with the Broncos finishing first, Chiefs second and Raiders third. Kansas City would win the AFC West in that tiebreaker in this scenario no matter what happens in future games after this Thursday. 

However, the Dolphins can use the Chiefs if the Broncos ties this week instead of loses and the Broncos win the division at 11-4-1 and Cheifs and Raiders tie at 11-5. New England can beat Kansas City and jump Oakland in that same Denver division winner scenario. Thus. .. the need for a Denver loss with Oakland win as one clinching option this week.

TIEBREAKER NOTES AND ANECDOTES:
- If the Cowboys were to clinch the #1 seed this week, not only will it be interesting to see what they do with playing time for Tony Romo and the rookies, but it will also mean that Dallas won't have "must-win" motivation when they face the Buccaneers in Week 15 and the Lions' Week 16... two teams firmly in the playoff hunt.

- If the Patriots clinch the AFC East title this week, it will be their eighth consecutive division title  and 13 titles in the last 14 years. Amazing.

- If the Cowboys were to clinch the #1 seed in week 14, it will be the earliest any NFL team has accomplished that since the 2009 Indianapolis Colts (who also did the same thing in 2005). No NFC team has clinched the #1 seed with three weeks to play since the 1985 Chicago Bears. Super Bowl Shuffle anyone? 

We also have five teams that can be eliminated from playoff contention this week with two teams in the AFC (that would add to Cleveland, Jacksonville and NY Jets already gone) and three teams in the NFC (potentially adding to San Francisco that exited week 12).

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Cincinnati will be eliminated from playoff contention:

1) CIN loss
2) CIN tie + DEN win or tie + PIT win
3) CIN tie + DEN win or tie + BAL win
4) CIN tie + DEN win or tie + PIT tie + BAL tie
5) PIT win + DEN win + BAL win

 

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
San Diego will be eliminated from playoff contention:
1) SD loss + DEN win or tie
2) SD tie + DEN win

 CHICAGO BEARS
Chicago will be eliminated from playoff contention:
1) CHI loss or tie
2) WAS win
3) ATL win or tie + TB win or tie
4) ATL win or tie + ARI win
5) MIN win or tie + GB win
6) MIN win + GB tie
7) NO win + ARI win + CAR win
8) NO win + ARI win + CAR tie + WAS tie

 CAROLINA PANTHERS
Carolina will be eliminated from playoff contention:
1) CAR loss + WAS win
2) CAR loss + ATL win or tie
3) CAR loss + MIN win or tie + GB win
4) CAR loss + MIN win + GB tie
5) CAR loss + CHI win + WAS tie + MIN win
6) CAR loss + CHI win + WAS tie + GB win
7) CAR loss + CHI win + WAS tie + MIN tie + GB tie
8) CAR tie + TB win + ATL win

LOS ANGELES RAMS
Los Angeles will be eliminated from playoff contention:
1) LA loss

The need for the Washington tie elements in the Carolina elimination scenario revolve around giving Washington a second tie and having the Redskins finish 6-8-2 (equal to 7-9) at worst and tying the Panthers at 7-9. 

When you couple that with a Chicago win and the Bears playing Washington, Green Bay and Minnesota to finish the year, it creates a scenario where Washington losing out would give the Bears another win in addition to Carolina needing the Bears to beat Minnesota and Green Bay and Carolina can't use the potential head-to-head win against the Redskins to their advantage for the #6 seed.

QUIZ ANSWER: The Buffalo Bills have not made the playoffs since realignment in 2002 (only NFL team) and haven't made the playoffs since 1999 which be remembered as the year Buffalo lost to Tennessee in the Wild Card Playoffs 22-16 in what is known as the "Music City Miracle". Can you say Frank Wycheck?

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            

NFC

  1. Dallas Cowboys
  2. Seattle Seahawks (jumps ATL for #2)
  3. Atlanta Falcons
  4. Detroit Lions
  5. New York Giants
  6. Washington Redskins (need to go 3-1 vs. TB 2-2)

Enjoy Week 14 and best of luck to your favorite team!

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Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 24, 64 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What Jay Gruden and Alex Smith had to say from the podium

After yesterday’s OTA practice, Alex Smith and Jay Gruden took the podium. Here are some of their quotes and my comments on them:

Smith was asked about getting together with his new teammates:

So I think every guy these last two days has enjoyed just getting back out there and losing yourself in the game, right? To be limited, it does make you miss it, and I think it makes you appreciate it, so that’s been nice. 

Comment: This is a guy who loves football and everything that goes with it. Smith would start playing games tomorrow if they were scheduled.

Gruden was asked how Smith has looked in these first two days of OTAs:

He’s got good command of the offense already. Great command in the huddle. He’s just getting a feel for the receivers, the players around him, how we call things, but overall, the first two days, I would say I’m very pleased with his quick progression and learning. I knew that wouldn’t be an issue with as much as he’s played in a similar-style system.

Comment: It did seem that Smith was in sync with his receivers, Jamison Crowder in particular. He and Paul Richardson connected on a deep pass after giving each other a look at the line of scrimmage. The encouraging thing is that he is coming from a similar offensive system, so the learning curve should not be too long. 

Smith had a great analogy when asked about similarities to the offenses he has run:

Both from West Coast worlds, so it’s kind of like they are all Latin-based languages, you know, but they are not the same. There are some similarities, structure of the playbook, of how we call things, things like that. There are a lot of similarities but it’s not the same language. I guess that’s the best analogy I can make

Comment: If terminology is the biggest obstacle for Smith to overcome it will be a smooth transition for him. 

Gruden was impressed with the running backs. 

“I’ll tell you what, just today in general, you could see the competition. You could see Rob Kelley step up. Samaje Perine’s had a couple big days. Byron Marshall, I mean, he had a couple great routes today. He’s running the ball between the tackles. [Kapri] Bibbs had some big runs yesterday. Obviously, Derrius Guice has come in here and fueled the fire a little bit.

Comment: I think that the Redskins are going to have to release some good running backs. Rob Kelly never really earned the nickname “Fat Rob” but he looked particularly lean and quick running the ball. He wants nothing to do with being on the roster bubble. Marshall moved quickly and showed his speed. Although Gruden wouldn’t say it, Guice clearly was the best of the bunch; his ability to change direction while maintaining his speed will serve him well. It must be noted that they are not in pads and not getting tackled so more definitive opinions will have to wait until we are in Richmond for a few days. 

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

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 19
—Training camp starts (7/26) 64
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 78

The Redskins last played a game 144 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 108 days. 

In case you missed it

 

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Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp

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Associated Press

Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp

Even though it was a bright, warm Wednesday in Ashburn the Redskins held their OTA session in the practice bubble because recent rains have left their outdoor fields to soggy to use. Here are my observations from the practice:

—A few Redskins were not present and a few who were there were not participating in the drills. Jay Gruden said that OT Trent Williams is rehabbing in Texas and that LB Zach Brown is in the process of relocating to the Washington area. RB Chris Thompson and OT Morgan Moses were present, but both were spectators. 

— It should be noted that even though Moses didn’t practice and is still rehabbing after ankle surgery, he still participated in the sideline-to-sideline running the team does at the end of practice.

—At rookie camp, RB Derrius Guice was first in line to do every drill. Today, he gave way to the veterans to all take their reps and then he went first among the rookies. 

— “Fat Rob” Kelley never really was fat but he is now lean and mean. He also seems to be a half step quicker than he was in the past. Added competition in the form of second- and fourth-round picks being added at your position will do that to a player. 

—The “starting” offensive line from left to right was Geron Christian, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, and John Kling. The interior could well start the season; the tackle position awaits the returns of Williams, Moses, and Ty Nsekhe. 

—RB Byron Marshall, who was on the team briefly last year before getting injured, looked very quick with good acceleration.

—CB Josh Norman was back with the group fielding punts. I seriously doubt that he will handle any kicks in games, even preseason games, but perhaps with DeAngelo Hall being gone he wants to be available as an emergency option. Also back with the punt returners were CB Danny Johnson, CB Greg Stroman, WR Maurice Harris, WR De’Mornay Pierson-El, and, of course, WR Jamison Crowder.

—S D.J. Swearinger spent most of the special teams practice on the sideline working on catching passes with his hands extended away from his body. A little while later, he had a chance to make an interception with his arms extended. Of course, he dropped it. 

—It seems like QB Alex Smith and Crowder have some good rapport built already. Once on the right sideline and a few minutes later on the left, Smith threw a well-placed ball into Crowder, who was well covered on both occasions. 

—Eventually, CB Orlando Scandrick caught on and he swatted down a quick out to Crowder. 

—With Brown out, Josh Harvey-Clemons was with the first unit at inside linebacker. He’s still skinny but less so than he was last year. The second-year player was impressive in coverage, staying with Crowder step for step on a deep pass down the middle.

—The play of the day was a deep pass down the right side from Smith to WR Paul Richardson. Stroman was with the receiver step for step on the 9 route but Smith laid the ball out perfectly and Richardson made a lunging catch. Even though it doesn’t have to under the new rule, the catch did survive the ground. 

—WR Cam Sims had a few impressive plays. On one, QB Colt McCoy lofted one high in the air down the right side. Sims kept his focus on the ball while two defenders lost it and made the catch. 

—WR Trey Quinn had his moments. He made a good grab while being bumped by Scandrick. But a while later he dropped a fairly easy one. 

—The running backs all looked good but Guice looked the best of all of them. He had an ability to cut and maintain his speed that not many have. With the warning that they were playing with no pads with no contact and not at full speed, Guice’s vision appeared to be outstanding. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- The draft: Redskins should get 4 additional picks in 2019 draft
- Schedule series: Gotta beat the Cowboys

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 @TandlerNBCS.