Nine terrible NFL teams can still somehow make the playoffs. Here are their scenarios
Naturally, these teams must win out the rest of the season to qualify for the playoffs -- plus they need massive help. Most of these teams listed will be eliminated with one more loss. But I'm telling you there's a chance if you're a Jags, Texans, Vikings, Bucs, Redskins, Bills, Browns Giants or Raiders fan. For each of these teams, here's what needs to happen.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS PLAYOFF SCENARIO
At 2-9 currently, the best the Jags can possibly finish is 7-9. But they could still clinch the AFC South title.
If the Jags win out and the Colts lose out, both teams would finish at 7-9. In this theoretical scenario, the teams would both have 3-3 division records, but the Jaguars would have a superior conference record and therefore win the division. And the Jags have been hot lately!
Yet Tennessee looms in Jacksonville's way as well. Jacksonville needs for Tennessee to beat first-place Indianapolis on the road Sunday, and then they need for the 5-6 Titans to lose nearly every ensuing game this season. But the Jags can afford for the Titans to win one extra, preferably outside the division. If the Titans also finish at 7-9, Jacksonville has the superior division record and wins any tiebreaker. Even though the Titans are in the playoffs if the season ended today, Tennessee is still winless in the AFC South.
There are also multiple Wild Card scenarios for Jacksonville at a theoretical 7-9, which require winning out plus complete collapses by the Steelers, Ravens, Chargers, Jets and Dolphins. Yes, all of them, because an 8-8 record will beat the Jaguars no matter what.
HOUSTON TEXANS PLAYOFF SCENARIO
Currently tied with Jacksonville but having lost the head-to-head matchup, 2-9 Houston also needs the unlikely five-game win streak while the Colts lose five straight. This would leave both the Texans and Colts at 7-9, but would award Houston the AFC South based on a superior division record. I must stress that this is a theoretical superior division record that does not yet exist -- Indy is undefeated in the division, while Houston just has that one win over the Titans in Week 2.
Which matters. Should the Titans also fall to 7-9, the Texans will have tiebreakers over the Titans based on a better division record (The Titans are currently 5-6, but winless in the AFC South).
The Titans can still make it in as a 7-9 Wild Card, if there are below-.500 Wild Cards in the AFC this year. The Titans are currently in as a 5-6 Wild Card if the season ended today. Just sayin'.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS PLAYOFF SCENARIO
In a weak NFC North that's otherwise all hovering around .500, the 2-8 Vikes could theoretically win the rest of their games and take the division crown at 8-8. So the standard "win out" rule applies, with terrible things happening to Detroit, Chicago and Green Bay.
But that tie game with the Packers hurts Minnesota -- they cannot finish ahead of the Lions if both teams finish 8-8. The Lions will have a better division record than the Vikings no matter what because of that tie game. But the Vikings can still win tiebreakers over the Packers and Bears with similar 8-8 records.
The 8-8 Wild Card is also a mathematical possibility for the Vikings, but only if both the 49ers and Cardinals lose out and the Eagles lose no fewer than three of five remaining. And again, the Vikings would have to win every remaining game.
There are also mathematically possible scenarios for the Redskins, Buccaneers, Bills, Browns, Raiders and Giants! Click on to read these longshot optimistic playoff scenarios....
WASHINGTON REDSKINS PLAYOFF SCENARIO
Like the Vikings, the 3-8 Redskins are blessed with a poor division that is winnable with an 8-8 record. The 'Skins can finish no better than 8-8, but there is no guarantee that the Cowboys, Eagles, or Giants will even manage to finish 8-8 in the NFC Least.
Looking at the likelier Wild Card scenarios for an 8-8 team in the NFC, we see that the 49ers and Cardinals would eliminate the Redskins from Wild Card contention by just going .500 or better from here on out. So Washington fans must root against the 49ers and Cardinals, plus hope for two or more losses by the Eagles, Bears, Packers and Rams. Plus, you know, those five consecutive Redskins wins to close out the season.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS PLAYOFF SCENARIO
The best 3-8 Tampa Bay can possibly hope for is an 8-8 NFC Wild Card spot. With New Orleans having already won 9 games, Tampa Bay cannot possibly with the NFC South with an 8-8 record.
So let's look at the Buccaneers' Wild Card scenarios. The Bucs need for San Francisco and Arizona to lose at least 4 of their remaining 5 games. They need for Philadelphia and Chicago to lose at least 3 of their remaining 5 games. And they need for Green Bay and St. Louis to lose at least 2 of their remaining 5 games -- all while the Buccaneers themselves win each of their 5 remaining games.
BUFFALO BILLS PLAYOFF SCENARIO
The Bills can still win the AFC East outright by winning every game, along with a 1-4 or worse Patriots collapse (and 2-3 or worse Jets and Dolphins collapses) to finish the season. Currently 4-7, the Bills can even finish with a respectable 9-7 record. But it's more likely that the Patriots will win the two games necessary to freeze Buffalo out and leave the Bills hoping for Wild Card help.
While the first Wild Card spot in the AFC is going to the AFC West runner-up (Broncos or Chiefs) no matter what, the second is being fought over by an 11-team logjam of below-.500 clubs. This bodes well for Buffalo's extremely slight chances.
Bills fans need for the Titans, Steelers, Ravens, Chargers and division rival Jets and Dolphins to all lose at least two remaining games. They also need for the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders to lose at least one more apiece. Oh, and beat everyone remaining on their schedule, including New England on the road in Week 17.
And what about the Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns and New York football Giants? Click on for their possible playoff scenarios....
CLEVELAND BROWNS PLAYOFF SCENARIO
"Only" 3 games back on the Bengals with 5 games remaining, the 4-7 Browns could still win each remaining game and be AFC North champions with a 9-7 record. Because the rest of the AFC North could theoretically finish 2-3 or worse. And unicorns could theoretically fly out of the Cuyahoga River, guaranteeing that it never catches fire again and that Brandon Weeden never throws another underhanded interception.
A Browns Wild Card berth at 9-7 seems even less plausible. The AFC West bridesmaid (Denver or KC) gets the first AFC Wild Card slot no matter what. But the Browns could get the second AFC Wild Card by winning out, plus getting 2-3 or worse finishes by all of the following: Titans, Steelers, Ravens, Chargers, Jets and Dolphins. If this happens, plus the Raiders finish 3-2 or worse, Cleveland is in the playoffs for the first time in 11 years.
There is also the remote technical possibility of an 8-8 Wild Card berth for Cleveland. This would require a 4-1 finish, plus inconceivable 1-4 or 0-5 collapses by the seven other AFC Wild Card contenders.
OAKLAND RAIDERS PLAYOFF SCENARIOS
It is still very slightly mathematically possible for the Raiders to win the AFC West -- but only if Denver and Kansas City tie each other this weekend, and then both lose all their remaining games. Then the Raiders win the division at 9-7, while the Broncos and Chiefs both finish at 9-6-1.
That is not going to happen.
But if the Raiders beat the Lions on Thanksgiving Day, they're still looking at a possible 9-7 Wild Card slot. They would need a 2-3 or worse finish by all of the following: Titans, Steelers, Ravens, Chargers, Jets and Dolphins. If that somehow happened, they'd also need Cleveland to drop at least 2 of their remaining 5 games.
NEW YORK GIANTS PLAYOFF SCENARIOS
Only 2 games out of first place with 5 remaining, the New York Giants are very much in the NFC East hunt. The Giants still play the Redskins twice, and both of those seem winnable. Heck, the Giants can even afford to drop one to the Redskins.
But to win the NFC East, the Giants need to win it outright. No matter what happens, the New York will finish with a worse division record than either Dallas or Philadelphia, so the Giants lose the main tiebreaker.
If the Giants cannot win the division, they can still win an NFC Wild Card at 9-7 or 8-8. This will require San Francisco and Arizona losing least 3 of their remaining 5 games, plus Philadelphia and Chicago losing at least 2 of their remaining 5 games and Green Bay and St. Louis losing at least 1 of their remaining 5 games -- with the Giants winning all of their remaining games (with a 1-game margin of error).
So I'm telling you there's a chance, Jaguars, Vikings, Texans, Buccaneers, Redskins, Browns, Bills, Raiders and Giants fans.