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Playoff & Draft Watch Week 9: Clap Your Hands


We're back in the playoff picture!

Sunday's convincing win against the struggling Vikings was big in a number of ways. For one thing, it helped the Seahawks make up a game in the standings over the Cardinals and a half-game over the idle 49ers, giving Seattle sole possession of second place in the NFC West and puts them just a game and a half behind San Francisco (tiebreakers notwithstanding). Second, it gives Seattle the head-to-head tiebreakers against both NFC North opponents that figure to be the biggest threats for the Wild Card spots. Third, and most importantly, it puts us in position for the #6 seed in the playoff standings. If the season ended today, the Seahawks would be flying to Frisco for their first playoff game in two years.

In other news, the Giants' loss to the Steelers (ptooie!) drops them to #4 in the playoff rankings, while Atlanta maintains its undefeated record and HOLY CRAP THE BEARS. Here's how the NFC currently stacks up in playoff rankings.

Division Leaders:
1. Falcons (8-0)
2. Bears (7-1)
3. 49ers (6-2)
4. Giants (6-3)

Wild Cards:
5. Packers (6-3)
6. Seahawks (5-4, beat MIN)

Outside Looking In:
7. Vikings (5-4, lost to SEA)
8. Lions (4-4, 3-3 Conf.)
9. Buccaneers (4-4, 2-4 Conf.)
10. Cardinals (4-5)
11. Rams (3-5, 3-3 Conf.)
12. Saints (3-5, 2-4 Conf.)
13. Eagles (3-5, 1-0 Div., 1-5 Conf.)
14. Cowboys (3-5, 1-1 Div.)
15. Redskins (3-6)
16. Panthers (2-6)

(Philadelphia is ranked ahead of Dallas by virtue of divisional record taking priority over any other tiebreaker to first eliminate all but one team in each division. Once Dallas is eliminated, conference record is used to break ties between three or more teams. Head-to-head tiebreakers are not used unless there are only two teams that are tied, or won team has defeated every other team with the same record. For a full explanation on the witchcraft of NFL playoff tiebreakers, click here.)

Nobody has officially locked up a playoff spot yet, nor has anyone been mathematically eliminated, but look for that to change in the next couple of weeks if Atlanta continues to hold serve.

As for draft positioning, the trade deadline came and went on Thursday (pushed back a couple days because of Hurricane Sandy) and no moves were made that affect the first round. That means that the only team without a first round pick are the Redskins, who traded it away to St. Louis in return for the #2 pick this year. The Chiefs are on the inside track for the #1 pick - too bad the draft class doesn't appear to be as deep with quarterbacks as last year. As for the rest of the draft order:

1. Chiefs (1-7, .504 SOS)

2. Jaguars (1-7, .553 SOS)

3. Browns (2-7, .485 SOS)

4. Panthers (2-6, .531 SOS)

5. Rams via Redskins (3-6, .492 SOS)

6. Titans (3-6, .543 SOS)

7. Raiders (3-5, .435 SOS)

8. Bengals (3-5, .439 SOS)

9. Eagles (3-5, .485 SOS)

10. Bills (3-5, .489 SOS)

11. Cowboys (3-5, .5112 SOS)

12. Jets (3-5, .5114 SOS)

13. Saints (3-5, .519 SOS)

14. Rams (3-5, .548 SOS)

15. Cardinals (4-5, .576 SOS)

16. Chargers (4-4, .432 SOS)

17. Dolphins (4-4, .447 SOS)

18. Buccaneers (4-4, .473 SOS)

19. Lions (4-4, .600 SOS)

20. Seahawks (5-4, .515 SOS)

21. Vikings (5-4, .560 SOS)

22. Steelers (5-3, .421 SOS)

23. Colts (5-3, .466 SOS)

24. Broncos (5-3, .467 SOS)

25. Patriots (5-3, .496 SOS)

26. Giants (6-3, .477 SOS)

27. Packers (6-3, .560 SOS)

28. Ravens (6-2, .455 SOS)

29. 49ers (6-2, .519 SOS)

30. Texans (7-1,.500 SOS)

31. Bears (7-1, .511 SOS)

32. Falcons (8-0, .412 SOS)

(Strength of Schedule is found by calculating the win-loss records of all 13 opponents on a team's schedule. Divisional opponents are counted twice, since they are played twice. Divisional record breaks any ties, followed by a coinflip).

Thanks to the NFC South going 4-0 this week, Atlanta's strength of schedule has finally climbed up over the .400 mark. Meanwhile, kudos to the Lions for fighting their way back to a .500 record despite having the toughest schedule in the league by a longshot.

Obviously, we're more concerned about a playoff spot at this point than a draft pick, so on that note here are the upcoming games that figure prominently into our playoff hopes, and the outcomes that would help out the most:

DET @ MIN: We have the tiebreaker over the Vikings. We don't have it over the Lions. Go Vikings.

ATL @ NO: The Saints may be a long way from playoff contention, but we don't want to see them go on any winning streaks at this point in the season. Go Falcons.

SD @ TB: Likewise, we might be a game ahead of the Bucs in the standings and way ahead of them for conference record (4-4 vs. 2-4), best not to take any chances. Go Chargers.

STL @ SF: A Seahawk win and a Niner loss would put Seattle just half a game behind the Niners for the division lead. It's a longshot, but Go Rams.

HOU @ CHI: At this point, we'd rather see Chicago run away with the NFC North title so that we keep Green Bay and Minnesota remain our primary wild card rivals. Go Bears.

GB @ Bye: I'm mentioning this only because if the Seahawks win next week, and the Packers lose when Seattle's on their bye, we'll leapfrog the Packers for the #5 spot.

If the Seahawks can avoid the trap game potential that the Jets represent when they roll into the CLink this coming Sunday, it'll be the first time since 2007 that the Seahawks have managed a 6-4 record over the first ten games. And here's where things get exciting: out of the 11 times in franchise history that the Seahawks started the season 6-4 or better, they've reached the playoffs in 9 of them. I don't know about you, but I like those odds. See you next week!