Water Cooler Quarterbacks: Sussing Out the Playoffs

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

If the playoffs started today . . .

With just two weeks left in the NFL's 2013 regular season, fans' thoughts naturally start turning towards the playoffs. Who's in? Who's out? Who still has a shot? These are the questions that fans are focused upon. The Water Cooler Quarterbacks decided to take some to suss out (okay, blame that one my having watched alot of BBC programming) the 2013 post-season.

We decided to look at the twelve teams which currently hold seeds for the playoffs -- based on the concept "If the season ended today." We chose to not address the seven "still alive" teams -- Miami, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Green Bay, Detroit and Dallas.

The question we had as we looked at the twelve was not simply "Who's made it in?" but rather "How has each of these teams fared against other seeded teams?"

Here are the current playoff seedings following Week 15:

AFC1 Denver 11-3-0 NFC1 Seattle 12-2-0
AFC2 New England 10-4-0 NFC2 New Orleans 10-4-0
AFC3 Cincinnati 9-5-0 NFC3 Philadelphia 8-6-0
AFC4 Indianapolis 9-5-0 NFC4 Chicago 8-6-0
AFC5 Kansas City 11-3-0 NFC5 Carolina 10-4-0
AFC6 Baltimore 8-6-0 NFC6 San Francisco 10-4-0

As of Week 15, these twelve teams have played anywhere from two games against seeded opponents to six. They will have played anywhere from three games against seeded opponents to six by the end of the regular season. Here is how they break down:

Teams by # of games vs seeded opponents

Rank Team Games Remaining Total Rank Team Games Remaining Total
AFC1 Den 6 0 6 NFC5 Car 4 1 5
NFC2 NO 5 1 6 NFC6 SF 5 0 5
NFC1 Sea 5 0 5 AFC6 Bal 3 2 5
AFC2 NE 4 1 5 NFC4 Chi 3 1 4
AFC3 Cin 4 1 5 AFC5 KC 3 1 4
AFC4 Ind 4 1 5 NFC3 Phi 2 1 3

Denver and New Orleans had (or will have had, the case of New Orleans) the most games against seeded opponents with six -- albeit Denver's games were against five teams as they played Kansas City twice; New Orleans' games were likewise against five opponents as they will have played Carolina twice. Philadelphia will have had the fewest games against seeded opponents with just three.

Teams by winning percentage in games against seeded opponents

Rank Team Games Record % Remaining Rank Team Games Record % Remaining
AFC4 Ind 4 3-1 0.750 1 AFC3 Cin 4 2-2 0.500 1
AFC1 Den 6 4-2 0.667 0 NFC5 Car 4 2-2 0.500 1
NFC4 Chi 3 2-1 0.667 1 AFC5 KC 3 1-2 0.333 1
NFC1 Sea 5 3-2 0.600 0 AFC6 Bal 3 1-2 0.333 2
AFC2 NE 4 2-2 0.500 1 NFC6 SF 5 1-4 0.200 0
NFC2 NO 4 2-2 0.500 1 NFC3 Phi 2 0-2 0.000 1

At 3-1, Indianapolis has looked the strongest against seeded opponents. The Colts have beaten both of the current #1 seeds. Chicago's 2-1 record is, perhaps, the biggest surprise here, especially since both victories came against AFC seeds. Philadelphia has not beaten a seeded team, losing to both Denver and Kansas City.

Teams by seeded games within their conference

Rank Team Games Remaining Total Rank Team Games Remaining Total
AFC1 Den 5 0 5 NFC2 NO 4 1 5
AFC3 Cin 3 1 4 NFC1 Sea 4 0 4
AFC6 Bal 2 2 4 NFC5 Car 3 1 4
AFC2 NE 2 1 3 NFC6 SF 4 0 4
AFC4 Ind 2 1 3 NFC4 Chi 1 1 2
AFC5 KC 2 1 3 NFC3 Phi 0 1 1

There are no real surprises here with Denver and New Orleans have the most games against seeded conference opponents at five. The AFC is fairly well balance with each team having a minimum of three games against seeded opponents. Four of the six seeds in the NFC are balanced with either four or five games against seeded teams. Chicago and Philadelphia are the "odd-teams-out" given that they will have had only two games and one game, respectively, against seeded opponents.

Teams by winning percentage in seeded games within their conference

Rank Team Games Record % Remaining Rank Team Games Record % Remaining
AFC3 Cin 3 2-1 0.667 1 NFC1 Sea 4 3-1 0.750 0
AFC1 Den 5 3-2 0.600 0 NFC4 NO 3 1-2 0.333 1
AFC2 NE 2 1-1 0.500 1 NFC5 Car 3 1-2 0.333 1
AFC4 Ind 2 1-1 0.500 1 NFC6 SF 4 1-3 0.250 0
AFC6 Bal 2 1-1 0.500 2 NFC4 Chi 1 0-1 0.000 1
AFC5 KC 2 0-2 0.000 1 NFC3 Phi 0 0-0 0.000 1

The NFC did not present any surprises in this category with Seattle and New Orleans leading the pack. It was interesting, however, that -- as of Week 15 -- Philadelphia has not played a seeded NFC team and that Chicago has lost the only game it played against an NFC seed.

The AFC, on the other hand, presented two surprises. The first came when Cincinnati was seen to be sitting atop the pack with it's 2-1 record. Even more surprising was the fact that the 13-3-0 Kansas City Chiefs are currently 0-2 when playing an AFC seeded team. To be fair, both of those losses came at the hands of the Broncos, yet it was still surprising.

Teams by seeded games against the other conference

Rank Team Games Rank Team Games
AFC2 NE 2 NFC3 Phi 2
AFC2 Ind 2 NFC4 Chi 2
AFC1 Den 1 NFC1 Sea 1
AFC3 Cin 1 NFC2 NO 2
AFC5 KC 1 NFC5 Car 1
AFC6 Bal 1 NFC6 SF 1

This is the category that has relevance as the teams move towards a possible Super Bowl appearance. New England, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Chicago have had two games versus teams from the other conference. This situation comes from the fact that the AFC West, the AFC North, the NFC West and the NFC South all currently have two seeded teams.

Teams by winning percentage in seeded games against the other conference

Rank Team Games Record % Rank Team Games Record %
AFC4 Ind 2 2-0 1.000 NFC4 Chi 2 2-0 1.000
AFC1 Den 1 1-0 1.000 NFC5 Car 1 1-0 1.000
AFC5 KC 1 1-0 1.00 NFC1 Sea 1 0-1 0.000
AFC2 NE 2 1-1 0.500 NFC2 NO 1 0-1 0.000
AFC3 Cin 1 0-1 0.000 NFC6 SF 1 0-1 0.000
AFC6 Bal 1 0-1 0.000 NFC3 Phi 2 0-2 0.000

In the AFC, half of the seeded teams (Indianapolis, Denver, Kansas City) have not lost to an NFC seed. New England has broken even against the NFC while neither Cincinnati nor Baltimore has beaten an NFC seed.

In the NFC, Chicago and Carolina are the only two teams to have not lost to an AFC seed. None of the remaining four (Seattle, New Orleans, San Francisco, Philadelphia) have beaten an AFC seed.

Team Summaries, Possibilities, Predictions

AFC1 Denver 11-3-0 1st in the AFC West
The Broncos have road games left against the Houston Texans and the Oakland Raiders. They have already clinched a playoff berth. In Week 16, they can clinch the AFC West and a first round bye by defeating the Texans and having Kansas City lose to Indianapolis. They can clinch the #1 seed if New England loses at Baltimore.

Here is how the Broncos have fared in games against seeded teams:

Versus AFC seeds

Wins Losses
Wk 1 49-27 over AFC6 Bal Wk 12 31-34 OT to AFC4 Ind
Wk 11 27-17 over AFC5 KC
Wk 13 35-28 over AFC5 KC


Versus NFC Seeds

Wins Losses
Wk 4 52-20 over NFC3 Phi None


Seeds in Remaining Schedule
None

Outlook: The situation is very simple -- if the Broncos take care of business and win out, they lock up the #1 seed and force the playoffs to go through Denver. This would represent the best chance for Denver to make it to the Super Bowl. The Broncos are 7-1 at home with the lone loss coming on a short week. It is vital for Denver to have home field advantage if they want to progress very far in the playoffs. The belief of the Water Cooler Quarterbacks is that if the Broncos take care of the ball and the defense can raise the level of their play, Denver will make it to the Super Bowl. Chances are that is what will happen.

AFC2 New England 10-4-0 1st in the AFC East
The Patriots go on the road to face the Baltimore Ravens in Week 16 then close out at home against the Buffalo Bills. They can clinch a playoff berth in Week 16 with a Cincinnati loss to Minnesota. New England can clinch the AFC East with a win or tie against Baltimore, or if Miami loses or ties Buffalo. The Patriots can also clinch a first round bye if both Cincinnati and Indianapolis lose.

Here is how the Patriots have fared in games against seeded teams:

Versus AFC Seeds

Wins Losses
Wk 12 34-31 OT over AFC1 Den Wk 5 6-13 to AFC3 Cin


Versus NFC Seeds

Wins Losses
Wk 6 30-27 over NFC2 NO Wk 11 20-24 to NFC5 Car


Seeds in Remaining Schedule

Wk 16 vs AFC6 Bal

Outlook: Like Denver, New England needs to win out. The Patriots also need to hope that both the Broncos and Kansas City stumble so that they have a shot at the #1 seed. Like Denver, the Patriots need to have at least one of their playoff games at home. They are undefeated at home thus far but are a disappointing 3-4 on the road. They will have to be careful since Baltimore, Cincinnati and Miami all appear to be surging right now. Tom Brady can carry his team a long way, but the rest of the team will need to step it up if the Patriots want to make a serious run at the Super Bowl. Chances are the Patriots will be playing in the AFC Championship game.

AFC3 Cincinnati 9-5-0 1st in AFC North
The Bengals will close out their season at home against the Minnesota Vikings and the Baltimore Ravens. Cincinnati can clinch a playoff berth if Miami loses or ties Buffalo. The Bengals can clinch the AFC North in Week 16 if they defeat Minnesota and Baltimore loses to New England. If the Ravens down the Patriots, Cincinnati will have to defeat Baltimore in Week 17 to win the AFC North. The Bengals could move to the #2 seed with a victory plus a Patriots loss to Baltimore.

Here is how the Bengals have fared in games against seeded teams:

Versus AFC Seeds

Wins Losses
Wk 5 13-6 over AFC2 NE Wk 10 17-20 to AFC6 Bal
Wk 14 42-28 AFC4 Ind


Versus NFC Seeds

Wins Losses
None Wk 1 21-24 to NFC4 Chi


Seeds in Remaining Schedule

Wk 17 vs AFC6 Bal

Outlook: There is a strong opinion that the Bengals have the potential to be the 2013 version of last year's Ravens. They are a tough team to beat at home (6-0) and when quarterback Andy Dalton is on his game, they are among the best teams in the league. That, however, is the big question: "Which Dalton is going to show up in the playoffs, Good Andy or Raggedy Andy (sorry, I just had to)?" If Dalton cannot string together a run of near-perfect games, the Bengals won't make it very far into the post season. Chances are the Bengals will go one-and-done.

AFC4 Indianapolis 9-5-0 1st in AFC South
The Colts will travel to face the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City in Week 16 before closing out at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Indianapolis has clinched the AFC South and is unlikely to move any higher than the fourth seed.

Here is how the Colts have fared in games against seeded teams:

Versus AFC Seeds

Wins Losses
Wk 7 39-33 over AFC1 Den Wk 14 28-42 to AFC3 Cin


Versus NFC Seeds

Wins Losses
Wk 3 27-7 over NFC6 SF None
Wk 5 34-28 over NFC1 Sea


Seeds in Remaining Schedule

Wk 16 vs AFC5 KC

Outlook: The Colts are a young, hungry team. However, Indianapolis has gone 3-3 after a 6-2 start. Being a young team and coming off a loss to Cincinnati, the Colts will need to finish strong if they hope to have any momentum going into the post-season. Momentum will be vital to them if they want to go more than one-and-done. Chances are the Colts will go one-and-done.

AFC5 Kansas City 11-3-0 2nd in AFC West
The Chiefs have two important games coming up, a home game against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 16 and a road game against the San Diego Chargers to close out the season. These games are important because Kansas City needs to win out and hope that Denver stumbles so they can move out of the #5 seed. The Chiefs could clinch the #1 seed if they win out and Denver loses another game. Failing that, Kansas City could clinch the #2 seed if they win one of their last two, Denver loses both of their final games and New England drops one of their last two.

Here is how the Chiefs have fared in games against seeded teams:

Versus AFC Seeds

Wins Losses
None Wk 11 17-27 to AFC1 Den
Wk 13 28-35 to AFC1 Den


Versus NFC Seeds

Wins Losses
Wk 3 26-16 over NFC3 Phi None


Seeds in Remaining Schedule

Wk 16 vs AFC4 Ind

Outlook: The Chiefs have the potential to make a run to the Super Bowl. Their defense is scary good and their offense is starting to catch up to the defense's level of play. What should be of concern to Kansas City is that their defense, after giving up just 12.3 points per game in their 9-0 run to start the season, has been giving up 28.8 points per game over the last five games where they've gone 2-3. Now they're facing an Indianapolis team that wants to make a push going into the playoffs and a San Diego team to whom they lost in Week 12. Even if they do win out, the Chiefs will still need some help from Denver and/or New England to avoid having to take the long road to the Super Bowl. Chances are the Chiefs will, at best, make it to the AFC Championship game.

AFC6 Baltimore 8-6-0 2nd in AFC North
The Ravens have the unfortunate circumstance of having to close their season against two seeded teams: a home game against the New England Patriots and a road game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Ravens could clinch the AFC North with two wins or with a Bengals loss to Minnesota in Week 16 plus a victory over the Bengals in Week 17. In other words, they are more likely to enter the playoffs as a wildcard.

Here is how the Ravens have fared in games against seeded teams:

Versus AFC Seeds

Wins Losses
Wk 10 20-17 AFC3 Cin Wk 1 27-49 to AFC1 Den


Versus NFC Seeds

Wins Losses
None Wk 11 20-23 OT NFC4 Chi


Seeds in Remaining Schedule

Wk 16 vs AFC2 NE
Wk 17 vs AFC3 Cin

Outlook: The Ravens largely gutted the defense that carried them into the Super Bowl following that victory. It has shown in their struggles throughout the 2013 campaign. On the plus side for Baltimore, they have won four straight games after a 4-6 start. On the minus side, three of those four wins have come at home against the New York Jets (6-8-0), the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8-0) and the Minnesota Vikings (4-9-1). Add in the facts that Baltimore is 2-5 on the road and will have to start with a road game in the playoffs. Chances are they will go one-and-done.

NFC1 Seattle 12-2-0 1st in NFC West
The Seahawks can boast the best record in the NFL at this time and have the added advantage of closing out their season at home, though it is against two divisional rivals -- the Arizona Cardinals and the St. Louis Rams. Seattle has already clinched a playoff berth and can clinch the NFC West and the #1 seed with a victory over Arizona or if the San Francisco 49ers lose or tie the Atlanta Falcons. It is hard to see the Seahawks not being able to secure the #1 seed in the NFC.

Here is how the Seahawks have fared in games against seeded teams:

Versus NFC Seeds

Wins Losses
Wk 1 12-7 over NFC5 Car Wk 14 17-19 to NFC6 SF
Wk 2 29-3 over NFC6 SF
Wk 13 34-7 over NFC2 NO


Versus AFC Seeds

Wins Losses
None Wk 5 28-34 to AFC4 Ind

Seeds in Remaining Schedule

None

Outlook: It is hard to imagine that the Seahawks will not be the NFC's representative in the Super Bowl. They have dominated the NFC going 9-1 versus conference opponents and they are 6-0 at home. They have already beaten three of the other five NFC seeds. Chances are they will make it into the Super Bowl, yet it should be remembered that Seattle lost to the only AFC seed that they played.

NFC2 New Orleans 10-4-0 1st in NFC South
The Saints will be closing out their season with a road game at the Carolina Panthers followed by a home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. New Orleans can clinch a playoff berth if Arizona loses to Seattle or the 49ers lose to Atlanta. They can clinch the NFC South and a first round bye with a victory over Carolina.

Here is how they have fared in games against seeded teams:

Versus NFC Seeds

Wins Losses
Wk 5 26-18 over NFC4 Chi Wk 13 7-34 to NFC1 Sea
Wk 11 23-20 over NFC6 SF
Wk 14 31-13 over NFC5 Car


Versus AFC Seeds

Wins Losses
None Wk 6 27-30 AFC2 NE


Seeds in Remaining Schedule

Wk 16 vs #5 Car


Wk 16 #5 Car

Outlook: The Saints are explosive, but they have also struggled throughout the season. The fact that they have lost two of their last three games may not bode well for their chances in the post-season. The Saints have no wiggle room when it comes to winning and losing. If Carolina were to win out and New Orleans drop one of their remaining two, the Saints could lose the division. Chances are that the Saints will win their division and advance to the NFC Championship game but no further.

NFC3 Philadelphia 8-6-0 1st in NFC East
The Eagles will close out their season with a home game against the NFC4 Chicago Bears and a road game against the Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles cannot enter the playoffs as a wildcard, their only hope is to win the division. They can do this by defeating Chicago in Week plus have the Dallas Cowboys lose to the Washington Redskins in Week 16. Failing this, the Eagles must win out to take the division.

Here is how the Eagles have fared in games against seeded teams:

Versus NFC Seeds

Wins Losses
None None


Versus AFC Seeds

Wins Losses
None Wk 3 16-26 to AFC5 KC
Wk 4 20-52 to AFC1 Den


Seeds in Remaining Schedule

Wk 16 vs NFC4 Chi

Outlook: Not particularly good. It should be noted that the Eagles have played this season in a division that no-one seems to want to win. It should be further noted that up to Week 15, Philadelphia has not played a single seeded NFC team and their only games against seeded teams from the AFC have both been losses. The Eagles will simply be lucky to be in the post-season and will go one-and-done.

NFC4 Chicago 8-6-0 1st in NFC North
The Bears have a hard finish to their season: a road game against the Philadelphia Eagles and then a home game against the Green Bay Packers. Like the Eagles, the Bears cannot enter the playoffs as a wildcard. Chicago can clinch the NFC North with a win over Philadelphia, if the Packers lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Detroit Lions lose to the New York Giants.

Here is how the Bears have fared in games against seeded teams:

Versus NFC Seeds

Wins Losses
None Wk 5 18-26 to NFC2 NO


Versus AFC Seeds

Wins Losses
Wk 1 24-21 over AFC3 Cin None
Wk 11 23-20 OT over AFC6 Bal


Seeds in Remaining Schedule

Wk 16 vs NFC3 Phi

Outlook: Oddly enough, even though the Bears have more or less backed into the NFC playoffs, they have defeated the two seeded teams from the AFC that they have faced this season. That being said, chances are it is unlikely -- assuming they manage to hold on to win their division -- that they manage to go further than one-and-done.

NFC5 Carolina 10-4-0 2nd in NFC South
The Panthers will close out their season by facing the New Orleans Saints at home and then going on the road to take on the Atlanta Falcons. This week they can clinch a playoff berth by defeating the Saints, but that will not give them the division just yet.

Here is how the Panthers have fared in games against seeded teams:

Versus NFC Seeds

Wins Losses
Wk 10 10-9 over NFC6 SF Wk 1 7-23 to NFC1 Sea
Wk 14 13-31 to NFC2 NO


Versus AFC Seeds

Wins Losses
Wk 11 24-20 over AFC2 NE None


Seeds in Remaining Schedule

Wk 16 vs NFC2 NO

Outlook: The Panthers could be a surprising spoiler in this year's playoffs, but they have not played with any consistency. It is quite likely that their presence in the post-season has as much to do with having the relatively easy schedule: the teams that they have beaten have a combined record of 61-78-1, while the teams they have lost to are 36-20-0. Chances are the Panthers will not go beyond a single win in the post-season.

NFC6 San Francisco 10-4-0 2nd NFC West
The 49ers will close out their season with a home game against the Atlanta Falcons and a road trip to face the Arizona Cardinals. San Francisco can clinch a playoff berth this week with a win or by having Arizona lose to Seattle. The 49ers are even still alive to win the NFC West, though that would require them to win out, have the Seahawks to lose both of their remaining games and have the Week 16 winner of the New Orleans-Carolina game lose its Week 17 game.

Here is how the 49ers have fared in games against seeded teams:

Versus NFC Seeds

Wins Losses
Wk 14 19-17 over NFC1 Sea Wk 2 3-29 to NFC1 Sea
Wk 10 9-10 to NFC5 Car
Wk 11 20-23 to NFC2 NO


Versus AFC Seeds

Wins Losses
None Wk 3 7-27 to AFC4 Ind


Seeds in Remaining Schedule
None

Outlook: Like the Panthers, San Francisco could be a surprise spoiler in the NFC playoffs but . . . their inconsistency will most likely work against the 49ers. What stands out in stark numbers is the fact that they have gone 1-4 against seeded teams this year (1-3 in the NFC and 0-1 in the AFC). One member of the Water Cooler Quarterbacks does not believe that San Francisco's quarterback can take them all the way to the Super Bowl. Chances are the 49ers will go one-and-done.

The Water Cooler Quarterbacks wish you a wonderful week of football.

Go Broncos!!!

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