Commentary: NFL Playoff Picture Is Looking Pretty Unclear

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 02: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks runs with the ball as outside linebacker David Hawthorne #57 of the New Orleans Saints defends during a game at CenturyLink Field on December 2, 2013 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Commentary: NFL Playoff Picture Is Looking Pretty Unclear

Eighteen teams are still alive for postseason slots as Week 17 builds Super Bowl drama.

Published December 26, 2013

For those who like to play brain games, here’s a challenge for you: Pick the NFL teams that still have a shot at making the playoffs.

Yeah, go dust off that old high-school algebra book, because you’ll need it to figure out from the standings what teams still have a mathematical chance.

Aside from the dregs of the NFL – teams like the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans – 18 teams have records that do hint at some splendid possibilities.

Of course, some possibilities are brighter than others, but who would have thought the Baltimore Ravens, defending Super Bowl champs, might miss the postseason altogether while the Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs are in.

Look, no need to bombard anyone with coma-inducing numbers, for unless you like the mental gymnastics of solving a Rubik’s Cube, you’re better off just sitting back Sunday and watching as Week 17 unfolds. If it is like the other 16 weeks of the NFL season, you’ll be looking at roller derby on an ice rink.

Yet that’s what makes the NFL what it is. Talk all you want about the flaws in the game, about the inconsistent officiating, about the concussion concerns and about the long list of players who end up on Injured Reserve (sorry, Von Miller), but when you get right down to the core of professional football, the game gives sports fans what no other sport offers: high drama

How do you not see drama when the Ravens are in a must-win game Sunday just to get into the playoffs?

Or take the Miami Dolphins … what fan outside South Beach thought they had a snowball's chance in you know where of making the playoffs? But here they are with a postseason scenario that could send them on and keep the Ravens home.

Oh, and please, let’s not even mention the Dallas Cowboys, because if any NFL team deserves to stay home, the Cowboys are that team. They might well be sitting out this postseason, too. Not because they don’t have the talent, but they go into a win-or-go-home game Sunday without quarterback Tony Romo, whose bad back is expected to sideline him.

And then there are the Pittsburgh Steelers. How do you even look at them and dream of a postseason berth? They opened the season with four early losses, but if the Ravens, the Dolphins and the San Diego Chargers lose Sunday, the Steelers get in if they beat the sorry Browns, a team that’s rolled over and played a corpse the last six weeks of the season.  

In the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers are the only teams assured of playoff berths, which means nearly every conference game Sunday will have meaning.

Sit down between now and Sunday afternoon and pour over those numbers if you would like. Try to make sense of a statistical headache that a math professor at MIT might shy away from.

But pro football fans, those millions of diehards out there, won’t stress these statistical computations a bit. Instead, they will do what NFL faithful do best: enjoy the greatest show on turf.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Written by Justice B. Hill


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