I've spent my whole morning on ESPN's Playoff Machine website. It's the greatest thing ever...you pick the games for the remaining weeks of the season, and the machine tells you who will make the playoffs. I'll save you some time and give you the Titans' scenarios after the jump.
First off, here are the teams that we're battling against for the last playoff spot and their remaining schedules.
New York Jets (8-5): Conference record (6-5)
at Eagles (5-8), vs. Giants (7-6), at (4-9)
Tennessee Titans (7-6): Conference record (5-4)
at (0-13), vs. (4-9), at (10-3)
Cincinnati Bengals (7-6): Conference record (6-5)
at (2-10), vs. (6-7), vs. Ravens (10-3)
Oakland Raiders (7-6): Conference record (5-5)
vs. (8-5), at (5-8), vs. Chargers (6-7)
Scenario #1 (Titans win all three remaining games)
The easiest way for the Titans to get in is for them to win all three of their remaining games, and have the Jets lose one of their games. The Jets seem to be on a roll with 6 wins in their last 8 games, but the best team they have beaten through that stretch is the 6-7 San Diego Chargers. The only team with a winning record they have beaten all year is thein Week 1.
- The two games the Jets have the best chance of losing are:
New York Jets @
You never know with the Eagles. It all depends on which team shows up: the one that lost to Seattle by 17, or the one that beat Dallas by 27.
New York Jets vs.
The Giants four game losing streak looks pretty bad at first glance, but they lost to arguably the three best teams in the league in the last four weeks, in the , , and . Both of these New York teams will be fighting for their playoff lives, so you better bet that the winner of this game will deserve it.
Explanation: The Titans and Jets (and perhaps the Bengals and/or Raiders) would be tied at 10-6. With an 8-4 conference record (the first tiebreaker), the Titans would end up ahead of the Jets, Bengals, and Raiders, who all already have 5 conference losses. See the ESPN Playoff Machine breakdown here.
Scenario #2 (Titans win two of three remaining games)
Despite popular opinion, the Titans actually have a reasonable chance if they win against Indianapolis and Jacksonville, but lose to Houston in Week 17. For them to make the playoffs, the Jets would have to lose two games,most likely the ones stated above (@PHI, vs. NYG), and the Bengals and Raiders would each have to lose at least one game against an AFC opponent.
- The AFC game the Bengals have the best chance of losing is:
Cincinnati Bengals vs.
The Ravens will most likely win their next two games against San Diego and Cleveland, leaving them at 12-3 heading into Week 17. The will probably go either 1-1 or 2-0 the next two weeks (@SF, vs. STL), leaving them at either 11-4 or 12-3 . That means that the Ravens would have to win this game to win the division title and most likely get a first round bye. They won't be resting their starters, which is good for the Titans. I don't see the Bengals winning this game.
- Here is where it gets confusing. It doesn't matter if the Raiders lose against the Lions this week. They still have to lose against an AFC team: either the Chiefs or the Chargers. You never know what can happen with a new coach, but the Chargers seem more likely to beat the Raiders than the Chiefs.
Oakland Raiders vs.(Week 17)
Surprisingly, this is probably the toughest game that needs to go the Titans way. The Chargers already lost to the Raiders in Week 10 by a touchdown. They are on a two game winning streak, but the teams they've beaten are the Tim Tebow in Week 12 though.and Jaguars. They did almost beat
Explanation: The Titans, Raiders, Jets, and Bengals would all end up at 9-7. With 7-5 conference record (the first tiebreaker), the Titans would end up ahead of the Bengals,and Raiders, who would each have 6 conference losses. On to the third tiebreaker for the Jets and Titans: Win percentage in common games. Both the Titans and Jets have played Jacksonville, Buffalo, Denver, and Baltimore, with the Titans gaining a 4-1 record and the Jets a 3-2 record. Therefore, the Titans make the playoffs with a better win percentage in common games. See the ESPN Playoff Machine breakdown here.