Four Nightmare Scenarios for an NFL Playoffs

I have a confession to make that will come as a surprise to far more of you who read this blog than those of you who know me in real life. I love ESPN’s NFL Playoff Machine. A lot. Ever since I discovered it1I honestly couldn’t tell you what year I discovered Playoff Machine. It feels like it’s been around as long as I’ve been using the internet., I’ve spent hours on it each year, trying to play out how the playoff picture would shake out after each week of play. While I would spend a good bit of time trying to create scenarios that benefit teams I like or harm teams I dislike, the most fun came from building out the weirdest possible outcomes possible. Whether that be finding a way to sneak in a team that has a 1% chance of making the playoffs2Five Thirty Eight is a great resource for seeing this type of thing when the season is going on. or seeing if I can make all of the teams with first round byes as of week 12 miss the playoffs, I find the entire exercise to be calming.

The best resource I’ve found for giving me this feeling during the NFL offseason is PlayoffPredictors.com. While they do far more than just NFL playoff prediction scenarios, the NFL predictor is an amazing tool for me playing out possible sources of weirdness when the Playoff Machine is down for the year3ESPN typically only has the Playoff Machine running during weeks 13-17 of the NFL season. This year, we got it week 12, which was amazing.. This led me to wonder — what’s the weirdest possible playoff scenarios that COULD happen in a given NFL season?

Allow me to be clear, these scenarios will likely never occur. They require a ton of absurdity to happen and likely will never even be remotely possible. But I want them to be. I’ve used the 2018 NFL schedule for each of these scenarios for sake of convenience more than anything else. I’ve also made an active effort to not have tie games unless I absolutely have to, as that’s just silly.

Scenario 1: Eleven 10-win Teams Miss The Playoffs

Link to the full scenario

We begin with the scenario that inspired this post — how many teams with 10 wins can miss the playoffs in the same season? The most teams that have finished 10-6 and missed the playoffs in the same season is two, which has happened on several occasions. There have also been three 11-5 teams miss the playoffs, (though only one in each season it’s happened) but we’ll talk more about that scenario a bit later on. In this scenario, not only do two teams total miss the playoffs despite winning 10 games, eleven of them do. Granted, in order for this scenario to happen, we have to have a plethora of putrid teams at the bottom of each conference. In fact, the bottom four teams in the AFC and NFC combined for 11 wins in this season, including a winless season from the Panthers.

Scenario 2: Six Teams with Losing Records Make the Playoffs

Link to the full scenario

Similar to the first scenario, we need a lot of extremes for our second scenario to be a reality. There have been four teams in NFL history to make the playoffs with a losing record, though two of those teams come with a giant asterisk. Both the 1982 Browns and Lions made the playoffs at 4-5 thanks to a strike-shortened season and were promptly routed. The two teams to make the playoffs with losing records since then — the 2010 Seahawks and 2015 Panthers — both won their first playoff game, so seeing a 7 win team win in the playoffs wouldn’t be unprecedented. In this situation, we’d be guaranteed at least two 7-9 teams picking up playoff wins, as both 4 vs. 5 matchups feature losing teams against each other. In a bit of unintentional symmetry, the AFC’s 4 vs. 5 matchup (Browns vs. Raiders) is the same matchup that occurred in the aforementioned 1982 playoffs.

Scenario 3: The Call to Kill Auto Bids for Division Winners

Link to the full scenario

Let’s talk about this scenario in two phases, beginning with the NFC. A scenario like this has happened on a couple of occasions, including the aforementioned 2010 playoffs where the 7-9 Seahawks played the 11-5 Saints in the first round. Even in seasons where there’s an 8-8 division winner, sports talking heads loudly wonder whether or not division winners deserve home field advantage in the first round if they have a worse record — particularly because it (surprisingly) matters.

And then there’s the AFC, where this idea is taken to its most extreme conclusion. For this scenario, I had every team in the AFC North lose every game they played (except intradivisional games) and every team in the AFC South win every game they played (again, except intradivisional games). This creates a situation where a 13-3 Jacksonville team is getting left out of the playoffs in favor of a 3-13 Baltimore team. No team better than 11-5 has ever missed the playoffs.

Unlikely? Incredibly. Hilarious? Yes. In retrospect, I should have done this in such a way to cause the Browns to be the 13-3 team to miss the playoffs, but that’s too much effort.

Scenario 4 – 83% of the Teams In the Playoffs After Week 11 2018 Miss The Playoffs

Okay. So a little background on this. First off, here were the standings following week 11 of the 2018 season.

And now we have our results. Link to the full scenario.

I tried my hardest to get all 12 teams that were in the playoffs as of week 11 to miss the playoffs at the same time. That said, when you have four teams with two or fewer losses after week 11, that’s REALLY hard to do. Especially when one of those team has a tie and there’s a division where you have to knock both a two loss and a three loss team out of the playoffs. In most other seasons I’ve found, this would be possible. In this season, however, we get this beautiful scenario where the only crimes against our rule are New Orleans and Pittsburgh making the playoffs as wildcard teams.


What other scenarios would you like to see me do? Was this even remotely interesting? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

I’m Part of a New Podcast

Long time readers of this blog know that from late 2016 through mid 2017, I was part of a comedy podcast by the name of Everyone is Funnier Than Us. That podcast came to an end in July of last year. Since then, I’ve been playing around with various ideas, trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. I poked around a few ideas involving blogging and podcast recording over the back half of 2017. I even considered going back to doing YouTube videos4Not that I had a brief stint doing that in 2015 or anything.. And though during that time I did stand up the freelance editing work I do, as well as start on a new writing work in progress, I didn’t have any new creative endeavors come to fruition.

Well before the end of my last podcast — from September 2006 through December 2008, to be more specific — I was the host of a sports radio show on a college AM radio station. That show, The Two Minute Drill, was a rapid fire sports show in the vein of Around the Horn or Pardon the Interruption, only with weird news and hosts who didn’t totally know what they were doing. While most of the sports radio shows in our college organization focused solely on sports, The Two Minute Drill routinely branched out, having multiple musical guests, hosting an on-air wing tasting contest, and even getting a nasty email from a member of university leadership at the University of Delaware5We did a couple of segments how the University of Delaware refused to play another in-state program, Delaware State University. Rumors had circulated at the time that this was because members of the U of Delaware leadership staff didn’t want to face a university that was a HBCU. In my youthful hubris, I emailed the segments we did to the president of the University of Delaware. I got a not so pleasant email back from a representative of the school saying that it was none of my business what U of Delaware did, but they appreciated my interest in their institution.. The show ended shortly after I graduated in 2008, but was one of the more popular shows on air at the station during its two-year run.

I say all of this to introduce the newest project I’m part of, a sports podcast named We Were Kind of a Big Deal in College.

We Were Kind of a Big Deal in College features a similar format to what the original Two Minute Drill show did. I’m the host of the show, and on each episode of the show, I will present questions to each of our three panelists, Mike Lampasone, Brian Fisher, and Tim Kilkenny. The panelists debate those questions — some sports related and some not — in an effort to get arbitrarily get points throughout the course of our show. The reward for earning the most points? You get to plug whatever you want at the end of the show. In recording our first show, our winner didn’t seem to understand the concept of what plugging something meant, so we’re picking up right where we left off.

You can listen to We Were Kind of a Big Deal in College on iTunes and other podcasting platforms. You can also follow the show on social media platforms, such as our currently blank Instagram account. At this point, we’ll likely be doing this podcast monthly, though we’ll see if that timeline changes in the future.