NFL Playoff Picture: Worst Case Playoff Scenarios For Each Eligible Team

Sean MerrimanCorrespondent IDecember 22, 2010

NFL Playoff Picture: Worst Case Playoff Scenarios For Each Eligible Team

0 of 20

    SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons rushes against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on December 19, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    The 2010-11 playoffs are approaching quickly and there are a handful of different scenarios that could play out in the final two weeks of the regular season.

    Heading into Week 16, there are currently 20 teams that are still mathematically eligible for this years postseason. While some have already clinched a playoff birth, others are fighting for their playoff lives and need to win out as well as get some help from other teams.

    Unforeseeable things happen every year in the NFL and while those division leading teams might be sitting pretty right now, you never know for sure how these final two weeks could shake up the NFL playoff picture.

    Lets take a look at the worst case playoff scenarios for all 20 of these playoff eligible teams.

20. Tennessee Titans

1 of 20

    NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 19:  Kerry Collins #5 and Nate Washington #85 of the Tennessee Titans celebrate after a touchdown by teammate Chris Johnson against the Houston Texans at LP Field on December 19, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans defeated t
    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    It has been an up-and-down year for the Titans in 2010. After jumping out to an early 5-2 record, with wins over the likes of the Giants, Jaguars and Eagles, the Titans dropped six straight games and currently stand at 6-8 heading into week 16.

    The Titans are hanging on by a thread in the AFC playoff picture, and if they loose one of their final two games, that will be the final blow that eliminates Tennessee from the postseason.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2 of 20

    TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 19:  Running back Earnest Graham #34 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers runs through the tackle of linebacker Bobby Carpenter #59 of the Detroit Lions during the game at Raymond James Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo b
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    It certainly doesn't help the Bucs playoff chances that they have to play in the same Division as the league-leading Atlanta Falcons and the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints.

    Standing at 8-6 and two games outside of the Saints, the chances of getting into the playoffs are slim to none for Tampa Bay. They would need to win their final two games and have the Giants and Packers loose along the way for them to have a shot at a wild card.

    Even if Tampa Bay does beat Seattle this upcoming week, they will then have to travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints in the final week of the season. That game should send them home packing

18. San Francisco 49ers

3 of 20

    SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 16:  Quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers drops back to pass against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on December 16, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Yes, it is possible that a team from the NFC West with a record below .500 will make the playoffs. And even more shocking is the fact that the 49ers, who currently sit at 5-9 heading into week 16, have a shot at being that team.

    It has been a miserable year in San Francisco as Mike Singletary's club has not lived up to the high expectations they entered the 2010 season with. But with two games remaining against divisional foes, St. Louis and Arizona, the 49ers have an outside shot at getting in.

    The worst case scenario for the 49ers would be if they lost those final two division games and finished at the bottom of the worst division in football. But, wouldn't it hurt just as much if they beat St. Louis this week, saw Seattle lose to Tampa Bay, and had a chance to win the Division, but then lost to last-place Arizona in the final game of the season. Coach Singletary might find his name on the coaching hot seat if that were to happen.

17. Oakland Raiders

4 of 20

    OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 19:  Michael Bush #29 of the Oakland Raiders celebrates after he scored a touchdown against the Denver Broncos at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 19, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Oakland Raiders top off the list of the four teams that are least likely to be part of this year's NFL playoff picture.

    It has been a good season for the Raiders, who truly have surprised some people and perhaps exceeded expectations heading into the year. But, with a 7-7 record heading into week 16, and currently sitting two games behind the AFC West leading Chiefs, and one behind San Diego, their chances of playing in the postseason are not great.

    However, if the Raiders can beat Peyton Manning and the Colts this upcoming week, then they will have their shot at the Chiefs in the final game of the season. If the Chiefs lose this week, and San Diego loses their final two games of the season, that season finale between Oakland and Kansas City could be for the Division title. Is it a possibility: Sure. Is it likely to happen: Not so much.

    If the Raiders lose one of their final two games they are out of the playoff picture. With Indianapolis and Kansas City waiting for them, chances aren't in their favor.

    Worst case scenario: The Raiders lose to the Colts and don't get their shot at playing for a Division title.

16. Green Bay Packers

5 of 20

    MINNEAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 21: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates with Josh Sitton #71 after throwing a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on November 21, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Heading into this season, if you were to be told that the Packers would finish second in the NFC North and have a chance to make the playoffs, most people would have said that sounded about right. But many of those people felt that the Packers would be trailing the Vikings, not the Chicago Bears.

    With the Packers Week 15 loss to New England, and the Bears blowout victory over Minnesota, Chicago has already clinched the division title with two games remaining. But, the Packers are still very much in the wild card hunt.

    The team that the Packers are currently looking to catch for a wild card spot is the New York Giants, who they happen to play at Lambeau Field this upcoming week. The worst case scenario for Green Bay would be to lose that game, in front of your home fans, with a playoff birth on the line. That one would leave a sour taste in Cheese head nation for weeks to come.

15. San Diego Chargers

6 of 20

    SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 16:  Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers speaks to his teammates in the huddle during their game against the San Francisco 49ers at Qualcomm Stadium on December 16, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Don
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    The Chargers have a unique situation, because they are in a three-way race to win the AFC West Title. But if you go by strength of schedule, the Chargers very well could have the most favorable remaining two games of any NFL team. They play the 3-11 Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, and then travel to Denver to take on the 3-11 Broncos in the season finale.

    If the Chargers win those two games and the Chiefs slip up somewhere in their remaining two games, then the division title would belong to San Diego and they would likely be hosting an opening round game.

    The worst case scenario here for the Chargers would be if they lost even one of their final two games against below-average opponents. One lose would likely put them on the outskirts, but two loses would for sure eliminate San Diego from any playoff dreams they once had. It's fair to say that the Chargers need to win both of their final games to have a good shot at making the playoffs.

14. Seattle Seahawks

7 of 20

    SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 19:  Jordan Babineaux #27 of the Seattle Seahawks returns an interception against Ovie Mughelli #34 of the Atlanta Falcons at Qwest Field on December 19, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    The Seahawks are currently tied with Rams atop the NFC West with a 6-8 record.

    If the Rams win their final two games of the season (against the 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks), then they would win the division.  If the Seahawks won their final two games (against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the St. Louis Rams), then they would win the division. If the two teams ended up tied, the Seahawks would win the division because of their better division record.

    Now, it would be quite a letdown for Seattle if they didn't beat Tampa Bay and didn't get a shot to play for a Division title. But, it might hurt even more if they did get that shot, and then got crushed by division foe St. Louis in the final week of the season and missed the playoffs. Either way, it should an exciting race in a brutally bad division.

13. Jacksonville Jaguars

8 of 20

    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 19: David Garrard #9 of the Jacksonville Jaguars hands off to Maurice Jones-Drew #32 against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    This is what the Jacksonville Jaguars have been waiting for. Their shot to overtake the Colts in the AFC South and earn a birth to the playoffs.

    While that 34-24 loss to the Colts last week certainly did not help their chances, they are still very much alive in the race. The Jaguars need to win their final two games, which is very possible against two mediocre opponents in Washington and Houston. They also need Indianapolis to lose one of their final two games.

    The worst case situation here would be if the Jags lost this upcoming week to Washington and the Colts beat Oakland. If that were to happen, the Jags playoff hopes would be dashed, regardless of what happens in Week 17, because the Colts own the tiebreaker.

12. St. Louis Rams

9 of 20

    ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 19: Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams rushes against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Edward Jones Dome on December 19, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Chiefs beat the Rams 27-13.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Simply said, if the St. Louis Rams win their final two games, they are in.

    Sam Bradford has had an outstanding rookie season and it would be a shame to see it come to an end. But if the Rams lose to the 49ers this upcoming week, and the Seahawks beat the Bucs, that would be the worst case scenario for this team. It would make the Rams Week 17 matchup with Seattle completely irrelevant, because the Seahawks would already own the tiebreaker.

11. Indianapolis Colts

10 of 20

    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 19: Austin Collie #17 of the Indianapolis Colts scores his second touchdown of the game as he celebrates with Pat McAfee #1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (
    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    As mentioned earlier, the Colts and Jaguars sit tied atop the AFC South with 8-6 records. It is not likely that a wild card is going to come from this Division, so these two finals games take on a huge meaning for both teams.

    The Colts close out their season against Oakland and Tennessee, two solid, but certainly beatable teams. The worst case scenario for the Colts would be to lose to one or both of those teams, because even with one loss, if Jacksonville wins out, Peyton Manning and the crew will be sent home packing. It has already been somewhat of a disappointing season for the defending AFC Champs. It would put an explanation at the end of disappointment if they missed the playoffs all together.

10. New York Giants

11 of 20

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 19:  Kenny Phillips #21 of the New York Giants against the Philadelphia Eagles at New Meadowlands Stadium on December 19, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    As it stands now, the New York Giants control their own destiny as far as earning a playoff spot goes. They currently sit at 9-5 and if they win both their remaining two games, they are in.

    However, the Giants face Green Bay this upcoming week, who is also battling for one of the those wild card spots. After starting off 6-2 record this season, it would be the ultimate letdown if the Giants lost that game against Green Bay and then lost again in the final week to division foe Washington, who has had a terrible season.

    If that is the case, Tom Coughlin's job might be on the line and the fans in New York will not let the G-Men hear the end of it.

9. Kansas City Chiefs

12 of 20

    ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 19: Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks to get by Craig Dahl #43 of the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on December 19, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Chiefs beat the Rams 27-13.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwana
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    It seems like Todd Hayley has pulled all the right cards with this team this year and has them playing their best football in a long time.

    The Chiefs currently sit atop the AFC West with a  9-5 record and a one-game lead over San Diego. With they said, if they win their final two games against Oakland and Tennessee, they are in and will likely host a first round playoff game.

    After coming this far, it would be a huge let down to lose against either of those teams. But, Oakland has been sneaky this year and very well could play the role of spoiler down the stretch with back-to-back games against Indianapolis and KC, two teams that lead their division at the moment. The Chiefs have watch the Chargers dominate the AFC West over the past couple of seasons and it would be heartbreaking to loose their final two games while the Chargers win their final two, and once again, be looking up to San Diego.

8. New York Jets

13 of 20

    PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 19:  Mark Sanchez #6 and Ben Hartsock #84 of the New York Jets celebrate after Sanchez ran for a touchdown during their game against Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 19, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by
    Karl Walter/Getty Images

    Could you imagine if the pre-season Super Bowl favorites finished the season losing four of their last five games and missed the playoffs? Well guess what, while not likley, it is a possibility.

    The Jets currently sit at 10-4 and have two games remaining against the Bears and the Bills. If they split those two games, they should still get into the postseason.  But,  if they lost to Chicago and then lost in the final week of the season to Buffalo, one of the bottom dwellers of the NFL this year, and the Jags, Colts and Chargers all won their final two games,  the Jets would be in jeopardy of holding onto that wild card spot and madness would break out in the Big Apple.

7. Baltimore Ravens

14 of 20

    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 19:  Lardarius Webb #21 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates Cory Redding's interception with 1 minute, 56 seconds to go in the game  against the New Orleans Saints  at M&T Bank Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. T
    Larry French/Getty Images

    But they are such a well-balanced team that always seems to be in the playoff picture every year. Is it really possible that the Ravens could not make the playoffs this year? As in the case of the Jets, it's not likely, but it is possible.

    The Ravens close out their season against Ohio's finest (not really), the Browns and the Bengals, both of which have struggled this season. But, if for some odd, unforeseen reason, the Ravens lose both of these games, they could be included in a mix of numerous 10-6 teams, in which only two could earn those final wild card spots. It would be a huge collapse for one of the NFL's most consistent franchises, but hey, anything could happen.

6. New Orleans Saints

15 of 20

    MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07: Tracy Porter #22 of the New Orleans Saints intercepts a ball and thrown by Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts and returns it for a touchdown in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 at Sun
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    The defending Super Bowl Champions can secure a playoff birth and also compete for a division title if they are able to beat the NFC South leading Atlanta Falcons this week.

    The Saints close out their season against Atlanta and Tampa Bay, and if they can win those two games, while Atlanta loses their final two, New Orleans would win the Division. But, on the other hand, if they lose their final two games and Green Bay and Tampa Bay win out, the Saints would be one of those 10-6 teams that would be relying on a tie-breaker. That would be the worst case scenario for this team, although it's not very likely to happen.

5. Philadelphia Eagles

16 of 20

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 19:  LeSean McCoy #25 of the Philadelphia Eagles rushes against the New York Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium on December 19, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    The Eagles are 10-4 and look to be a ligament Super Bowl contender heading into this years playoff picture.

    While the Eagles all but look to have secured a playoff spot, there is a small chance that they could get left out if a whole lot of things went against them. First of all, they would have to loose their final two games against Minnesota and Dallas, two teams that have all but defined the word "underachiever" in this 2010 NFL season. In addition to that, the Giants would have to win out to take the Division title and then the Eagles would be put in the wild card mix.

    It would be an awful case scenario for the Eagles if they lost their final two games, but with the way they have been playing lately, its safe to say that Michael Vick and the Eagles are a safe bet.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

17 of 20

    PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 19:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers watches his team play against the New York Jets during the game on December 19, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Take a sigh of relief if you are a Steelers fan. Pittsburgh are one of four teams that have already clinched a playoff birth and know for a fact that they will be playing this postseason.

    The Steelers are currently tied with Baltimore for the best record in the AFC North, but Pittsburgh owns the tiebreaker, which is why they have secured a spot already, and the Ravens have not. However, if the Steelers lose their last two games, and the Ravens win both or one of their remaining two games, the Steelers could end up in a wild card game.

    The worst case scenario for Pittsburgh right now, would be if they lost their final two games and ended up in the wild card game against a team like the Colts or the Chargers. It is obvious that both of those teams have had their struggles this year, but if you had your pick, would you want to play your opening round playoff game against Peyton Manning or Phillip Rivers?

3. Chicago Bears

18 of 20

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 20:  Devin Hester #23 of the Chicago Bears is congrtaulated by quarterback Jay Cutler #6 after scoring a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium on December 20, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Matt
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    The Chicago Bears are the lone team in the NFL that has clinched a division title at this point in the season. They are a safe lock into the playoffs and will be guaranteed to host at least one game at Solider Field.

    But even though they have won their division, that doesn't mean that the Bears will not play in an opening round game. Assuming that the Falcons win one of their two final games, they would finish with the best record in the NFC and be seeded No. 1 overall. The No. 2 seed then would likely be between the Eagles and the Bears. If the Bears lose one of their final two games and the Eagles win out, the Bears would receive the No. 3 seed.

    The worst case scenario for them, would be to get the No. 3 seed and have to play an opening round round game, most likely against the Giants, who handed the Bears a 17-3 loss in week 4 of the regular season.

2. Atlanta Falcons

19 of 20

    SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons passes against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on December 19, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    The Falcons have already cliched a playoff spot, and if they can beat 2-12 Carolina in the final week of the season, then they will secure the best record in the NFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

    The worst case scenario for the Falcons would be to if they lost their final two games and New Orleans won their final two games. The Saints would then win the South by virtue of the tiebreaker rules, and Atlanta would receive a No. 5 seed. That would mean they would play an opening game, likely against St. Louis or Seattle. In other words, the Falcons are in pretty good shape right now heading into the postseason.

1. New England Patriots

20 of 20

    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots talks with head coach Bill Belichick before playing against the Green Bay Packers at Gillette Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  The Patriots won the g
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    The Patriots currently stand in first place in the AFC East and will clinch the Division and home field advantage in the playoffs with a win or a New York Jets loss. With two games remaining against Buffalo and Miami, it is likely that the Pats will win the division and receive the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

    But, if they did loose those finals two games, and the Jets won both their games, the Pats could be forced into playing an opening round game, perhaps against the winner of the AFC South and West. That would be the worst case scenario for Tom Brady and the crew, although with the way New England has been playing as of late, they should be just fine.