Commentary

Flem File clarifies NFL playoff scenarios

Originally Published: December 23, 2009
By David Fleming | Page 2

For anyone who is a fan of E. E. Cummings' avant-garde typography, binary code or Mad Libs, Christmas always comes a little early with the NFL's Week 16 compilation of potential playoff scenarios. Using a tiebreaking system which ranges from "best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within conference" to "net points in common games" and all the way down to "coin toss," the always helpful NFL lists all possible scenarios for every team in the league not located in St. Louis.

Flem File

As in years past, even with Santa watching, I simply cannot resist the urge to improve (mess with) these intricate linguistic equations.

AFC

NEW ENGLAND
Clinches AFC East division title with:
1. NE win or tie
2. MIA loss or tie, OR;
3 Y'ALL + stop HOLIDAY hating + on RANDY, OR;
4. The PATS + discover/develop + another weapon + besides WES WELKER, OR;
5. Bill Belichick + doesn't draw + Adalius Thomas in the team's SECRET SANTA exchange.

CINCINNATI
Clinches AFC North division title with:
1. CIN win OR;
2. CIN tie + BAL loss or tie OR;
3. BAL loss, OR;
4. By continuing to show the most RESILIENCE of any team in the league, OR;
5. 387 yards RUSHING from Larry JOHNSON against his former team, OR;
6. Fans don't all travel to Oxford, Ohio, to cheer on the No. 1-ranked NCAA hockey team (for 11 weeks straight) at my MIAMI UNIVERSITY.

INDIANAPOLIS

[+] EnlargeDallas Clark
AP Photo/Phil CoaleWill the Flem File keep picking against Dallas Clark and the Colts? Indianapolis fans certainly hope so.
Has already clinched AFC South division title and home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs and will win the SUPER BOWL, IF:
1. No one GETS HURT foolishly going for 16-0, OR;
2. I keep PICKING + against + them, OR;
3. THEY purposefully fall behind in the FOURTH QUARTER in Miami, where they are an NFL-record 7-0 in comeback wins.

SAN DIEGO
Clinches first-round bye with:
1. SD win or tie OR;
2. NE loss or tie OR;
3. The CHARGERS + 17 consecutive + WINS + in DECEMBER + get to start the playoffs within the next + EIGHT DAYS, OR;
4. They avoid the kind of EGG NOG/lighter fluid mix I had at last night's PARTY, OR;
5. The TITANS DON'T run out of healthy defenders by the SECOND QUARTER and have to reschedule.

CLEVELAND
Clinches a playoff spot if:
1. DNA technology allows the team to turn MIKE HOLMGREN into BILL PARCELLS, OR;
2. ALL + JOSH CRIBBS + all the TIME, OR;
3. ALL + 16 + games + played + AGAINST + the Chiefs' DEFENSE.

PITTSBURGH
Can clinch a playoff spot with:
1. One stinking win against the Raiders, Chiefs or Browns, OR;
2. anyone actually believes that AP Athlete of the Year JIMMIE JOHNSON is a better "athlete" than USAIN BOLT, ROGER FEDERER or the WESTERN KENTUCKY MASCOT, BIG RED.

HOUSTON
1. THE COLTS ever leave for the UFL, OR;
2. 8-8 becomes the new 16-0, OR;
3. The PATS, JETS, BRONCOS, JAGS, STEELERS, TITANS AND DOLPHINS all fold in the next two weeks.

BALTIMORE
Clinches a playoff spot with:
1. BAL win + JAC loss or tie + NYJ loss or tie OR;
2. BAL win + JAC loss or tie + DEN loss OR;
3. BAL win + MIA loss or tie + NYJ loss or tie + DEN loss OR;
4. BAL tie + NYJ loss + JAC loss + TEN loss or tie + HOU/MIA game ends in a tie, OR;
5. NFL front-office staff + goes CATATONIC + from analyzing + these SCENARIOS + and just creates a SEVENTH SPOT + by accident.

DENVER
Clinches a playoff spot with:
1. DEN win + JAC loss or tie + MIA loss or tie + NYJ loss or tie + PIT loss or tie OR;
2. BRIAN DAWKINS keeps his head from exploding during his homecoming in PHILLY, OR;
3. Knowshon + MORENO - ROOKIE + WALL, OR;
4. No one tells the BRONCOS they're the ones with the DECEMBER + DECLINE (6-11 since 2005), not the COWBOYS.

NFC

NEW ORLEANS

[+] EnlargePierre Thomas
AP Photo/Dave MartinPierre Thomas and his backfield mates can't be forgotten if the Saints expect playoff success.
Clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:
1. NO win or tie, OR;
2. MIN loss or tie, OR;
3. Not too much PROBLEM, ACTUALLY, OR;
4. Head coach Sean Payton avoiding a 2008 flashback and DESERTING the run altogether, OR;
5. TWO + WORDS = BABY BREESUS.

ST. LOUIS
Clinches a wild-card berth with:
1. A TIME MACHINE which takes them back to 1999, OR;
2. An emergency X-MAS DRAFT which allows the Rams to take one player from each team, OR;
3. Ndamukong Suh, OR;
4. A powerful GAMMA RAY which hits the Earth and reverses the natural order or all things.

MINNESOTA
Clinches first-round bye with:
1. MIN win + PHI loss or tie OR;
2. MIN tie + PHI loss OR;
3. BRAD CHILDRESS does the right thing and steps down so BRETT FAVRE can coach the team, OR;
4. The VIKES don't have to face JULIUS PEPPERS again, OR;
5. FAVRE doesn't start HOLDING HIS BREATH after each interception until CHILDRESS promises not to bench him, OR;
6. They stop WINNING: The VIKES are 0-5 in the playoffs when they have 12 wins or more.

PHILADELPHIA
Clinches NFC East division title with:
1. PHI win + DAL loss or tie OR;
2. PHI tie + DAL loss OR;
3. The Eagles don't try any ZORN SPECIALS inside the red zone, OR;
4. BRIAN + WESTBROOK + no + more + INJURIES + (PLEASE), OR;
5. TRENT + COLE + Kyle + Orton - his senses.

DALLAS
Clinches a playoff spot with:
1. DAL win + NYG loss or tie OR;
2. DAL tie + NYG loss OR;
3. Avoiding + its usual + WADE FADE after a big win, OR;
4. The INSPIRATION it gets from SUPERMAN + or, I mean + DEMARCUS WARE, OR;
5. JERRY JONES doesn't sign kicker ALI + HAJI + SHEIKH.

GREEN BAY
Clinches a playoff spot with:
1. GB win + NYG loss or tie OR; 2. GB win + DAL loss OR; 3. GB tie + NYG loss OR; 4. AARON + RODGERS + plays the next EIGHT QUARTERS + like he played the FOURTH in Pittsburgh, OR;
5. DOM + CAPERS + teaches his defense the difference between + a "rover" scheme + and a "rollover" scheme, OR;
6. The Seahawks try a few more of those STEELERS + ONSIDE + KICKS.

CHICAGO
Clinches a playoff spot with:
1. HA + HA + HA + HA + NO + STOP + MAKING + ME + LAUGH + I'M GONNA + SPIT + OUT + MY + EGG NOG + THROUGH + MY NOSE.

WASHINGTON
Clinches a playoff spot:
1. NEXT YEAR, actually.

David Fleming is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and the author of the memoir "Noah's Rainbow" and "Breaker Boys: The NFL's Greatest Team and the Stolen 1925 Championship." And his work will be featured in The Best American Sports Writing 2009 anthology. The Flem File appears every Wednesday during the NFL season with updates on Mondays and Fridays.

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