Depending On Your Optimism, This Could All Be Over In Three Weeks

I want you to be optimistic!

Correction to article - I missed that if Houston wins out, in one of the many non "best case" scenarios that they would own a tie breaker with the Jaguars. Thanks to Paul Kuharsky for pointing this out.

Be warned, the following article contains playoff scenarios. If you tend to get irritated at such speculation please move on as I don't want your weekend kicked off with anger.

I personally have always loved trying to figure out what a team needs to do in order to make the playoffs. As soon as it can be calculated, I want to know what not only my team needs to do but what is required from other teams. When evaluating the schedules of all AFC South teams I was reminded of just how backloaded 2010 is.

So before you jump, humor me and just exist in the world I have created. Have fun with it!

It would seem the Gods of Scheduling have once again given Jacksonville the power to create their own destiny. In fact, each AFC South team, except the Texans, require nothing but winning out in order to claim the division title, and probably the lone playoff spot.

Hard to believe? Consider the divisional games left. With the Colts, Jaguars and Titans each playing at least three there exists an absolute level of control for these teams. Here is what remains to be played, with weeks in parenthesis.

Houston: Tennessee (15) and Jacksonville (17)
Indianapolis: Tennessee (14,17) and Jacksonville (15)
Jacksonville: Indianapolis (15), Tennessee (13) and Houston (17)
Tennessee: Indianapolis (14,17), Houston (15) and Jacksonville (13)

Looking at the best case for each team we can first eliminate the Texans and then see how a 5-0 finish means extra football for the rest.

Houston's Scenario:
They win out and finish 9-7, 4-2 in the division.
If Indianapolis wins out they are 11-5, 4-2.
If Jacksonville wins all but the Houston game they are 10-6, 4-2.
If Tennessee wins all but the Houston game they are 9-7, 4-2.

Houston can therefore be removed from the discussion.

Indianapolis's Scenario:
They win out and finish 11-5, 4-2 in the division.
If Jacksonville wins all but the Indianapolis game they are 10-6, 4-2.
If Tennessee wins all but the Indianapolis games they are 8-8, 3-3.

Jacksonville's Scenario:
They win out and finish 11-5, 5-1 in the division.
If Indianapolis wins all but the Jacksonville game they are 10-6, 3-3 in the division.
If Tennessee wins all but the Jacksonville game they are 9-7, 4-2 in the division.

Tennessee's Scenario:
They win out and finish 10-6, 5-1 in the division.
If Indianapolis wins all but the Tennessee games they are 9-7, 2-4 in the division.
If Jacksonville wins all but the Tennesse game they are 10-6, 4-2 in the division.

You want more?

For the Jaguars, it actually only requires four weeks to secure the division title. Beating the Titans and Colts would give them a 4-1 divisional record going into the final week. A loss at Houston would leave them at 10-6, 4-2 but they would own the tie break over Indinanapolis.

Don't stop now.

I'd rather be even more aggressive and optimistic: this could all be over in three weeks.

Unfortunately in this scenario there is are a two caveats. Jacksonville would need help from Jeff Fisher's troops when they face the Colts in week 14 and Houston must lose at least one of their remaining games. If Manning's boys win then week 16 is the the earliest Jacksonville could hoist the banner. But, a 3-0 streak by Jacksonville, coupled with a Titans 2-1, 2-1 Texans and Colts 1-2 would create the following:

Team

Overall

Division

Conference

Jacksonville

9-5

4-1

8-3

Indianapolis

7-7

2-3

4-6

Tennessee

7-7

3-2

4-6

Since the Colts and Titans play to end the season, the best they could finish is 9-7. If Jacksonville ends the season with loses to Washington and Houston they would still own with either the divisional or conference tie breaker with Tennessee or Indianapolis respectively.

Aren't options wonderful.  I started to examine other possibilities but decided that is best left to folks who get paid to do this.

So which do you prefer: a division title in three, four or five weeks?

- Brian Fullford

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