The last weekend of the NFL regular season is already wreaking havoc.
Early Sunday afternoon, the Jaguars, vying for the No.1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, upset AFC South rival the Colts 26-11 in a searing defeat.
The Colts entered Sunday with an 88% chance of qualifying for the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight, needing only one victory to secure a place in the AFC peloton. Now they are placed in the awkward position of having to wait for their fate.
But Jacksonville’s victory doesn’t just turn Indianapolis upside down. Now the “Sunday Night Football” game between the Raiders and Chargers could see the two teams – originally facing a win-all match to enter the playoffs – making the playoffs, fending off the Colts and holding the second place AFC North team out of sight in what would be a one-off event.
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What Jaguars’ win means for NFL playoff photo
The Colts needed a win to move up to 10-7 and stay above the Chargers and Raiders, who each enter the Sunday Night Football game at 9-7. If the Colts and Raiders both win, the Raiders would have the highest seed due to the decisive advantage, while Indianapolis would be in a position above Los Angeles.
However, the victory now means the Chargers and Raiders could both advance to the playoffs, joining the AFC East runner-up, as generic teams if they are both tied. This unique circumstance reinforced the theory among fans that both teams might just kneel down for the entire game, run out of time, and accept a tie for both teams to advance to the playoffs.
Why would this work? At 9-7-1, the Chargers and Raiders would each have a better win-loss record against the Colts, who are now at 9-8. The Steelers lost to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, so even with a win over the Ravens, they wouldn’t have the tiebreaker against either team. The only other team left in the picture, the Ravens, would have dropped to just 9-8 with a win over the Steelers, which would pit them against Indianapolis and hold them upright.
But don’t think the NBC and NFL executives are sweating the game too much just yet. The Raiders and Chargers are rivals, after all, and earlier in the week Los Angeles head coach Brandon Staley splashed cold water on the idea of a game full of knees, claiming that the game was too important for them to start. For Staley and Raiders coach Rich Bisaccia, there is also the risk that the team with the ball at the end of regulation time will just throw a through pass or hit a basket to win the game anyway. and knocking out his AFC West rival from the playoffs.
NFL Playoffs SCENARIOS: Chargers | Raiders | Foals
Los Angeles Chargers
Overall, it doesn’t have as much of an impact on the Chargers as it does on most other teams.
Los Angeles entered a win-win mentality on Sunday, and it stays the same. If the Chargers beat the Raiders, they’ll advance to the playoffs. Not only would they advance to the playoffs, but they are now shaping up to be the No.6 seed on the field with the win.
It is even possible that they will climb to No.5 with a win. The Patriots take on the Dolphins and the Bills take on the Jets during the 4:25 p.m. ET window. If the Bills lost to the Jets and the Patriots beat the Dolphins, Los Angeles would move up to 5th place and the Bills would drop to 6th place.
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Las Vegas Adventurers
Because Pittsburgh beat the Ravens, the Raiders are in a win or tie scenario, just like the Chargers. If the Raiders beat the Chargers, they can reach fifth place if the Patriots lose to the Dolphins or if New England wins the AFC East. Otherwise, a win would move them up to No.6. If the two teams were tied, the Raiders would be the No.7 seed.
The loss is a blow to the Colts, who seemed determined to advance to the playoffs as the only one necessary to secure a victory against one of the worst teams in the NFL.
But after losing to Jacksonville, the only hope they have is for the Steelers-Ravens game to end in a tie. That didn’t happen, knocking Indianapolis out of the playoffs.
The Steelers always seem to find a way. And after their win over the Ravens and the Colts’ loss to the Jaguars, Pittsburgh will advance to the playoffs UNLESS the Chargers and Raiders finish tied. If that happens, both AFC West teams will advance to the playoffs and PIttsburgh will be left outside to watch.
Given the scarcity of ties and reports that no team will play for a tie, Pittsburgh needs to feel comfortable with the situation.
In case anyone is wondering, from conversations I’ve had with the Chargers and Raiders, if (if the Jags win) LA and Vegas won’t be tied for the playoffs on purpose.
Let’s see how it goes …
– Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) January 9, 2022
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Impact on the 2022 NFL Draft
This game would have had major implications for the draft, with Jacksonville occupying the top spot. With a win and a loss for the Lions to the Packers, Detroit would rise (or fall, depending on your perspective) to the top spot.
However, the Packers rested most of their starters against the Lions, and Detroit was able to secure their third win of the season, dropping to 3-13-1 this year to stay behind Jacksonville.