Arena Football League Playoff Picture Heading into Week 17: Fan Take

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Is your favorite Arena Football League team vying for one of the coveted eight playoff spots and a shot at ArenaBowl XXV? Despite there being only four weeks left in the 2012 regular season, chances are pretty darn good that your team is in the mix because most AFL teams still are.

Let's see how things stand right now.

American Conference

Two weeks ago, the Philadelphia Soul (12-3) clinched a playoff berth, won the East Division, secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, knocked you down in the parking lot, stole your lunch money, and took your sister out on a date in your car, and there wasn't a thing you could do about it. They got this, and you can't take it away from them.

The rest of the conference, however, looks like a Philadelphia traffic jam.

Right this very second, the Jacksonville Sharks (7-7) hold the No. 2 playoff seed, with the New Orleans VooDoo (7-7) coming in at No. 3, and the Georgia Force (7-8) rounding out the top four.

But don't blink because all three of those spots could change in a big way, depending on how things shake out for the Tampa Bay Storm (6-8), the Cleveland Gladiators (6-8), and--still clinging to life support--my season-long dark horse playoff candidate, the Milwaukee Mustangs (5-9).

(Come on, Mustangs! Stop making me look like a chump!)

Milwaukee visits Cleveland this week, and Jacksonville visits New Orleans in two huge clashes with enormous American Conference playoff stakes.

The Arena Football League has been kind enough to spell out all of the tie-breakers for me so that I don't sprain a brain cell doing it. I quote them directly in italics, making no effort whatsoever to restructure what they have already written. I'm lazy like that. Don't judge me.

The CLEVELAND GLADIATORS hold a tiebreaker over the MILWAUKEE MUSTANGS based on wins in head-to-head competition. If the Mustangs defeat the Gladiators by more than 21 points in Week 17, the Mustangs would take over possession of the tiebreaker.

The GEORGIA FORCE hold a tiebreaker over the CLEVELAND GLADIATORS based on wins in head-to-head competition.

The GEORGIA FORCE hold a tiebreaker over the JACKSONVILLE SHARKS based on wins in head-to-head competition.

The GEORGIA FORCE hold a tiebreaker over the MILWAUKEE MUSTANGS based on wins in head-to-head competition.

The GEORGIA FORCE currently hold a tiebreaker over the TAMPA BAY STORM based on wins against common opponents.

The JACKSONVILLE SHARKS hold a tiebreaker over the CLEVELAND GLADIATORS based on wins in head-to-head competition.

The JACKSONVILLE SHARKS hold a tiebreaker over the NEW ORLEANS VOODOO based on wins in head-to-head competition. If the VooDoo defeat the Sharks by more than four points in Week 17, the VooDoo will take over possession of the tiebreaker.

The JACKSONVILLE SHARKS hold a tiebreaker over the TAMPA BAY STORM based on point differential in head-to-head competition.

The MILWAUKEE MUSTANGS hold a tiebreaker over the NEW ORLEANS VOODOO based on wins in head-to-head competition.

The NEW ORLEANS VOODOO hold a tiebreaker over the GEORGIA FORCE based on wins in head-to-head competition. If the Force defeat the VooDoo by more than 22 points in Week 20, the Force would take over possession of the tiebreaker.

The NEW ORLEANS VOODOO hold a tiebreaker over the TAMPA BAY STORM based on wins in head-to-head competition. If the Storm defeat the VooDoo by more than 19 points in Week 19, the Storm will take over possession of the tiebreaker.

The TAMPA BAY STORM hold a tiebreaker over the CLEVELAND GLADIATORS based on point differential in head-to-head competition.

The TAMPA BAY STORM hold a tiebreaker over the MILWAUKEE MUSTANGS based on wins in head-to-head competition.

Got all that? Good. There'll be a test on it later.

National Conference

Over in the National Conference, it's not a much clearer picture. A couple teams can clinch playoff berths this week, however.

The current No. 1 seed, the Arizona Rattlers (11-3) just need a victory over the Spokane Shock (8-6) in Washington and hope for the San Jose SaberCats (9-6) to lose to the Chicago Rush (9-5) at Allstate Arena, and they'll be in the postseason.

The current No. 2 seed, the San Antonio Talons (11-3) don't need anybody's help. All they have to do is punch out the Kansas City Command (3-10) at home to punch their ticket to playoff bliss.

The current No. 3 seed, the Utah Blaze (10-5), and the current No. 4 seed, the Rush, can't clinch anything this week (at least I don't think they can), but they need to keep winning to stay in the playoff picture.

The Rush host the SaberCats on June 30 in a National Conference blockbuster contest. The Blaze can just kick back in the La-Z-Boy (or would it be Bla-Z-Boy in Utah?) and watch it all unfold this week because they're on a bye.

The Rattlers-Shock game is also going to be important to those whose favorite teams reside in the National Conference.

Once again, courtesy of the Arena Football League, in italics, because there's no point in me rewording perfectly well-worded tie-breakers:

The ARIZONA RATTLERS hold a tiebreaker over the CHICAGO RUSH based on wins in head-to-head competition.

The ARIZONA RATTLERS hold a tiebreaker over the SAN ANTONIO TALONS based on wins in head-to-head competition. If the Talons defeat the Rattlers by more than 34 points in Week 19, the Talons would take over possession of the tiebreaker.

The ARIZONA RATTLERS hold a tiebreaker over the SPOKANE SHOCK based on wins in head-to-head competition. If the Shock defeat the Rattlers by more than four points in Week 17, the Shock would take over possession of the tiebreaker.

The ARIZONA RATTLERS hold a tiebreaker over the UTAH BLAZE based on wins in head-to-head competition. If the Blaze defeat the Rattlers by more than 16 points in their rematch in Week 18, the Blaze would take over possession of the tiebreaker.

The CHICAGO RUSH hold a tiebreaker over the SPOKANE SHOCK based on wins in head-to-head competition.

The SAN ANTONIO TALONS hold a tiebreaker over the CHICAGO RUSH based on wins in head-to-head competition. If the Rush defeat the Talons by more than one point in their rematch in Week 18, the Rush would take over possession of the tiebreaker.

The SAN ANTONIO TALONS hold a tiebreaker over the SAN JOSE SABERCATS based on point differential in head-to-head competition.

The SAN ANTONIO TALONS hold a tiebreaker over the UTAH BLAZE based on wins in head-to-head competition.

The SAN JOSE SABERCATS hold a tiebreaker over the ARIZONA RATTLERS based on wins in head-to-head competition.

The SAN JOSE SABERCATS hold a tiebreaker over the CHICAGO RUSH based on wins in head-to-head competition. If the Rush defeat the SaberCats by more than seven points in Week 17, the Rush will take over possession of the tiebreaker.

The SAN JOSE SABERCATS hold a tiebreaker over the SPOKANE SHOCK based on point differential in head-to-head competition.

The SAN JOSE SABERCATS hold a tiebreaker over the UTAH BLAZE based on point differential in head-to-head competition.

The SPOKANE SHOCK hold a tiebreaker over the SAN ANTONIO TALONS based on wins in head-to-head competition.

The UTAH BLAZE hold a tiebreaker over the CHICAGO RUSH based on wins in head-to-head competition.

The UTAH BLAZE hold a tiebreaker over the SPOKANE SHOCK based on wins in head-to-head competition.

Clear as mud? Let's just watch all the Week 17 games and see what happens, shall we?

The author is a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network and holds media credentials with the Chicago Rush and the Arena Football League. You can follow him on Twitter at @RedZoneWriting and on Facebook.

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