Shutdown Corner Playoff Projection – 49ers are in, Cowboys are out

Anwar S Richardson
Shutdown Corner

Every week, we try to project what the playoff bracket will look like in January. To sift through who is for real and will make a postseason push, and who will fade out of the playoff picture down the stretch. It's important to note this is our ever-changing prediction of how we think things will play out and not necessarily a current plugging-in of teams with the corresponding records.

Think of it as "bracketology" for the pigskin set.

Why do you think the Patriots can hold on to a bye without Rob Gronkowski?

New England was 5-1 before Gronkowski played his first game this season. The wins were not pretty, but Tom Brady found a way to get the job done. You can also never doubt Patriots coach Bill Belichick. New England has 10 regular season wins for the 11th consecutive season, and only the San Francisco 49ers (16 winning seasons between 1983 and 1998) have a longer streak of success. New England’s remaining games are against Miami, Baltimore and Buffalo, which are winnable.

Did Seattle show any flaws in its loss at San Francisco?

Outside of losing? Other than that, Seattle showed it is a beatable team away from home. The only way to defeat Seattle is by luring this squad away from CenturyLink Field. Considering Seattle might obtain home field advantage throughout the playoffs, every other NFC playoff team is in trouble.

Are the Colts capable of winning a game in the playoffs, given how they're playing?

I just cannot see it. Indianapolis has two wins in its past five games. Both of those wins were against Tennessee. The Colts’ defense has not played well down the stretch. Andrew Luck threw four touchdown pass against Cincinnati, but the Colts were defeated, 42-28, on Sunday. Indianapolis started strong this season, but it does not appear there is much left in the tank.

So you have given up on the Cowboys and now believe in the 49ers?

Yes, so cease and desist those disparaging e-mails, 49ers fans. I held onto my belief in Dallas for as long as possible, but that defensive performance against Chicago on Monday made me realize this team cannot pull it together. Philadelphia is the best team in the NFC East. Period. San Francisco? Not only did San Francisco pull off an impressive win against Seattle, but Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Arizona are remaining on the 49ers’ schedule. 49ers fans, I apologize.

Indianapolis has clinched the AFC South. Who else can clinch a playoff spot this week?

Here is a full breakdown of the Week 15 playoff scenarios (h/t to the NFL Communications department):

DENVER BRONCOS

Denver clinches AFC West division with:

1) DEN win + KC loss

Denver clinches a first-round bye with:

1) DEN win + KC loss + CIN loss or tie

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Kansas City clinches a playoff spot with:

1) KC win or tie OR

2) MIA loss or tie OR

3) BAL loss or tie

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

New England clinches AFC East division with:

1) NE win or tie

New England clinches a playoff spot with:

1) BAL loss or tie

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Cincinnati clinches AFC North division with:

1) CIN win + BAL loss or tie OR

2) CIN tie + BAL loss

Cincinnati clinches a playoff spot with:

1) CIN win + MIA loss or tie OR

2) CIN tie + MIA loss

NFC

CLINCHED: Seattle – playoff spot

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Seattle clinches NFC West division and a first-round bye with:

1) SEA win + SF loss or tie OR

2) SEA tie + SF loss

Seattle clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) SEA win + SF loss or tie + NO loss

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

New Orleans clinches a playoff spot with:

1) NO win OR

2) NO tie + ARI loss or tie OR

3) NO tie + SF loss or tie OR

4) ARI loss + DAL loss or tie OR

5) ARI loss + PHI loss or tie OR

6) SF loss + DAL loss or tie + ARI tie OR

7) SF loss + PHI loss or tie + ARI tie

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Carolina clinches a playoff spot with:

1) CAR win + ARI loss + SF loss + DAL loss or tie OR

2) CAR win + ARI loss + SF loss + PHI loss or tie

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

San Francisco clinches a playoff spot with:

1) SF win + ARI loss + DAL loss or tie OR

2) SF win + ARI loss + PHI loss or tie

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Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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