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2012 Arena Football League Playoff Scenarios For Week 20

Adam Markowitz
Sunday July 15, 2012


After a night full of overlooking tiebreaker rules and calculating strength of schedule, the staff at ArenaFan.com has calculated all of the 2012 playoff scenarios for the AFL going into Week 20. Going into the week, this is what we know…

-Philadelphia is the No. 1 seed in the American Conference
-San Antonio is the No. 1 seed in the National Conference
-Jacksonville has clinched a playoff berth in the American Conference
-Arizona, Utah, and San Jose have all clinched playoff berths in the National Conference

National Conference Playoff Scenarios

The team in the driver's seat right now would be the Utah Blaze. The Blaze are going to win the Western Division if they can beat the Philadelphia Soul on the road on Sunday in what will amount to be the final game of the regular season. If Utah doesn't though, the next team in line is the Arizona Rattlers. They'll win the West at that point if they take down the Kansas City Command on Saturday night. If both Utah and Arizona lose, the idle San Jose SaberCats will be the division champs, and the Rattlers would be the No. 3 seed.

Here are the four possibilities that could happen in Week 20 in the National Conference with records and first round opponents in parentheses…

Utah Wins/Arizona Wins

#2 Utah (13-5) (Would play vs. Arizona)
#3 Arizona (13-5) (Would play @ Utah)
#4 San Jose (12-6) (Would play @ San Antonio)

Utah Wins/Arizona Loses

#2 Utah (13-5) (Would play vs. San Jose)
#3 San Jose (12-6) (Would play @ Utah)
#4 Arizona (12-6) (Would play @ San Antonio)

Utah Loses/Arizona Wins

#2 Arizona (13-5) (Would play vs. San Jose)
#3 San Jose (12-6) (Would play @ Arizona)
#4 Utah (12-6) (Would play @ San Antonio)

Utah Loses/Arizona Loses

#2 San Jose (12-6) (Would play vs. Arizona)
#3 Arizona (12-6) (Would play @ San Jose)
#4 Utah (12-6) (Would play @ San Antonio)

Some notes about the tiebreaker procedures…

-San Jose would win a three-way tiebreaker at 12-6 with Utah and Arizona based upon record in head-to-head games. The SaberCats went 3-1 against those two teams.

-If that were the scenario that played out and all three teams in the Western Division finished 12-6, Arizona would win a two-way tiebreaker at 12-6 against Utah. The first tiebreaker is record in games against one another (1-1 each), and the second tiebreaker shifts to point differential in those two games. Arizona lost by 13 at home to Utah, but beat Utah by 16 on the road.

-Utah would win a two-way tiebreaker at 13-5 atop the division with Arizona based upon record in division, though. The two teams split the regular season series (first tiebreaker), moving us to the second tiebreaker, division record, which Utah wins with a 4-2 record (versus Arizona's 3-3).

-San Jose would win a two-way tiebreaker at 12-6 with Utah for the No. 3 seed. The SaberCats and Blaze split the season series, but San Jose lost by one on the road and won by 11 at home.

-San Jose would win a two-way tiebreaker at 12-6 with Arizona for the No. 3 seed based upon the SaberCats 2-0 record in games in this series this year.

And now we move on to the American Conference, where things are even more fuzzy going into Week 20…

American Conference Playoff Scenarios

Virtually all is going to be to play for in the game between the Georgia Force and the New Orleans VooDoo on Saturday. The winner is going to be in the playoffs regardless and will still have a shot of winning the Southern Division and hosting a first round game. The loser is going to be in trouble. New Orleans could still backdoor its way into the second season with some help. The Tampa Bay Storm will know by halftime of their game against the Spokane Shock on Saturday night whether they are in the playoffs or if they still must win, but it is going to take two bits of help, including one bit from an unexpected team. If Georgia loses to New Orleans in a game going on two hours earlier, it can still get in, but it will need a load of help. The Jacksonville Sharks, who play on Friday, will win the Southern Division with a win over the Pittsburgh Power on Friday Night Football on the NFL Network, but they know that they won't win the division if they lose.

If the Sharks LOSE on Friday vs. Pittsburgh, the following scenario plays out for Saturday…

New Orleans Wins/Tampa Bay Loses/Cleveland Wins

#2 New Orleans (9-9) (Would play vs. Jacksonville)
#3 Jacksonville (9-9) (Would play @ New Orleans)
#4 Georgia (8-10) (Would play @ Philadelphia)

New Orleans Wins/Tampa Bay Loses/Cleveland Loses OR New Orleans Wins/Tampa Bay Wins

#2 New Orleans (9-9) (Would play vs. Jacksonville)
#3 Jacksonville (9-9) (Would play @ New Orleans)
#4 Tampa Bay (8-10) (Would play @ Philadelphia)

Georgia Wins/Tampa Bay Loses

 

#2 Georgia (9-9) (Would play vs. Jacksonville)
#3 Jacksonville (9-9) (Would play @ Georgia)
#4 New Orleans (8-10) (Would play @ Philadelphia)

Georgia Wins/Tampa Bay Wins

#2 Georgia (9-9) (Would play vs. Jacksonville)
#3 Jacksonville (9-9) (Would play @ Georgia)
#4 Tampa Bay (9-9) (Would play @ Philadelphia)

If the Sharks WIN on Friday vs. Pittsburgh, the following scenario plays out for Saturday…

New Orleans Wins/Tampa Bay Loses/Cleveland Wins

#2 Jacksonville (10-8) (Would play vs. New Orleans)
#3 New Orleans (9-9) (Would play @ Jacksonville)
#4 Georgia (8-10) (Would play @ Philadelphia)

New Orleans Wins/Tampa Bay Loses/Cleveland Loses OR New Orleans Wins/Tampa Bay Wins

#2 Jacksonville (10-8) (Would play vs. New Orleans)
#3 New Orleans (9-9) (Would play @ Jacksonville)
#4 Tampa Bay (8-10) (Would play @ Philadelphia)

Georgia Wins/Tampa Bay Loses

#2 Jacksonville (10-8) (Would play vs. Georgia)
#3 Georgia (9-9) (Would play @ Jacksonville)
#4 New Orleans (8-10) (Would play @ Philadelphia)

Georgia Wins/Tampa Bay Wins

#2 Jacksonville (10-8) (Would play vs. Georgia)
#3 Georgia (9-9) (Would play @ Jacksonville)
#4 Tampa Bay (9-9) (Would play @ Philadelphia)

Just a word of warning. The tiebreakers are ugly in the American Conference, but we are going to draw all of them up to show how they work.

Three-Way Tiebreakers Atop the Southern Division

If Tampa Bay wins and Jacksonville loses, there will be a three-way tiebreaker atop the Southern Division with the third team being the winner of the Georgia/New Orleans game. The first tiebreaker is record in games against the teams that are tied. Georgia would win a three-way tiebreaker by going 3-1 against Tampa Bay and Jacksonville combined. A Tampa Bay/Jacksonville/New Orleans tiebreaker would have to go to the second step due to the fact that the home team won all of the games in this mini-series between these three. The next tiebreaker is division record, which would give the VooDoo the division title by virtue of their 6-2 mark in the Southern Division.

Two-Way Tiebreakers at 9-9 Atop the Southern Division

Jacksonville will finish tied with the Georgia/New Orleans winner if it loses and Tampa Bay loses in Week 20. If that were the case, the first tiebreaker would be head-to-head record. Georgia wins that tiebreaker by sweeping the season series with Jacksonville. New Orleans would win the tiebreaker at 9-9 by the second tiebreaker, record in division at 6-2 versus 4-4 for Jacksonville.

Two-Way Tiebreakers at 9-9 for Seeding

This only comes into play if the Storm beat the Shock on Saturday night. They would tie the winner of the Georgia/New Orleans game. The potential two-way tiebreakers for seeding could be New Orleans/Tampa Bay (New Orleans and Jacksonville both win), Georgia/Tampa Bay (Georgia and Jacksonville both win), and Jacksonville/Tampa Bay (Jacksonville loses).

New Orleans would finish ahead of Tampa Bay on the second tiebreaker. Both teams split the season series, but New Orleans wins the tiebreaker on point differential in the two games against the Storm. The VooDoo won by 19 at home but lost in Tampa Bay by one, giving them a +18 differential.

Jacksonville would finish ahead of Tampa Bay on the second tiebreaker. Both teams split the season series, but Jacksonville wins the tiebreaker on point differential in the two games against the Storm. The Sharks won by 10 at home but lost in Tampa Bay by two, giving them a +8 differential.

Georgia would finish ahead of Tampa Bay (at 9-9, mind you) on the third tiebreaker. Both teams split the season series, and both teams won by three points at home. The next tiebreaker is common games. Both teams played the same division schedule, and both played Kansas City and Milwaukee exactly once each. Chicago and Pittsburgh both played Tampa Bay once but Georgia twice. Cleveland and Philadelphia both played Georgia once but Tampa Bay twice. Georgia would finish 8-6 in common games. Tampa Bay would finish 7-7 in common games. That would send the Force to the better seeding.

Two-Way Tiebreakers at 8-10

This only comes into play if the Storm lose to the Shock on Saturday night. They would tie the loser of the Georgia/New Orleans game. This is also where we bring the Cleveland Gladiators into the mix for the first time. The only way that two-way tiebreakers can take place is if the Gladiators lose to the Chicago Rush on Saturday afternoon. As it will turn out, Cleveland will hold the key to either Georgia or Tampa Bay getting into the playoffs if both lose on Saturday. But for simplicity's sake, we'll first assume that the Gladiators lose to the Rush.

If New Orleans loses to Georgia, it would finish ahead of Tampa Bay on the second tiebreaker. Both teams split the season series, but New Orleans wins the tiebreaker on point differential in the two games against the Storm. The VooDoo won by 19 at home but lost in Tampa Bay by one, giving them a +18 differential.

If Georgia loses to New Orleans, we have a more interesting tiebreaker with Tampa Bay at 8-10. The tiebreaker does not operate the exact same as it would have at 9-9, because Georgia would win on common opponents. Tampa Bay has finished its season at 7-7 against Georgia's common opponents. Currently, Georgia is 7-6 against Tampa Bay's common opponents, and a loss to New Orleans would also drop it to 7-7. Both teams split the season series, and both teams won by three points at home. The next tiebreaker is common games. Both teams played the same division schedule, and both played Kansas City and Milwaukee exactly once each. Chicago and Pittsburgh both played Tampa Bay once but Georgia twice. Cleveland and Philadelphia both played Georgia once but Tampa Bay twice. Georgia would finish 7-7 in common games. Tampa Bay would finish 7-7 in common games.

So we go to the next tiebreaker, strength of schedule. The Force's opponents this year have a 111-127 record (.466) coming into Week 20, while the Storm's opponents this year have a 116-122 record (.487). Georgia cannot make up that difference this week, thus Tampa Bay would win this tiebreaker via strength of schedule.

Three-Way Tiebreakers at 8-10

And now, we get to the ugly part that no one really wants to talk about. If Cleveland beats Chicago on Saturday and Tampa Bay loses to Spokane on Saturday, we will see a three-way tiebreaker with Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and the loser of the New Orleans/Georgia game, and only one team will get into the second season as the No. 4 seed.

In a three-way tiebreaker with New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland, the VooDoo would prevail having gone 2-1 against the other two teams. The good news is that New Orleans beats Tampa Bay in a two-way tiebreaker anyway, so Cleveland won't effect this situation. However, the bad news is in the Georgia/Cleveland/Tampa Bay 8-10 tiebreaker.

In a two-way tiebreaker, Tampa Bay would best Georgia. But throw Cleveland in there, and the situation changes. The Force are 2-1 against the other two teams. The Storm are just 2-2 having split at home and on the road against both squads.

In short, every team in the Southern Division controls its own destiny for what it wants to have happen. Jacksonville wins the division with a win but will not win it with a loss. All three of Tampa Bay, New Orleans, and Georgia know that a win will put them into the playoffs. A loss and they all could still get in, but they would all need varying degrees of help to do so. The VooDoo would be in if Tampa Bay lost. The Force would be in if Cleveland won and Tampa Bay lost. The Storm would be in if Cleveland and Georgia both lost.

Joe Kauffman contributed to this report.

 


 
Adam Markowitz is an accountant and a freelance sports writer living in Orlando. As a Florida State graduate with degrees in music and history, the garnet and gold will forever be a part of him, but he bleeds the black and red of the Orlando Predators like none other. Adam has been following the AFL since 1991 and has been at well over 200 games, including 16 ArenaBowls. You can follow Adam on Twitter @AFLGuru.
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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