Of course, some players are in better shape than others. The nine-win players would have to have an epic collapse in order to miss the playoffs, while the five-win players will need to win every remaining match and still will likely need some help in order to make it in. So, who's on the better end of the picture? Let's take a peek at the updated "If..." chart and see how things are looking:
The byes in the AFC remain unchanged, but Mike C has taken over the top spot in the AFC East from Vlad M, pushing Vlad M from #3 to #6. In a quirk of fate, even though Secretly Victorious is on a four-match winning streak, the fact that she has to compete with Vlad M (to whom she has a head-to-head loss) rather than Mike C (who she beat head-to-head) for a Wild Card spot, means she's been pushed down into the grey. Over in the NFC, Shucky Duckies has taken over the #2 seed, pushing Ignats out of a bye and into the #3 spot.
As usual once we get toward the end of the season, we have a lot of divisional matches on tap -- one from each division -- so let's get to it!
We'll start out in the AFC East where Mike C and Vlad M are facing off in their most important match of the season to date. Mike C led this division for the first two weeks until Vlad M took over in Week 3. He held on to that top spot for 11 straight weeks until back-to-back losses left him vulnerable and allowed Mike C to jump back into the driver's seat. This will be their first of two meetings in the final three weeks, so this one is going to be huge for this pair.
In the AFC West, we have the league-leading Mary L hoping to wrap up the division this week. In order to do so, not only does she need to put up a win over Lyle Alzado, but she also needs losses from Why Not Zoidberg? and Secretly Victorious as well. A lot to ask for, but if she can come out of this one as the only divisional winner, then the division title is hers.
Mean Machine is coming into this week looking to wrap up the AFC North crown. What's it going to take? Two things: step one, beat JPP's Missing Fingers. Step two, hope that I Will Win It All drops the ball this week (EDIT: Whoops -- Mean Machine would claim the division title with a win combined with a loss by Brenda's Bulldogs, not I Will Win It All). If both of those things happen, then the division is his. But a loss to JPP's Missing Fingers could very well leave this division wide open for a stretch run by one of the other players.
With Cutler's Revenge having already locking up the AFC South title and What's Football? eliminated from playoff contention, one could be tempted to look at this as a meaningless match. Not so. While What's Football? can't improve their situation (besides hoping to pick up a Player of the Week prize), Cutler's Revenge has a lot riding on this one. As the #2 Seed in the AFC, he's hoping to move up to #1 and the $25 bonus that comes along with it. At the same time, he's trying to fend off the #3 and #4 seed from pulling the rug out and taking his hard-earned first-round bye away from him. Bottom line -- the only way he can stay comfortable is by winning each and every week.
A few short weeks ago, Turf Toe had a seemingly insurmountable lead in the NFC East. Three consecutive losses later, however, and things are not nearly as comfortable as they once were. Fortunately for him the rest of the division has played poorly as well so his closest competitor, Hyena, is still two wins back. So while Turf Toe is still in the driver's seat in the division, a win by Hyena here would make that four consecutive losses and that seat would become a whole lot less comfortable.
All four NFC West players are still technically in the mix, but it's the top three that are in serious competition for the division title. Shucky Duckies is on a four-match hot streak right now and looking to hold on to his lead, but if he slips up, we have two major players looking to take over. If either Evil Squad of Evil or Fighting Sporks were in any other NFC division, they'd be in the lead there. But they're in the statistically strongest division in the league, so they have more fighting to do. They're both in Wild Card spots right now, but that's not the main goal here. We're likely not going to have a clear picture on this division until the season ends, but when we get there, we'll be able to look at this match as one of the key points of these players' seasons.
Another big turnaround has taken place in the NFC North -- a look at Week 10 shows Ignats on a four-match winning streak and a three win lead over the rest of the division. Since then he's gone 1-3, and now has two players nipping at his heels. He'll be facing off against Rabid Ferrets this week in a match that could see one of three players at the top of the heap once the weekend ends. If Ignats wins, then he'll stay in the lead with a little more breathing room (and a lot more breathing room if Bassturds loses his match as well). If both Rabid Ferrets and Bassturds win, then all three players will be at 8-6 and it'll be Bassturds with his perfect divisional record giving him the tiebreaker. And if Rabid Ferrets wins and Bassturds loses, then Rabid Ferrets will take over the top spot and be a step closer to his second consecutive division title.
If we take a look back to a month ago, we'd see Ragesters having a pretty miserable time of it in the NFC South. He'd just gone 1-6 over the previous seven weeks, and things we're looking about as dismal as could be. Since then it's been nothing but wins, and he can set himself to take over the division with a win here over Beep Bops. Ragesters will be spending his final three weeks of the season touring the entire division, so coming in on one of the hottest streaks in the league is a huge help here. For his part, the playoffs started for Beep Bops last week. One more loss at any time this season would almost certainly spell the end for him. But at the moment, this division is still a four-player race!
All right, that's that for this week's early preview. Please remember that both this week and next week have games starting at 4:30 on Saturday, so we're going to have a hard deadline of noon on Saturday for your weekend picks. But before then, remember that your Thursday Night Football pick is due in by noon on Thursday. The pick submission page is ready and waiting for you, so head on over and get those picks in. Have a great week everyone!
Three matches left, two of which could be settled by the late game. Check back after Cowboys/Raiders to see how this one shapes up.
Two matches left, both coming down to MNF score. The NFC North lead is on the line here, with a possibility of three different players coming out of this one on top.