Clint's Corner Archive

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The source for back issues of Clint's Corner. Forget a trade? Were Clint's predictions correct? Here's every edition, verbatim.

For 12/28/2001

Be careful what you wish for...

In my belated Christmas week edition of Clint's Corner, I simply want to clear up a few things for the many Pats fans that don't know who to root for this weekend while the Pats are enjoying their bye week. So you want the Patriots to win the AFC East? Read on and you may change your mind about that.

As it stands now, the Patriots and Jets are the only two teams with a realistic shot at winning the AFC East. Miami would have to finish 11-5 and hope that both the Pats and Jets finished with fewer than 11 victories. That's possible, but not likely, so I'll forgo that scenario in my analysis. With home games against Atlanta and Buffalo upcoming, the Dolphins are likely to finish 11-5, but Miami would lose all tiebreakers to both the Jets and Pats, so the only remaining question for Miami is where they will be seeded in the Wild Card picture.

My analysis also assumes the Patriots will win on January 6 to finish at 11-5. That's a big assumption, but this column will be long enough without also having to work the 10-6 angle. The Carolina Panthers, although currently 1-13, are not going to roll over and play dead for the Patriots. The fact that New England needs to win this game is enough incentive for Carolina to show up and play hard. The Patriots took some measure of achievement in playing the Rams tough in Foxboro back in November. If scoring 10 points on offense in losing 24-17 is proof that the Pats "could play with the best," then what do you call Carolina racking up 402 yards of offense in their 38-32 loss to the Rams last week? The fans may be chalking this game up as a "W" already, but you can bet Belichick is not, and that's a good thing.

In finishing 11-5, the Pats will clinch a home playoff game as either AFC East Champions or the #1 seeded wildcard team, ahead of Miami and Baltimore. If the Jets win at home against Buffalo next week and then at Oakland on January 6, the Jets will win the division regardless of how the Patriots fare in Carolina.

If the Jets lose to the Bills and the Raiders lose to the Broncos next week, the Patriots would be very much alive for the #2 seed in the AFC, earning a very important 1st round bye. At 9-6, the Jets could be in a must win situation playing in Oakland just to make the playoffs (should Seattle win and remain alive). In this case, it would benefit the Patriots for the Jets to beat Oakland to give the Raiders their 6th loss of the season. If the Jets beat Buffalo at home next week, the Pats could not be the #2 seed, for to win the division the Raiders would have to beat the Jets, thus securing the #2 seed for Oakland. It's not likely that the Jets will lose at home to Buffalo, but that's the only way New England could secure a 1st round bye.

If the Jets beat Buffalo at home next Sunday, this is where it gets interesting as to what to wish for in week 17. The Pats would have no chance at the #2 seed, so in finishing 11-5 they'd host a playoff game on week 1 regardless of whether they are the 3rd seeded AFC East Champions or the 4th seeded #1 Wild Card team.

Which is better? That depends on who the #6 seed is. Neither the 3rd nor 4th seeded teams gets a bye week, and both teams are on the road in the second round should they win their first game. The #3 seed would host the #6 seed in round 1 while the #4 seed hosts the #5 seed.

The only advantage to being the #3 seed as opposed to the #4 seed is that you have a slightly better chance of hosting the Conference Championship game should you advance that far. If as the #3 seed you defeat the #2 seed in the 2nd round, you would host the Conference Championship game if the advancing 4th or 5th seeded wildcard team was also able to pull of the upset and knock off the #1 seeded Steelers in Pittsburgh.

To host the Conference Championship game as the #4 seed, you'd have to hope that the #6 seed wins twice in a row, knocking off the #3 and #1 seeds in succession. In that event, as the 4th seed you'd host the #6 seed in the Conference Championship game if you were able to defeat the #2 seed on the road in round 2. Where am I going with this? Read on.

The Baltimore Ravens are currently 9-5 and will be playing in Tampa Bay this Saturday night before returning home to face the Minnesota Vikings, who unlike the Carolina Panthers have unofficially entered their off-season. Regardless of whether the Ravens finish 10-6 or 11-5, they are a team that no one wants to face in the post season, and I do mean no one. Baltimore is very likely to qualify as either the 5th or 6th seed in the AFC.

If the Patriots finish 11-5 and the Jets enter the Oakland game at 10-5, whom do you root for? What's more important, winning the AFC East or securing a more favorable match-up in the 1st round? While it's always dangerous to say "I'd rather face this team over that team", believe me when I say the Patriots would much rather welcome Miami or the Jets to Foxboro Stadium than the defending Super Bowl champs in the 1st round.

If the Ravens defeat the Bucs to go to 10-5, it's all but a foregone conclusion that they'll defeat the Vikings at home on Monday Night Football to finish at 11-5. If the Ravens lose in Tampa Bay Saturday night, they'd drop to 9-6 and would likely finish 10-6.

If the Ravens and Jets both win this weekend, then you root for Oakland the following week so the Patriots could win the division and avoid 11-5 Baltimore in the 1st round. Again assuming Miami finishes 11-5, the Pats would host the 6th seeded 10-6 Jets while Miami hosted Baltimore.

If the Ravens lose and the Jets win this weekend, then you may want to consider forgoing the AFC title and rooting for the Jets to win the division at 11-5. That scenario would have the Jets hosting the Ravens in week 1 while the Pats welcomed Miami back to town. If the Ravens finish 10-6 and the Pats win the division, the Patriots would host Baltimore and Miami would host the Jets.

If the Jets and Raiders both lose this weekend, then you'd want the Jets to defeat Oakland to secure the #2 seed for the Pats. The first round would likely have Baltimore traveling to Oakland, and the Jets traveling to Miami, with the Pats awaiting the highest-advancing seed from those two contests. Since that game could not be Baltimore, that's another bonus.

Since the Ravens play on Saturday night, it's impossible to know whether to root for them or the Bucs given that the other games won't be played until Sunday. We won't know whether it's good for Baltimore to finish as the 6th seed or not until we know what the Patriots chances are of winning the division. For now, however, I'm rooting for the Ravens. If they finish 11-5 and the Pats win the division, the Jets would have to be 10-6 or worse, and the Pats would avoid Baltimore in the 1st round.

If you're the eternal optimist, then you're hoping to see the Jets, Raiders, and Bucs all lose this weekend so you can turn around and root for the Jets to beat Oakland the following week. However, if the Raiders win, then it may make sense to root for the Jets, but only if the Ravens lost to the Bucs Saturday night. Only problem is the Raiders and Broncos don't kick off until after the Jets game is over.

Got it? Good!

See you next week.