The clock is ticking down on this fall’s football season, and we’re closing in on an expected or possibly devastating situation. It could happen as early as Sunday, when the Chargers (K) travel to Houston, which then plays host to the Redskins, who then travel to Kansas City and, if things go according to plan, host the Chargers. Even if you’re not a fan of either team, you should at least be concerned because of the high stakes involved. This is the NFL’s showcase season, and a trip to Houston could mean elimination for the two second-place teams in the AFC West and a possibly big-time opportunity for the team that finishes in the top five of the NFC. At the same time, the Giants beat the Broncos, the Seahawks beat the Cowboys, the Cowboys lost to the Giants, and the Cowboys only lost by seven points — 8-3 against 12-1 against 8-3. So no, you may not see it happen, but for those who are interested, here’s a breakdown of the so-called deaths in the Niger River league:
At first glance, the first element that stands out is the bizarreness of the circumstances involved. One, the NFL schedule-makers put the Chargers in Houston instead of at the Superdome in New Orleans, to play the Saints on Sunday night. The Cowboys were supposed to be playing the Rams in California, and couldn’t do so due to a pre-planned game of dominoes that involved the other seven clubs in the league. Meanwhile, two teams that could well lose their season hinges on a game that’s directly opposite.
So, let’s talk the logical factor of the Death in the Niger formula. Looking at this game in the table above, only one thing matters: The team with the best record in the NFC gets a first-round bye, while the team that finishes in the two to four spot gets the weekend off before the final week. And if it’s the Chargers who travel to Houston and are the head-to-head winners over the Redskins, the Chargers would get to keep their season alive by avoiding the second-place team and get a bye. And although it isn’t in the schedules, it doesn’t hurt to throw in a disclaimer: Teams with league-leader in interceptions, plus quarterbacks who have thrown 12 interceptions or more, don’t get first-round byes, like the Cowboys did last year.