Spokane's win over Utah was big in the playoff picture, but one of the first questions right after the game was whether Spokane (8-8) can clinch a playoff berth with a win over San Jose (7-9) on Saturday, regardless of what Tulsa (7-9) and Utah (7-9) do the rest of the way?
After consulting with Evan from the AFL office, here's the answer: No. Another Shock win obviously would be huge, but it wouldn't necessarily seal the deal. This may get a little convoluted but read on for the explanation.
If Spokane beats San Jose and loses to Jacksonville, it finishes 9-9. If Utah and Tulsa win their last two, both finish 9-9.
In a three-way tie, the first tiebreaker is record vs. each other. It gets thrown out because Spokane and Tulsa didn't play. The next applicable tiebreaker is record vs. common opponents. Evan informed me that Utah would be 7-6, Spokane 7-7 and Tulsa 7-8, so Utah would get the last playoff spot. Again, that's in a 3-way tie with Spokane winning Saturday and losing at Jacksonville and Utah and Tulsa winning their last two games.
If Spokane wins Saturday and loses at Jacksonville and ends up tied with just Utah or just Tulsa, it appears Spokane is sitting pretty. Spokane beats Utah in a two-way tiebreaker. The teams split, but Spokane gets in because of point differential in head-to-head games (plus 19).
It appears Spokane would beat Tulsa in a two-way tie. They didn't face each other so head-to-head and point differential in head-to-head meetings is eliminated. Next up is record vs. common opponents. Spokane and Tulsa would sport 9-8 records vs. common opponents (again, under the scenario that Spokane beats San Jose and loses to Jacksonville and Tulsa wins its last two). Games that get tossed out are Spokane vs. Jacksonville (Tulsa doesn't play Jacksonville), and Tulsa vs. Georgia (Spokane doesn't play Georgia).
The next tiebreaker would be strength of schedule (more accurately number of wins by opponents). At present, I have Spokane's opponents with 150 wins, Tulsa's with 145. That's counting opponents each team played twice (Spokane vs. Arizona, Utah, San Jose and K.C.; Tulsa vs. Chicago, Dallas, Iowa and K.C.). Even if you just count the wins once (in other words, Arizona for 15 wins instead of 30 since Spokane played them twice), I have Spokane's foes with 116 wins and Tulsa's with 112. It seems unlikely the outcomes of the last two games could change that because, as mentioned above, the only teams not on both Spokane's and Tulsa' schedules are Jacksonville and Georgia.
There you have it, my math exercise this morning! I'd write that down in pen right now, but not set it in concrete!
Remaining schedule of the four teams still in the chase: SPOKANE vs. San Jose, at Jacksonville (13-3); UTAH vs. New Orleans (3-13), at Cleveland (9-7); TULSA vs. Orlando (9-7), at Kansas City (5-11); SAN JOSE at Spokane, at Tampa (6-10). Whomever wins the fourth seed will visit No. 1 Arizona (15-2) in the first round of the playoffs.
Arizona, by the way, clinched home-field advantage throughout the ArenaBowl with Sunday's win over Pittsburgh.