With two games left to play, the playoff picture is clearer. Huddersfield Town are in. Reading need an epic collapse to miss out. Fulham and Sheffield can clinch this week, and poor Leeds needs to win out and get some help. Let’s look at all the teams in detail.
Huddersfield are going to make the playoffs. They sit on 81 points. Their last two games are at Birmingham City and hosting Cardiff City, so you won’t expect them to finish on 81. Even if they do, Leeds can only get to 79 points. The first playoff spot has now been filled. If they finish as the top seed, I have no issues with Fulham having to face them in the first round.
We still don’t understand how they do it. Fulham blew the doors off them twice. They barely have a positive goal differential. By expected goals, they are the third worst team in the league. Yet here they are, sitting on 79 points. They haven’t locked things up yet though. If they somehow lose while hosting Wigan Athletic and travelling to Burton Albion, Leeds could catch them with 79 points and would pass them on goal difference. This would also require either Fulham to earn less than three points in their final two, and Sheffield Wednesday to finish with two losses. That’s a lot of stuff to go wrong. It’s probably why Experimental 3-6-1 gives them well over a 90% chance to make the playoffs. Just like Huddersfield, if Fulham face Reading in the first round, I’m confident in The Whites chances.
If you’ve been impressed with Fulham’s finish to the season so far, Sheffield Wednesday has been equally amazing. They’re the only team better over their last 6 games and are equal to Fulham on points in the last 10. Sitting on 78 points they only need 1 point in the final two matches to make the playoffs. If they win or draw against Ipswich Town, they’re in. Wednesday is the one team I don’t want to see in the playoffs if Fulham make it. The advanced stats have had Fulham and Wednesday as the third and fourth best teams for quite some time. I’d much rather avoid them in the first round and hope for one of the other teams to knock them out.
Fulham have put themselves in a good position. Three points out of the last two games gets them into the playoffs. Any loss by Leeds gets them into the playoffs. That last bit may be more important than it seems. We’ve already talked about Wednesday being just as hot as Fulham to finish the season. Brentford, it could be argued, has been even better. They have the best goal differential over both the last 6 and last 10 games. They’ve scored the most goals in 2017. Brentford will be a tough game, and that’s before you take into account how much they would love to crush Fulham’s dreams.
Leeds has put themselves in a precarious position. Not only do they have to win their last two games (hosting Norwich, and travelling to Wigan), they need help. One of the following would have to be combined with their two wins: Fulham not winning in the final two, Sheffield earning zero points in the final two, Reading earning zero points in the final two, or Sheffield only earning one point and Leeds passing them on goal difference. That’s a lot of things that are out of their control. Winning the last two would be hard enough on its own. Especially since Leeds is 21st in the league over their last 6 games and 16th over their last 10. This is probably why Experimental 3-6-1 only gives them a 10% chance of making the playoffs.
This is an exciting week. After this week, we could know all four playoff teams, with only the final seeding to be decided on the final day. Or it could be pandemonium. Fulham, Wednesday, and Reading could lose with Leeds winning. This would set up an exciting (or heart wrenching) final day of the season with everything to play for for four different teams. I’m rooting for the first scenario, as waking up at 4AM with the possibility of having my dreams crushed does not sound like a great way to spend a Saturday morning.
What do you think happens over the next two weeks? Which team loses out on the playoffs?
Which team doesn’t make the playoffs?
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