Dear reader, have I mentioned that the third place and seventh place teams in the Eastern Conference are separated by exactly one whole point? I don't know what we did to deserve this, but good work everyone. Life is just better when MLS is more chaotic than everything else.

Before Week 29 begins, I figured we'd take a shot at trying to understand which teams stuck in this log jam have the best odds at coming out with a spot in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and maybe, just maybe, those odds will also correlate to where they finish in the standings. Remember, it's not just making the playoffs that's on the line. Teams two through four will host their Round One playoff games. That's a big deal.

We'll go in order of the current standings thank you very much.

Editor’s note: This story originally ran in The Daily Kickoff.

WEEK 29 GAME: Bye

  • Place: 1st
  • Points: 65 from 29 games
  • Remaining opponent points per game: 1.51
  • Expected goal differential: 13.54 (5th in MLS)
  • Verdict: LOL

They've already clinched a playoff spot. Now this weekend they can clinch first in the East. Kinda seems unfair.

WEEK 29 GAME: Sunday, October 3 at New York City FC (12 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+)

  • Place: 2nd
  • Points: 46 from 27 games
  • Remaining opponent points per game: 1.49
  • Expected goal differential: 15.42 (3rd in MLS)
  • Verdict: 2nd place

I hesitated a bit to declare them the definite second-place finishers. It would have been a no-brainer if they hadn't blown a 2-0 lead to Orlando on Wednesday. But here we are.

The good news is that they still have a six-point cushion, Hany Mukhtar is a legitimate MVP candidate, they're playing quality soccer and have some of the best underlying numbers in MLS. They're going to be fine. Holding onto two-goal leads the rest of the way is probably a good idea, though.

WEEK 29 GAME: Saturday, October 2 at Orlando City SC (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+)

  • Place: 3rd
  • Points: 40 from 27 games
  • Remaining opponent points per game: 1.41
  • Expected goal differential: 14.79 (4th in MLS)
  • Verdict: Third place to fifth place

They're only one point away from seventh place. But I really do believe in D.C. United. They've been in the top five in expected goal differential for nearly the entire season at this point and have probably been unlucky to not see out more results. They have the second-most wins in the East but have the same number of losses as the Red Bulls. Compare that to Nashville, who have one less win but nine more draws.

It's definitely been a bit more hit and miss with D.C., but I expect them to hit enough to make the playoffs. The question will be if they can find consistent results to earn a home game.

WEEK 29 GAME: Sunday, October 3 vs. Nashville SC (12 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+)

  • Place: 4th
  • Points: 39 from 27 games
  • Remaining opponent points per game: 1.14
  • Expected goal differential: 21.21 (2nd in MLS)
  • Verdict: Fifth place to seventh place

Folks, this is a weird one. They have the underlying numbers. They have the talent. They're tied for the easiest remaining schedule of the playoff contenders. And yet, no one blinked an eye when Chicago beat them 2-0 on Wednesday and one revered newsletter writer may have even predicted it.

Their last five games have come against FC Dallas, Cincinnati, RBNY (x2) and Chicago. You could realistically expect a team with NYCFC's numbers and ability to take 12 maybe even 15 points from that run. They took five. And considering how they played against Cincinnati, they probably got lucky to get even that. It should have been the stretch that pushed them to an easy home playoff game pick. Instead...

What will really mess with your brain is the fact that even though their opponent points per game are tied for the lowest in this group. They've got Nashville on Sunday, then a Red Bulls team that seem to have figured out how to make them very uncomfortable, Atlanta, D.C., the same Chicago team that just beat them, Inter Miami and Philadelphia.

You could talk me into them taking anywhere from 13 to five points in that run. It's a genuinely difficult stretch with multiple six-pointers. I think they'll do enough to make the playoffs. But confidently saying they'll get a home game once they get there seems misguided right now.

WEEK 29 GAME: Sunday, October 3 vs. Columbus Crew SC (4 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+)

  • Place: 5th
  • Points: 39 from 26 games
  • Remaining opponent points per game: 1.31
  • Expected goal differential: 4.25 (9th in MLS)
  • Verdict: Third place to fifth place

Say hello to the only team above the line with a game in hand on the rest of their competition. That extra game is looming pretty large right now. And it's the second biggest reason I think the Union will either be in the same spot they are now or a little higher by the end of the season.

The biggest reason is that they've pulled out back-to-back extremely impressive wins in six-pointers against Orlando and Atlanta. I know, I know, I'm still concerned about their ability to find the back of the net too. But they're tied with Nashville for the top spot in goals allowed this season and the way the midfield is playing, I expect them to keep every game close. They may not win enough matches to host a playoff game at Subaru Park, but they'll keep enough games close to get the results they need to get into the postseason. They just feel like a sure bet right now.

WEEK 29 GAME: Saturday, October 2 at CF Montréal (7 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+)
  • Place: 6th
  • Points: 39 from 27 games
  • Remaining opponent points per game: 1.14
  • Expected goal differential: -0.27 (12th in MLS)
  • Verdict: Third place to fifth place

I know you're looking at that verdict then back to their expected goal differential and side-eyeing me and preparing to write a sternly worded tweet about how I'm a homer that I'll never see or care about. However, did you see that remaining schedule? And did you see, I don't know the last two months of Atlanta United?

They've won eight of their last 10 and look like a completely different team. They get Toronto twice, Cincinnati, Inter Miami and Red Bulls over their last seven games. The other two are against Montréal and NYCFC, the two playoff contenders you'd probably pick out to play if you got to choose right now. Even if they drop those games, there are at least 10 points and probably more left in the remaining five. This is a playoff team. And I wouldn't be surprised if they hosted a game.

Also, if you're keeping track, I've got three teams picked in the third to fifth place spot now. There are only three spots there. Just want to make sure you're paying attention to these very accurate predictions that won't come back to bite me in any way.

WEEK 29 GAME: Saturday, October 2 vs. D.C. United (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+)

  • Place: 7th
  • Points: 39 from 27 games
  • Remaining opponent points per game: 1.33
  • Expected goal differential: -3.22 (17th in MLS)
  • Verdict: Miss playoffs to sixth place

Unlike Atlanta, that expected goals number has been swiftly falling over the last few weeks. Before their unlikely comeback against Nashville to earn a point, they'd lost four straight games. Something has just been off with this team at the worst possible time. And the remaining schedule isn't easy to navigate. They get D.C. tomorrow and still have games left with New England, Nashville, Columbus and Montréal (x2). I'm just not confident they can make it through that right now with enough points to keep up with the teams above them. I'm not even confident they can keep up with Montréal. Those two games, including a Decision Day matchup, are going to carry a ton of weight.

The only reason I'm really hesitating to say they won't make the playoffs at all is the fact that they were able to get a point against Nashville. There's a slight chance it's the confidence boost they need to get out of whatever it is they're in right now.

WEEK 29 GAME: Saturday October 2 vs. Atlanta United (7 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+)

  • Place: 8th
  • Points: 37 from 27 games
  • Remaining opponent points per game (ppg): 1.14
  • Expected goal differential: 3.07 (10th in MLS)
  • Verdict: Miss playoffs to sixth place

Honestly, I like their chances better than Orlando's right now. Their underlying numbers have been better for most of the year. They have legitimate match-winners in Djordje Mihailovic and Romell Quioto. And they get two chances against the Lions to close out the year, plus games against Toronto, the Red Bulls and Houston. If they can make it through their next two games hosting Atlanta and Philadelphia with three points or more, they should feel pretty good about things.

WEEK 29 GAME: Sunday, October 3 at Philadelphia Union (4 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+)

  • Place: 9th
  • Points: 34 from 27 games
  • Remaining opponent points per game (ppg): 1.39
  • Expected goal differential: -7.68 (20th in MLS)
  • Verdict: Miss playoffs

They've quietly gotten themselves within touching distance here! But five points between them and seventh feels like a pretty big gap right now all considered, and they just haven't been good enough in the second half of the season to merit any confidence. Congrats on the Campeones Cup, though! That was fun.

Anyway, let's just assume that all the teams below them aren't making it either. Maybe this wasn't quite as hard to sort out as I thought...