The Chicago Sky at this point has a six game lead over the Dream and basically has the #1 seed in the East in the bag. But the race for the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference is definitely one that's up for grabs.
So here's what the schedule looks for all of the Eastern Conference teams that are mathematically in the playoffs or at least have a mathematical chance at them.
Chicago Sky (21-8 - Guaranteed a Playoff berth - 1st in the East as of today)
Games left: 9/6 - vs. IND; 9/8 - at DC; 9/11 - vs. PHX; 9/13 - vs. ATL; 9/14: - at MIN
What I see: With the Sky having beat all of these teams at least once, it isn't unrealistic to see them beat all five of them. But I think they'll lose one of the four. My guess is that it will be the 9/14 game at Minnesota where EDD, Fowles, and Prince may play very sparingly if at all while the Lynx may very well still be trying to secure the #1 seed for the Western Conference. Either way, the Sky will be the #1 seed in the East at playoff time.
How far can this team go in the Playoffs: Any team that is expected to finish at #1 in the conference has a chance to win the whole thing. However, this is the Sky's first year in the playoffs ever and none of this team's top three has been in the playoffs before. Therefore, the Sky is a team that could be upset in the first round, especially when a series is only a Best of Three.
Atlanta Dream (14-13 - 2nd in the East as of today)
Games left: 9/2 - vs LA; 9/4 - IND; 9/6 - at NY; 9/8 - PHX; 9/11 - at CT; 9/13 - at CHI; 9/15- at SA
What I see: The Dream started out 10-1, but now, this team has gone 4-12 since and is on a four game losing streak with two losses each to DC and Chicago. I don't see this team winning 20 games this season with the games that are left, since I'll consider the LA and Chicago matches remaining as projected losses. I will give them the CT ans SA games though but they're playing for next year, not now. I thought a 20 win season was a foregone conclusion earlier this season. Now, I can't rule out a sub .500 one.
How far can this team go in the Playoffs: This team is the team that "everyone" wants to play in the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first round given that the Dream has been stinking it up for most of the season after the 10-1 start. I believe that the Dream will not advance past the first round myself on paper. But I will have to say this as well. If any team has a history of advancing past the first round as a lower half playoff bracket team, it's the Dream. In 2010, the Dream was the 4th seed in the East, and beat the 1st seeded Mystics and went to the Finals. In 2011, the Dream was the 3rd seed and beat the 2nd seeded Sun. The Dream also made the Finals both years.
Washington Mystics (14-15 - 3rd in the East as of today)
Games left: 9/6 - at CT; 9/8 - vs. CHI; 9/10 - at IND; 9/13 - vs. CT; 9/15 - vs. NY
What I see: If there is a team that seems to be fixated on making sure that I eat a crow-burger, crow- flavored fries, and crow-flavored ice cream for dessert, it's this team. I believed that DC would be the last place team in the preseason and have remained skeptical that they could be higher than fifth in a best case scenario. Instead, a 16 win season looks likely with two games against CT assuming they beat them twice and lose their remaining games. Even a season with a record above .500 is also not just mathematically possible, but even plausible if you're really bullish on DC right now.
If the Mystics want to give their head coach the Coach of the Year award, in order to get some national respect, which they don't have because of their lack of a star or having one of the Big Three Rookies, I think they must win four out of these five. The two CT games and NY are games that DC should win, but can they get one more against Chicago and/or beat Indy on the road? If they get to 18-16 it could be enough to win the #2 seed too with ATL plummetting.
How far can this team go in the Playoffs: Because of the team's talent deficiency with starpower, the Mystics are likely out in the first round and I predict that that will be the case. But having said that, Mike Thibault has given the Mystics a mentality that they can beat anyone any night and that could get them to the Eastern Conference Finals, but no more than that. Still, from a win and loss perspective, seeing the Mystics make the Eastern Conference Finals would be a very dramatic turnaround indeed.
Indiana Fever (13-15, 4th in the East as of today)
Games left: 9/4 - at ATL; 9/6 - at CHI; 9/7 - vs CT; 9/10 - vs. DC; 9/13 - vs. NY; 9/15 - at CT
What I see: I can see the Fever winning four out of six games here to get to .500. The 9/10 game against the Mystics could very well be a deciding factor as to which team ends up getting the #2 or #3 seed in the East, depending on whether the Dream can hold on the 2nd seed in the East, and I doubt it.
How far can this team go in the Playoffs: The Fever has gotten everyone back on the roster, minus Katie Douglas in time for the Playoffs which I see them making. Given that this team won it all last year, I can't rule out that the Fever will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. In fact, if this team was the 4th seed in the East and playing Chicago, I can see this team beat the Sky in a three game series to be honest. And though it may sound far-fetched to some, I think the Fever has the best chance to make the Finals if the Sky doesn't make it that far.
New York Liberty (11-18, 5th in the East as of today)
Games left: 9/1 - at TUL 9/6 - vs. ATL; 9/10 - vs PHX; 9/13 - at. IND; 9/13 - 9/15 - at DC
What I see: I know, the Libs are virtually out of the race, but they're not mathematically eliminated yet, so here they are. The only way I can see the Libs in the playoffs is if they win all their remaining games. Fortunately they can also hurt the seeding hopes and/or playoff hopes even since they have matches against ATL, IND, and DC.
That said, this team has played inconsistently all year and has lost five out of its last six games. While it's mathematically possible for a playoff berth as well as losing by teams above them, the Libs will likely be in the Lottery given that the 2nd through 4th teams in the East are neck and neck to each other and the Liberty has a bit of a margin to catch up to them.
How far can this team go in the Playoffs: Even if the Liberty makes the 2013 Playoffs, I don't think they will advance past the first round. I'd give the Mystics a better chance of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals than the Liberty to be honest.
The 2013 Eastern Conference playoff race appears to be pretty close to set in terms of which teams are going to the Playoffs, even though New York still has mathematical hope of getting there, assuming Playoffs are still a goal at this point.
Within the four teams expected to make the Eastern Conference Playoffs this year (Sky, Dream, Mystics, Fever), while it appears that the Sky will have the #1 seed now, the remaining three seeds are very well in flux, and among the Dream, Mystics, and Fever, the team here that has the best finishing stretch to the regular season will have the best chance to start the 2013 WNBA Playoffs with a game at home.