Rooting challenge of the week: The Ravens look to leapfrog the Chargers
First and foremost, Chiefs safety Eric Berry should be the key rooting focus this week, and for the remainder his battle. May he and others fighting cancer have a successful and speedy recovery.
Week 12 could not have been much better for the AFC North. The Bengals, Browns, and Ravens each won away from home despite being underdogs in each contest. How did this success translate into the North’s overall playoff chances? If looking solely at playoff seeding, they actually took a step back with only one team technically in the playoffs after having two in the week before. In reality however, the North set themselves up nicely going into the final five games of the season, especially for the two wildcard berths. Beyond their three key wins, the North received additional help from the Texans (who are a step closer to elimination), as well as the Dolphins and Chiefs, who respectively slid below or to the wildcard cutoff line of 7-4. However, the Bills showed everyone that practice (on iPads) makes perfect, as they destroyed the Jets to keep their playoff hopes alive, while the Chargers held on for a win against the Rams. San Diego is now into the mix of 7-4 teams, setting up a huge game in Baltimore this Sunday.
Regarding divisional seedings, things did not go as well for the eventual AFC North division winner. Each of the AFC division leaders won in week 12, leaving the North as the 3 seed, a half game in front of #4 Indy and a half game behind the the #2 Broncos.
Heading into week 13, amazingly less than one game separates the AFC North’s first and last place team. Regarding the overall playoff picture, eight AFC teams are solidly in playoff contention, and three teams are now teetering on the bubble.
While its always nice to see your favorite team win and improve its playoff position, its almost as fun to
root for others to fail.
In week 13’s Rooting Guide, tiebreakers are THE focus as things get a little nuts with three and even five-team tiebreaker scenarios, as five potential wildcard teams have seven wins each (not including the AFC South division leader). The challenge with tiebreaker analysis will continue to be the unbalanced conference and divisional records. With that in mind, the following assumptions will be made this week:
1. It is more important to lock in a playoff spot than to worry about division winner playoff seedings. Once a team is in, anything can happen.
2. Fans of the AFC North will pull for their AFC North brethren to grab the two wildcard spots as long as the result does not put their positioning in jeopardy (divisional pride). In reality it probably won’t happen anytime soon with the current race, and some tend to enjoy watching fellow divisoners fail. However, the chart below reflects the opposite as it shows the best possible outcome for the individual team and their top seed hopes.
3. AFC North fans expect a division title and not a wildcard spot.
4. “Consensus” picks below include everyone but fans of those teams, who will obviously be rooting for their favorite team.
5. Some fans will let sheer hatred overrule the logical choice.
Games with playoff implications (Records are listed for non-eliminated AFC teams only. The NFC records are irrelevant):
Chargers (7-4) @ Ravens (7-4)
Browns (7-4)@ Buffalo (6-5)
Bengals (7-3-1, #3 seed) @ Buccaneers
Saints @ Steelers (7-4)
Redskins @ Indianapolis (7-4, #4 seed)
Titans @ Texans (5-6)
Patriots (9-2, #1 seed) @ Packers
Broncos (8-3, #2 seed) @ Chiefs (7-4)
Dolphins (6-5) @ Jets
Buccaneers – Due to the Bengals tie, which basically eliminates them from tiebreakers, teams can only hope to leapfrog them. And t hey can’t do that without a Cincinnati collapse against the NFC’s worst team (a 2-win team who also happens to be two games out of an NFC #4 seed… sort of) Stranger things have happened this season.
Saints – This game appeared much more challenging when the schedules were announced, but not so much now. The Saints have struggled on the road during the entire Drew Brees era, but recently they have been dismal with two wins in their last 11 tries. That does not bode well for Pittsburgh who would prefer not to be overly favored in any game. New Orleans always has a fighting chance with Brees and TE Jimmy Graham, however slight it may be.
Redskins – In a game that matches two of the most respected owners in the NFL, the Redskins will be without RGIII so they may have a chance. A Skins win would further solidify the winner of the AFC North as at least a #3 seed.
Titans – This is pretty simple. A Titans win would just about eliminate the Texans, who are barely hanging onto the playoff bubble.
Packers – New England has to lose one in this six-game stretch against playoff-caliber opponents, which includes three division leaders, right? A Patriots loss this week would be the most beneficial to the North, as the Patriots’ next two games are against teams in the thick of the wildcard competition.
Jets– The Dolphins are squarely on the wildcard bubble after coming up short in Denver. A Jets win would demoralize the Dolphins, and would more than likely send them packing for the winter with two tough games coming up after this week. Unfortunately we are talking about the Jets.
And now for the action…
Chargers or Ravens? At first glance, fans of the AFC North may question why this game is not in the “consensus” category. There is no doubt a high percentage of AFC North fans will root for their divisional rival to fail at home. However, the Chargers have a much better conference record, giving them an advantage in tiebreaker scenarios, and the odds that the Ravens/Browns/Steelers continue their 3-way tie through week 17 is slim at best. That said, the Bengals will certainly root for the Chargers to expand their division lead, Browns fans could go either way (the Browns won’t be favored in their game against the Ravens so a Baltimore loss would help, but they also need San Diego to lose conference games), and Steelers fans should root for the Ravens, which would allow their team to overtake the Chargers while keeping their head-to-head tiebreaker lead over Baltimore. It still isn’t likely to happen, especially with the division still in doubt.
Browns or Bills? Again, most of the North will be rooting against their divisional rivals, but a Bills loss would essentially remove another team from playoff competition. In addition, Ravens fans know they host the Browns in week 17, and a Bills loss would give them more control of their wildcard and divisional destiny. That said, The Bills remaining schedule is brutal and they might not survive anyway, so based on probability, rooting for the Bills would be encouraged. Bengals fans will undoubtedly root for the Bills to help fend off divisional competition, and Steelers fans will most likely do the same, but could be justified to root the other way.
Broncos or Chiefs? If the assumption is an AFC North division title, root for the Chiefs, which would bring the AFC #2 seed into the mix. A Broncos loss would also resurface those nagging questions Peyton Manning loves so much and handles with grace and dignity. If the assumption is two AFC North wildcard teams, a Broncos win would give the Chiefs their 4th conference loss, placing them behind the Steelers (3) and in a tie with the Ravens and Browns (4). In our opinion, its more important to assure a playoff seed, no matter what that seed is. Root for the Broncos.
|Seed||standings||Best week 13 Bengals||Best week 13 Ravens||Best week 13 Steelers||Best week 13 Browns||Predicted finish|
|1||NE 9-2||NE 9-3||NE 9-3||NE 9-3||NE 9-3||NE 12-4|
|2||Den 8-3||Cin 8-3-1||Den 8-4||Den 8-4||Den 8-4||Den 11-5|
|3||Cin 7-3-1||Den 8-4||Bal 8-4||Pit 8-4||Cle 8-4||Bal 11-5|
|4||Indy 7-4||Ind 7-5||Ind 7-5||Ind 7-5||Ind 7-5||Ind 10-6|
|In the hunt|
|5||KC 7-4||KC 8-4||KC 8-4||KC 8-4||KC 8-4||Cin 10-5-1|
|6||SD 7-4||San 8-4||Cin 7-4-1||San 8-4||San 8-4||Pit 10-6|
|7||Bal 7-4||Buf 7-5||Pit 7-5||Cin 7-4-1||Cin 7-4-1||KC 10-6|
|8||Pit 7-4||Bal 7-5||San 7-5||Buf 7-5||Pit 7-5||Mia 9-7|
|9||Cle 7-4||Pit 7-5||Buf 7-5||Bal 7-5||Bal 7-5||Cle 9-7|
|On the bubble|
|10||Mia 6-5||Cle 7-5||Cle 7-5||Cle 7-5||Mia 6-6||San 9-7|
|11||Buf 6-5||Mia 6-6||Mia 6-6||Mia 6-6||Buf 6-6||Hou 8-8|
|12||Hou 5-6||Hou 5-7||Hou 5-7||Hou 5-7||Hou 5-7||Buf 8-8|
There you have it. We will do the work for you. Just sit back and watch.