Rooting challenge of the week: Broncos @ Chiefs who play for wild card supremacy and perhaps a share of the division lead.
Obviously AFC North fans didn’t to a very good job of rooting this past week. The division once again went 0-fer against non-divisional opponents, which now brings the embarrassing streak to 6 weeks without a win outside the North. Division woes aside, Steelers fans made out like bandits as their team was the only North winner this week increasing their division chances, and their wildcard odds also improved as the Chiefs and Titans lost as well. They almost had an added bonus of a Dolphins loss, but the Rams choked after blanking Miami for 56 minutes. As far as the Ravens are concerned, the were expected to lose on the road to the Cowboys, but they will be the underdog for most of their remaining games and will need a couple of upsets if they want to take the division. Both the Steelers and Ravens control their destiny, and the Bengals at 3-6-1 are a loss or two away from a wholesale coaching and player makeover.
Whether your team is in the playoffs, in desperate need of help, or on the outside looking in, it still feels good to
root for others to fail.
In week 12’s Rooting Guide, there are many games significant to the North (9), but the rooting choice is obvious in just two, although a couple of division games were added to this category late due to the assumptions below. With that in mind, the following assumptions will be made this week:
1. Division pride will often take precedence over division rivalry hatred unless the game effects that team’s playoff chances. AFC North fans need to avoid the embarrassment of defending a sub .500 division champion, although Bengals fans know it is their best shot at the playoffs.
2. “Consensus” picks below include everyone but fans of those teams, who will obviously be rooting for their favorite team.
3. 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):
Steelers (5-5, #8) @ Indy (5-5, #9)
Titans (5-6, #11) @ Bears
Jags @ Bills (5-5, #10)
Bengals (3-6-1, #13) @ Ravens (5-5, #4)
49ers @ Dolphins (6-4, #7)
Chargers (4-6, #12) @ Texans (6-4, #3)
Patriots (8-2, #2) @ Jets
Panthers @ Raiders (8-2, #1)
Chiefs (7-3, #5) @ Broncos (7-3, #6)
Browns (0-11 #1 draft) @ Giants
49ers (1-9 #2) @ Dolphins
Jags (2-8, #3) @ Bills
Titans @ Bears (2-8, #4)
Bears– Out of conference and obvious. A Titans loss drops them further from the wildcard race (at least two games out with four games remaining)
Jags – Although Browns fans are eyeing a #1 draft pick and wouldn’t mind seeing the Jags lose, its unlikely the Browns will win two games this season. Therefore the collective AFC North should be rooting for a Bills loss. It helps the North wildcard cause, and do you really want to watch more Rex Ryan news conferences if they make the playoffs?
49ers – Another obvious choice but an unlikely outcome. The Dolphins are in the wildcard drivers seat with the Broncos and Chiefs going head-to-head twice over the next four weeks.
Jets – Another obvious choice. The Jets are no threat to the wildcard race, and no threat to the Browns draft hopes.
Panthers – The last obvious choice of the week. Not only would a Raiders loss help bring down the wildcard threshold out of the AFC West, it would bring the current NFL leading bandwagon fan base back down to earth.
and now the rooting challenge…
Steelers or Indy? – Indy should be the obvious choice for both the Bengals and Ravens. Clearly the teams of the North have their best playoff shot by winning the division. Browns fans may bypass hatred and pull for division pride here, not to mention a drunken Bob Irsay stumbled out of Baltimore more than 30 years ago, and the domino effect went straight through Cleveland.
Bengals or Ravens? – Sorry again Browns fans. I added this last minute in order to follow my own imposed assumptions above. Technically Browns fans should be rooting for the Ravens if they don’t want a sub .500 division winner, not to mention if by some miracle the Browns win out and the Bengals lose out, the Bengals will pass them on the draft board. Steelers fans will obviously root for the Bengals. The Ravens currently own head-to-head, division, and conference tiebreakers.
Chargers or Texans? For the Bengals, the obvious choice is the Texans. Houston will likely be the AFC South winner, so their success means very little to Cincinnati right now. The Bengals need to slowly climb their way past teams in front of them starting with the Chargers. Ravens and Steelers fans have an interesting choice. Like with Bengals fans, a Chargers loss gives both teams a slightly better path to the wildcard, but a Texans loss would give them a better shot at a 3-seed. Living in reality, if the Chargers are a wildcard threat, the AFC North division winner will likely be the only playoff representative anyway. Ravens and Steelers fans should be rooting for the Chargers if they have any confidence in their team.
Chiefs or Broncos? – Whatever happens in this game, the last wildcard spot will be one game easier to attain as the occupant will stay at seven wins. The Bengals would be 2.5 games out with a win (which really means 3 games), and the Steelers and Ravens would be just one game out. It boils down to the details. Both the Chiefs and Broncos have brutal schedules down the stretch. Despite the Ravens and Steelers issues, the Ravens would hold the conference tiebreaker advantage over the 6th seed, and the Steelers would be tied and would hold a head-to-head over the Chiefs. The Bengals head-to-head loss to the Broncos is irrelevant because a tiebreaker is irrelevant. If just looking at a 6-seed, Steelers fans should root for Denver, Ravens fans should root for the Chiefs (which would give Denver four conference losses), and the Bengals just need to catch one of those teams in wins. They are currently four wins out with six to play, and their realistic path is to beat the Steelers twice, and for the Ravens to succumb to their tough schedule.
|Seed||standings||Best week 11 Bengals||Best week 11 Steelers||Best week 11 Ravens||Best week 11 Browns draft||Projected finish|
|1||Oak 8-2||NE 8-3||NE 8-3||NE 8-3||NE 8-3||KC 11-5|
|2||NE 8-2||KC 8-3||KC 8-3||KC 8-3||KC 8-3||NE 11-5|
|3||Hou 6-4||Hou 7-4||Pit 6-5||Bal 6-5||Hou 7-3||Hou 10-6|
|4||Bal 5-5||Bal 5-6||Hou 6-5||Hou 6-5||Bal 6-5||Pit 8-8|
|5||KC 7-3||Oak 8-3||Oak 8-3||Oak 8-3||Oak 8-3||Den 11-5|
|6||Den 7-3||Den 7-4||Den 7-4||Den 7-4||Den 7-4||Oak 10-6|
|7||Mia 6-4||Mia 6-5||Mia 6-5||Mia 6-5||Mia 6-5||Mia 8-8|
|8||Pit 5-5||Ind 6-5||Bal 5-6||Ind 6-5||Pit 6-5||Bal 7-9|
|9||Ind 5-5||Pit 5-6||Ind 5-6||Pit 5-6||Buf 5-6||Buf 7-9|
|10||Buf 5-5||Buf 5-6||Buf 5-6||Buf 5-6||Ind 5-6||Ind 7-9|
|11||Ten 5-6||Ten 5-7||San 5-6||San 5-6||San 5-6||Cin 6-9-1|
|12||SD 4-6||Cin 4-6-1||Ten 5-7||Ten 5-7||Ten 5-7||Ten 6-10|
|13||Cin 3-6-1||San 4-7||Cin 4-6-1||NYJ 4-7||NYJ 4-7||SD 6-10|
|14||NYJ 3-7||NYJ 4-7||NYJ 4-7||Cin 3-7-1||Cin 3-7-1||NYJ 5-11|
|15||Jax 2-8||Jax 3-8||Jax 3-8||Jax 3-8||Jax 3-8||Jax 3-13|
|16||Cle 0-11||Cle 1-11||Cle 1-11||Cle 1-11||Cle 0-12||Cle 0-16|
There you have it. We will do the rooting work for you. Just sit back and watch.