Additional caption options (the clean ones anyway):
“Ref, Reed touched me”
“Get off my lawn”
“Nice sliding this year, Flacco. Next time try hurting someone else instead of yourself”
Rooting challenge of the week: Raiders @ Chiefs, a game that will likely determine the AFC West winner, and will effect the #5 seed win total.
In week 13, the teams of the AFC North did all they could to better their playoff seeding. They also received a little outside help. In addition to the Ravens dropping the week 13 6-seed Dolphins, the 4th, 9th, 10th, and 12th seeds also lost, which helped to reduce some of the low-end competition in both the wildcard race and divisional seeding. Unfortunately both AFC top seeds won, decreasing the likeliness of an AFC North playoff bye (although still possible, especially with Oakland playing 3 of 4 road AFC West games). KC was gifted a win on a blocked extra point, and Denver beat a Jaguars team making a run at the top pick in the draft. Those two wins kept the wildcard 5th and 6th seeds at two and one game(s) away, respectively.
What it means to the teams of the North: The Ravens cling to the 3rd seed, and own most tiebreakers in the division and wildcard, but they have the toughest schedule remaining in the North. If they get to nine wins with one win against the Steelers, they are likely in. If they get to 10, they are in unless the Steelers go 4-0 down the stretch (although 10 wins also opens up a decent wildcard path with the AFC West beating each other up). The Steelers have a couple playoff paths of their own, but in all likelihood will need to finish at 10-6 in their current tiebreaker position unless the Ravens lose their two remaining divisional games. The Bengals are praying for a divisional collapse by both the Ravens and Steelers who would both need to finish 1-3, or a wildcard collapse with an 0-4 Broncos stretch run combined with the five other teams ahead of them finishing with eight wins or fewer. Impossible? Probably, but Steelers fans remember the last two weeks of 2013 where anything is at least “almost” possible.
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 14’s Rooting Guide, there are fewer significant games, but the rooting choice is obvious in just two if you follow. With that in mind, the following assumptions will be made this week:
1. Division pride will often take precedence over division rivalry hatred. For example, who wants to answer to trolls about a 0.500 division winner?
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):
Raiders (10-2) @ Chiefs (9-3)
Steelers (7-5, #8) @ Bills 6-6, #11)
Bengals (4-7-1) @ Browns
Texans (6-6, #4) @ Indy 6-6, #9)
Cardinals @ Dolphins (7-5, #7)
Chargers (5-7, #12) @ Panthers
Ravens (7-5, #3) @ Patriots (10-2)
Besides the Browns (0-12), the Jets (3-9) take on the 49ers (1-11) and the Jags (2-10) are in Minnesota. Its highly unlikely the Browns win two of their next four, but keep an eye on that pesky 49ers team. If they tie the Browns, they own the tiebreaker.
Cardinals– The NFC Cardinals are the obvious choice here. The Dolphins are leading the wildcard chase pack, but are facing the reality of a 1-3 stretch run if they lose to Arizona at home.
Panthers – A Chargers loss would basically end their playoff hopes with with the top three AFC West contenders monopolizing the two wildcard seeds.
and now the rooting challenge…
Raiders @ Chiefs? – A Raiders win will put them two up with three to play, pretty much locking up the division because they would own the tiebreaker advantage over the Chiefs and Broncos. A win by the Chiefs would move them into the tiebreaker lead after sweeping the Raiders, making them the odds-on favorite to win the West along with their slightly easier schedule down the stretch.
While most fans will likely take the easy way out and root for the Raiders (keeping the 5-seed win total at nine, opening up more playoff paths for the North), they might want to consider this: The Raiders could easily lose three of their next four, which may open up a path for a 1st round bye (still unlikely but possible). The Raiders are also not as good as their record (none of three West contenders are, IMO), and not built for a cold road playoff game. The North’s division winner may want the Silver and Black to travel east for the wildcard round, as long as their bandwagon fans stay home.
Steelers or Bills? – The choice is obvious for Ravens fans. A Steelers loss would get them one step closer to a division title. Bengals fans need the Steelers and Ravens to lose every game possible, so they will also be rooting for the Bills. The Browns should be rooting for division pride. A 0.500 AFC North champion is embarrassing and still a possibility. Ok who am I kidding. The entire AFC North fan base outside of Pittsburgh will be rooting on the Bills, but I made the stupid division pride rule, so I have to follow it…
Bengals @ Browns? – As I mentioned last week, if the Bengals win out, they still won’t make the playoffs, but might just extend their coaching staff for another year. They might even keep some of their self-destructing players on the roster. However, a Browns late season win-streak would delete any benefit of a miserable 2016 season by dropping their first overall pick down to 4th or 5th. Their city has already won an NBA title and the American League Pennant this year. Let’s at least keep the NFL team down.
Texans @ Indy? – Pick your poison, which means pick the worst team of the six playoff qualifiers. The loser will essentially be out of playoff contention. In my opinion, the Texans have the lowest upside of the two, and their minus-50 point differential would be the only negative total of the playoff bunch (unless the Dolphins sneak in). They are also 1-5 on the road. Of course that means they are 5-1 at home and would be the favorite in the wildcard round, but heavy underdogs in the divisional round against the top seed. Indy may have some upside if Andrew Luck can play well against a good team, but they have yet to beat anyone over 0.500.
Ravens @ Patriots – *copy and paste* “Ok who am I kidding. The entire AFC North fan base outside of Baltimore will be rooting on the Patriots, but I made the stupid division pride rule”… well, except for Browns fans who dislike their former coach’s success in New England, or perhaps have something against whiny players or fans, or have disdain for those who are actually good at destroying evidence… (Ok, some occasional whining has also been known to come out of Baltimore)… and except for Steelers fans who have absolute confidence that their team will win the division and would rather see the Pats lose. I know you are out there!
A Ravens win would be a challenge to their rivals in the North and could give the Ravens 2012-like playoff momentum. However, a Ravens win could also benefit the Steelers by opening up another slim possibility of a playoff bye. The Pats have a game coming up in Denver and a season-ending game in South Florida with a possible Dolphins playoff berth on the line. The Ravens or Steelers would own the tiebreaker if either ended the season tied with the Pats at 11-5.
|Seed||Week 13 standings (week 12 ranking)||Best week 13 Ravens||Best week 13 Steelers||Best week 13 Bengals||Best week 13 Browns draft||Projected finish|
|1||(2) Oak 10-2||Oak 11-2||NE 11-2||Oak 11-2||NE 10-3||KC 13-3|
|2||(1) NE 10-2||NE 10-3||KC 10-3||NE 11-2||KC 10-3||NE 12-4|
|3||Bal 7-5||Bal 8-5||Pit 8-5||Bal 7-6||Bal 8-5||Bal 9-7|
|4||Hou 6-6||Hou 7-6||Hou 7-6||Hou 7-6||Hou 7-6||Hou 8-8|
|5||KC 9-3||KC 9-4||Oak 10-3||KC 9-4||Oak 10-3||Oak 11-5|
|6||(7) Den 8-4||Den 8-5||Den 8-5||Den 8-5||Pit 8-5||Den 10-6|
|7||(6) Mia 7-5||Mia 7-6||Bal 7-6||Mia 7-6||Den 8-5||Pit 9-7|
|8||Pit 7-5||Pit 7-6||Mia 7-6||Pit 7-6||Ten 7-6||Buf 9-7|
|9||(10) Ten 6-6||Ten 7-6||Ten 7-6||Buf 7-6||Mia 7-6||Mia 8-8|
|10||(9) Buf 6-6||Buf 7-6||Buf 6-7||Ten 7-6||Buf 6-7||Ind 8-8|
|11||Ind 6-6||Ind 6-7||Ind 6-7||Ind 6-7||Ind 6-7||Ten 8-8|
|12||SD 5-7||San 5-8||San 5-8||San 5-8||San 5-8||San 7-9|
|13||Cin 4-7-1||Cin 4-8-1||Cin 4-8-1||Cin 5-7-1||Cin 5-7-1||Cin 6-9-1|
|14||NYJ 3-9||NYJ 4-9||NYJ 4-9||NYJ 4-9||NYJ 3-10||NYJ 4-12|
|15||Jax 2-10||Jax 2-11||Jax 2-11||Jax 2-11||Jax 3-10||Jax 3-13|
|16||Cle 0-12||Cle 1-12||Cle 1-12||Cle 0-13||Cle 0-13||Cle 0-16|
There you have it. We will do the rooting work for you. Just sit back and watch.