Rooting challenge of the week: Although not technically a challenge, all eyes will be on the Jets @ Bills. Steelers fans will hope the eliminated Bills still have their heads in this final game.
Week 16 turned out to be a tough one for the AFC North playoff hopefuls. They Bengals lost control of not just a #1 seed in the AFC, but also a first week bye after squandering a lead to the Broncos and losing in overtime. The Steelers looked like the best team in the NFL over the past few weeks, but came out flat and lost to the depleted Ravens, jeopardizing their playoff chances. Although the Steeler have gone 5-2 in their last 7, they are competing with the Chiefs and Jets who have gone 9-0 and 5-0 down the stretch, respectively. The Ravens win dropped them to 8th in the 2016 draft, and likely won’t improve much due to the record of their last two opponents, moving them from the bottom of the strength of schedule tiebreaker pile to the top (the lower the SOS the better). The Browns will likely fall one short of the top pick in the draft thanks to the Titans, who are going for a 4th straight blowout loss.
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 17’s Rooting Guide, its pretty clear what has to happen for a Steelers playoff berth and a Bengals playoff bye, but the Steelers chances are more realistic. With that in mind, the following assumptions will be made this week:
1. Division pride will often take precedence over rivalry hatred in terms of divisional success, unless taunting from fans of rival divisions is enjoyable after they place more teams in the playoffs or go farther.
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):
Jets (10-5, #6 seed) @ Bills
Patriots (12-3, #1) @ Dolphins
Ravens @ Bengals (12-4, #3)
Steelers (9-6, #7) @ Browns
Titans @ Indy (7-8)
Raiders @ Chiefs (10-5, #5)
Chargers @ Broncos (11-4, #2)
Dolphins – A Dolphins win would likely cost the Patriots a #1 seed, and would add doubt to a depleted squad heading into the postseason.
Bengals – Even a few Ravens fans may root for the Bengals so that Baltimore doesn’t lose anymore ground in the draft. A Bengals win and a Broncos loss gives Cinci a much needed bye, and a better shot at having QB options for the playoffs.
Steelers – The Steelers only shot at the playoff is a win against the Browns and a Jets loss. The Browns might be able to grab the first draft pick with a loss.
Chargers – It’s the only way the Bengals have a shot at a bye. A Broncos loss could add another variable as well. The Broncos would end up as the 5th seed with a loss and a Chiefs win. The Bengals first playoff opponent would be highest remaining seed after the wildcard rounds, and the Chiefs would be the favorite to fit that slot. I have to assume Bengals fans would rather face the Chiefs than the Broncos.
and now the rooting challenge…
Bills – Although this game should technically be in the consensus pick pile, it’s the biggest game of the week. No playoff team wants to see the Steelers make the postseason over the Jets, but division pride should rule here unless you want to hear it from the AFC East. Any Rex Ryan team has a shot at an upset when he has a chip on his shoulder. Its painful to get fired, but its even more painful to remove or alter tattoos with new team logos. He will be even more motivated in this one as he can crush the Jets playoff hopes with a Bills win.
Titans or Indy?– The main reason this game is even on the list is due to the amazing amount of help Indy would need to make the playoffs. The Jags, Raiders, Dolphins, Broncos, Steelers, Ravens, Bills, and yes, the Falcons for SOS % would all have to win for Indy to make the playoffs (if they beat the Titans). Browns fans will be rooting hard for the Titans. It’s not like they have to worry about the salary cap difference between the #1 and 2 picks…
Raiders or Chiefs? The Broncos/Chargers scenario above assumed a Bengals #2 seed, but as the likely #3 seed, they would face the #6 seed, which is currently the Jets. The Chiefs, like the Jets, don’t really scare anyone but keep winning despite not being dominant in any one phase. A Chiefs loss would drop them to 6th if coupled with a Jets win. Pick your poison, Bengals fans.
|Seed||standings||Best week 17 Bengals||Best week 17 Steelers||Best week 17 Ravens draft||Best week 17 Browns draft||Projected finish|
|1||NE 12-3||NE 12-4||NE 12-4||NE 12-4||NE 13-3||NE 13-3|
|2||Den 11-4||Cin 12-4||Cin 12-4||Cin 12-4||Den 12-4||Den 12-4|
|3||Cin 11-4||KC 11-5||KC 11-5||Den 11-5||Cin 11-5||Cin 12-4|
|4||Hou 8-7||Hou 9-7||Hou 9-7||Hou 8-8||Hou 9-7||Hou 9-7|
|5||KC 10-5||Den 11-5||Den 11-5||KC 10-6||KC 11-5||KC 11-5|
|6||NYJ 10-5||Pit 10-6||Pit 10-6||Pit 10-6||NYJ 11-5||Pit 10-6|
|7||Pit 9-6||NYJ 10-6||NYJ 10-6||NYJ 10-6||Pit 10-6||NYJ 10-6|
|8||Oak 7-8||Buf 8-8||Buf 8-8||Oak 8-8||Oak 8-8||Buf 8-8|
|9||Buf 7-8||Oak 7-9||Oak 7-9||Buf 8-8||Buf 8-8||Ind 8-8|
|10||Ind 7-8||Ind 7-9||Ind 7-9||Ind 8-8||Ind 7-9||Oak 7-9|
|11||Jax 5-10||Mia 6-10||Mia 6-10||Jax 6-10||Bal 6-10||Jax 5-11|
|12||Mia 5-10||Jax 5-11||Jax 5-11||Mia 6-10||Jax 5-11||Mia 5-11|
|13||Bal 5-10||San 5-11||San 5-11||San 5-11||Mia 5-11||Bal 5-11|
|14||San 4-11||Bal 5-11||Bal 5-11||Bal 5-11||San 4-12||San 4-12|
|15||Cle 3-12||Cle 3-13||Cle 3-13||Cle 3-13||Ten 4-12||Cle 3-13|
|16||Ten 3-12||Ten 3-13||Ten 3-13||Ten 3-13||Cle 3-13||Ten 3-13|
The projected Bengals opponent in the wildcard round is Pittsburgh, assuming the Bills take out the Jets, otherwise it will be the Jets. The Ravens and Browns standings were presented to show not only their best shot at a #1 draft position, but also how the playoff picture would change with different outcomes. Ravens fans focused on the draft will also be rooting for a Cowboys and 49ers victory. Both are ahead of the Ravens in the draft standings by a game, but would lose in the tiebreaker, moving the Ravens ahead of all NFC teams. Unfortunately for the Ravens, they would lose a tiebreaker to the Jags and Dolphins. Their draft position will be between #3 and #10, and projected to be #8. The Browns have locked up the #3 pick, but will likely end up at #2.
Trolling question of the week: Did the Bengals have another primetime choke last week, or were they simply outplayed in the 2nd half? They had just one turnover (although untimely), and only gave up 2 sacks, although they did drop a few of 2nd half passes, and had a tough penalty in OT.
There you have it. We will do the work for you. Just sit back and watch.