The AFC North Week 15 Rooting Guide

The AFC North Week 15 Rooting Guide
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Rooting challenge of the week: Bengals @ Browns as the world braces for the starting debut of cash-money Johnny Manziel


One thing is certain so far in this season’s rooting guide: AFC North teams rarely give their fans much time to celebrate a good week. Last week, Browns, Ravens, and Steelers fans were let down by their teams after a promising prior week.  This week, it was the Bengals turn to disappoint their fans after a fantastic week 13.  Regarding week 14, it was an excellent one for the division’s two winners (Ravens and Steelers) as four of five teams currently in the wildcard hunt and outside of the AFC North lost. Bengals and Browns losses didn’t hurt their cause either. As far as the eventual division winner is concerned, the North slid to a #4 seed behind Indianapolis, as each of the other three division leaders won.

Heading into week 15, incredibly every AFC North team still has a shot at a division title, and only the Browns do not control their playoff destiny. This may sound rosey for the North, but in reality, three division teams could also be watching the playoffs from their couches.  Regarding the overall playoff picture, it gets even more complicated as 12 AFC teams are above .500, and 10 of those teams could still take the AFC’s #1 seed.

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 15’s Rooting Guide, tiebreakers have to be the focus, as five teams are 7-6, three are 8-5, and those eight teams are trying to squeeze into two wildcard berths.  Seeds of the division winners have similar tight races.  Schedule strength is also extremely important, and again may be the deciding factor when making the tough rooting decisions. 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 playoff seedings. Once a team is in, anything can happen.

2. With three teams still in line for a division lead this week (and easiest path to a playoff berth), AFC North’s individual survival is much more important than caring whether or not a fellow Northerner falls out of the wild card chase.

3. “Consensus” picks below include everyone but fans of those teams, who will obviously be rooting for their favorite team.

4. Some fans will let sheer hatred overrule the logical choice.

5. The table below assumes that a team will win out, reflects the team’s highest possible seed for the week, and presents its best shot at a #1 seed overall (minus the Browns, who are eliminated from a #1 or 2 seed)

Games with playoff implications (Records are listed for non-eliminated AFC teams only. The NFC records are irrelevant):

Bengals (8-4-1, #4 seed) @ Browns (7-6)

Steelers (8-5) @ Falcons

Jaguars @ Ravens (7-5)

Dolphins (7-6) @ Patriots (10-3, #1 seed)

Texans (7-6) @ Indianapolis (9-4, #3 seed)

Packers @ Bills (7-6)

Broncos (10-3, #2 seed) @ Chargers (8-5)


Browns – Both Ravens and Steelers fans will certainly join together (as these rivals so often do), this time to root for the Browns. A Bengals loss would give one of their teams the division lead as long as they win. If both manage to win, it would also open up a wildcard spot for the Ravens regardless of the Broncos/Chargers outcome.

Falcons – Obviously another Steelers loss to the NFC South will help everyone else in the division. The Steelers own the tiebreakers as of today, and would only relinquish that advantage to the Ravens, potentially, if they end up losing to the Bengals in Pittsburgh (the common games tiebreaker ranks ahead of conference record). It would be much easier for AFC North teams to see a Falcons win and simply pass the Steelers in the standings.

Jaguars – Non-purple AFC North fans would like to see the Ravens lose to this sub-par team for many reasons, the least of which is to mock them publicly. Realistically, a Ravens loss would send them reeling into a must-win game at Houston, and would give the Bengals and Steelers some breathing room. The Browns need the Ravens to lose in order to catch them and to help with their common game tiebreaker, although a Browns win in Baltimore would all but eliminate that issue.

Packers – Not much more needs to be said. A Packers win would essentially eliminate the Bills

And now for the action…

Dolphins or Patriots? If a division title is the number one priority, obviously root for the Dolphins. Unfortunately all North teams not named ” the Bengals” would have to win their remaining three and the Pats and/or Broncos would have to lose three for any shot at a #1 or #2 seed. The Bengals would need the Pats and Broncos to lose twice while they win three.  All are unlikely scenarios. The Pats play the Jets and Bills to end the season. Our suggestion is to suffer and root for the Patriots for a 2nd week in a row.

Texans or Indy? This game is a little more difficult than the one above. A Texans loss would essentially eliminate another wildcard contender, and a Texans win would put them in the middle of the wildcard mix with a 7-3 conference record. Bengals fans should root for the Texans if they are confident of a division title. If not they should join the Browns and root for Indy. Steelers fans could root for the Texans if they have confidence in their team and improve to the AFC North’s chances at moving up to a #3 seed, but a Texans win would also give both an identical conference record in tiebreaker scenarios. Confident Ravens fans should follow suit, but because they don’t win a tiebreaker with the Texans, eliminating them from the playoffs would make more sense. A Texans win would also give Houston additional confidence and motivation heading into the week 16 clash versus Baltimore.

Broncos or Chargers? Similar to the Dolphins/Patriots scenario, its less likely to catch the Broncos, because they are 7-1 in-conference. If  Bengals fans are confident they can beat Denver next week, root for the Chargers. Otherwise, it makes sense for the North to see the Chargers take a hit.

SeedstandingsBest week 15 BengalsBest week 15 RavensBest week 15 SteelersBest week 15 BrownsProjected finish
1 NE 10-3NE 10-4NE 10-4NE 10-4NE 11-3NE 13-3
2Den 10-3Den 10-4Den 10-4Den 10-4Den 11-3Den 12-4
3Ind 9-4Cin 9-4-1Ind 9-5Pit 9-5Ind 10-4Ind 11-5
4Cin 8-4-1Ind 9-5Bal 9-5Ind 9-5Cin 8-5-1Pit 10-6
5Pit 8-5San 9-5San 9-5San 9-5Pitt 8-6Bal 10-6
6San 8-5Pit 8-6Cin 8-5-1Cin 8-5-1San 8-6Cin 9-6-1
7Bal 8-5Hou 8-6Pit 8-6Hou 8-6Mia 8-6San 9-7
8Hou 7-6Mia 8-6Hou 8-6Mia 8-6Cle 8-6Mia 9-7
9Mia 7-6Bal 8-6Mia 8-6Cle 8-6Bal 8-6Cle 9-7
10KC 7-6KC 7-7Cle 8-6Bal 8-6Hou 7-7KC 9-7
11Buf 7-6Buf 7-7KC 7-7KC 7-7KC 7-7Hou 8-8
12Cle 7-6Cle 7-7Buf 7-7Buf 7-7Buf 7-7Buf 8-8


There you have it. We will do the work for you. Just sit back and watch.

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