The AFC North Week 15 Rooting Guide

The AFC North Week 15 Rooting Guide
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Rooting challenge of the week: Broncos @ Steelers. Although Peyton is practicing, he won’t be starting.

Week 14 proved to be both good and bad for each team in the AFC North. Cincinnati lost, but the Bengals are still in the drivers seat for a first round bye after the Raiders took out the Broncos (and although the Rooting Guide focuses solely on standings and tiebreakers, its hard to ignore the chances of the Bengals holding onto the #2 seed after losing their quarterback likely until the beginning of the playoffs). The Steelers widened the gap between themselves and seeds 8 through 11, but are stuck on the outside looking in after the Jets and Chiefs won. The Browns “won”, which dropped them to #2 in the draft, and the Ravens moved up to #4 on the draft board after an embarrassing loss to the Seahawks.
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 15’s Rooting Guide, there are many critical games, but not many that require a tough rooting decision, other than decisions Bengals fans have to make depending on their confidence level, and fans who care which AFC South team makes the playoffs. 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 (8-5, #6 seed) @ Cowboys

Falcons @ Jaguars (5-8, #11)

Texans (6-7, #10) @ Indy (6-7, #4)

Titans @ Patriots (11-2, #1)

Bills (6-7, #9) @ Redskins

Chiefs (8-5, #5) @ Ravens

Packers @ Raiders (6-7, #8)

Broncos (10-3, #3)@ Steelers (8-5, #7)

Bengals (10-3, #2) @ 49ers
Cowboys – As entertaining as it is to see Jerry Jones lose at home in front of a national audience, a Jets loss bumps the Steelers into a playoff spot.
Titans – This is obvious on many levels, but most of all it would be an embarrassing home loss for the Patriots (its a 1-1,000,000 shot, so I’m saying there’s a chance). Oh yes. It would also help the Bengals retake the #1 spot.
Redskins – The surprising Redskins are the talk of DC because they are nearly a .500 team. Combine this low success bar with their personable owner, and its enough for me personally to root for the Bills; but the rules require that I say AFC North fans should root for the Skins to eliminate the Bills from contention.
Ravens – Steelers fans will be decked out in purple camo for this one, rooting on their division rivals to take out the #5 seed. Bengals fans could make a case for taking the Chiefs, who still have a shot to overtake Denver, but next week’s Broncos/Bengals game will have even more meaning to Denver if the Chiefs win this week. The Chiefs currently own the division tiebreaker over Denver.
Packers – Obvious. It will essentially eliminate the Raiders.
and now the rooting challenge…
Falcons or Jags?– The Jags are eliminated from wildcard contention, so the only issue left is which team you would rather face: The Jags, Texans, or Indy. The Jags are the most dynamic of the bunch, but each team has major deficiencies. You could make a case for playing any team, but I’d lean towards eliminating the Jags and get them out of the way (never thought I’d say that).
Texans or Indy? Same question. The only variable is that Luck could make an appearance in the playoffs… then again it could be Charlie Whitehurst. You never know with the Colts offensive line issues.
Broncos or Steelers? – The Bengals should want to lock up a first round bye before anything else and root for the Steelers. However, with the Bengals uncertainty at QB, they could easily lose three in a row setting up a week 17 must-win where they can’t rest their starters and won’t have a first round bye. Confident Bengals fans should take the Steelers, but leery fans may take the Broncos to lock up a 3-seed.
Bengals @ 49ers? Division pride should steer most towards rooting for the Bengals (other than many Steelers fans who have their sites set on a potential division title that seemed like a ridiculous notion a few weeks ago).

SeedstandingsBest week 14 BengalsBest week 14 SteelersBest week 14 Ravens draftBest week 14 Browns draftProjected finish
1NE 11-2NE 11-3NE 11-3NE 12-3NE 12-3NE 13-3
2Cin 10-3Cin 11-3Cin 10-4Den 11-3Den 11-3Cin 12-4
3Den 10-3Den 10-4Den 10-4Cin 10-4Cin 10-4Den 11-5
4Ind 6-7Hou 7-7Hou 7-7Ind 7-7Ind 7-7Hou 8-8
5KC 8-5Pit 9-5Pit 9-5KC 9-5KC 8-6KC 11-5
6NYJ 8-5KC 8-6KC 8-6NYJ 9-5NYJ 8-6Pit 10-6
7Pit 8-5NYJ 8-6NYJ 8-6Pit 8-6Pit 8-6NYJ 9-7
8Oak 6-7Buf 6-8Buf 6-8Oak 7-7Oak 7-7Buf 8-8
9Buf 6-7Oak 6-8Oak 6-8Buf 7-7Buf 7-7Ind 8-8
10Hou 6-7Ind 6-8Ind 6-8Jax 6-8Jax 6-8Oak 6-10
11Jax 5-8Jax 5-9Jax 5-9Hou 6-8Hou 6-8Jax 6-10
12Mia 5-8Mia 5-9Mia 5-9Mia 6-8Mia 6-8Mia 6-10
13Bal 4-9Bal 5-9Bal 5-9San 4-10Bal 5-9San 5-11
14San 3-10
San 4-10San 4-10Cle 4-10San 4-10Bal 4-12
15Cle 3-10
Cle 4-10Cle 4-10Ten 4-10Ten 4-10Cle 3-13
16Ten 3-10Ten 4-10Ten 4-10Bal 4-10Cle 3-11Ten 3-13

The Ravens and Browns standings were presented to show not only their best shot at a #1 draft position, but also the importance of the Steelers and Bengals games, and how the standings would change if they lost and others around them won. Keep in mind that in the NFC, the Cowboys, 49ers, and Lions all have four wins, and need to win to improve the Ravens and Browns draft positions. Both can end the week with the #1 spot as the NFC 4-win teams have a better strength of schedule, which is the draft tiebreaker.
Trolling question of the week: If AJ McCarron somehow guides the Bengals to a first round bye, who starts when Andy Dalton is able to return?

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

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