Welcome to Who to Root For for Week 14 of the NFL season.
Each week I break down the schedule in grammatically incorrect fashion. That is, of course, unless you consider avoiding awkward constructions to be the heart of proper grammar in which case this column will be near and dear to your heart. Though it likely means you aren't a big football fan, in which case this will be irrelevant to your life.
What's At Stake: The Colts are currently clinging to the 3rd seed in the AFC. They are a virtual lock to get a home game (top four seeds), and could even score a bye (top two seeds). No matter what happens this weekend, the Colts will be no lower than the four seed in the AFC, and could close the week as high as two.
What It Will Take: Winning the South can be accomplished with a win or a Titans' loss at any point the rest of the season. Beating the Bengals will all but secure the three seed. It would be locked down with any combination of two more Indy wins or Bengals losses. A loss to Cincinnati, and Indy is a mortal lock for the four seed.
The Colts are one game behind New England for the two seed, but would own the tiebreaker. If the Colts win out and the Pats go 3-1, Indy gets a bye. The Colts are two games behind Denver with four to play for the first seed, and Denver plays Tennessee, Houston, and Oakland as well as the Chargers at home. It's highly unlikely the Broncos lose two of those. The one seed is all but officially off the table.
Ideal (but realistic) Seeding: Assuming Indy doesn't get the first seed, the best possible seeding would be:
Den, Ind, NE, CIN, KC, BAL.
Baltimore would beat the Pats in round 1, sending the winner of KC/CIN to Indy. Maybe the Ravens upset the Broncos and the Colts host the AFC Championship game.
EASY CALLS (home team in bold)
Browns over Patriots
Good luck with that. But root away. A Pats loss and an Indy win and the Colts are in line for a bye.
Vikings over the Ravens
Let's get Baltimore out of the playoffs, ok?
Steelers over the Dolphins
I'd much rather face Pittsburgh than Miami in the postseason.
Giants over the Chargers
Similar logic as above. Get rid of the Chargers, please.
You may have noticed all the strength of victory and strength of schedule tie-breakers are off the board this week. In looking at how the tiebreakers fall, it's highly unlikely any of them would come into play. The conference record and head-to-head tiebreakers are going to be enough to settle things in the AFC. So at least for this week, we'll keep it simple.
Tennessee over Denver
This game may not matter for the AFC South crown if the Colts win first, but pulling for the Titans could accomplish two things. First, if the Colts have already won, then they are still alive for the top seed. Second, I think we'd all love to play Tennessee again in the postseason.
If the Colts lose the Bengals game, then flip this. They'd already be out of line for the top seed, they'd be likely to not play the six seed anyway, so it would be time to root for a division title.
GAMES THAT DON'T EXIST FOR THE GOOD OF ALL MANKIND
Texans at Jaguars
Seriously, if you are football fan, save yourself the aggravation.