It's that time of year folks! Who to Root For is back.
As always, I realize the grammatically correct headline is "For whom to root", but the douce-level of that phrase is almost incalculable.
We start off with a relatively easy slate to pick this week, but as the season goes along and tie-breakers come into play, things will get more hairy. This column will strive to keep it all straight for you so you can scoreboard watch in confidence.
Saints over the Jets
Rams over the Titans
Bills over the Chiefs
Redskins over the Chargers
Steelers over the Patriots
Most of these are AFC teams playing NFC teams, so the rule of thumb is always to root for the NFC. The Pats and Colts are vying for a bye, so the Steelers are the play there. Same thing goes for Kansas City.
Just one minor one this week. Root for the Raiders over the Eagles. Indy isn't likely to need to worry about the Raiders, and a victory by Oakland boosts Indy's strength of victory tiebreaker. It's a minor point, but that's the reason this column exists.
It’s all about Andrew Luck this year. We are all rooting for the Colts to win on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean we can’t root for the #1 pick too. It’s time to be realistic, right?
Currently, the Colts and Dolphins are at 0-8 and 0-7. The first tiebreaker is strength of schedule. The team with the easier schedule wins the higher pick. Currently, the Colts schedule for the entire 16 game seasons stands at 65-54 (.546). The Dolphins stand at 64-49 (.566). Indy has the advantage for now. In general, if the Colts play a team this year, root for them to lose. If the Dolphins play a team, root for them to win.
Here’s who to root for this Sunday:
Dolphins at Chiefs
Seahawks at Cowboys
Broncos at Raiders
Browns at Texans
49ers at Redskins
Benagls at Titans
Giants at Patriots
Packers at Chargers
The first four games pit teams with bad records against teams with respectable ones. A Texans loss would help Indy as the Colts play them twice and both Miami and Indy have Cleveland on the schedule. Washington is on the Miami schedule, so a win hurts Miami. Indy has two games with Tennessee, so a Bengals win helps a little. Again, rooting for the Pats feels wrong, but every Pats win hurts Miami’s chances in a tie-breaker. Miami plays San Diego, so a win for the Chargers helps.
Rams at Cardinals
I think the Rams are worse, so I’m pulling for them to win. On the other hand, the Cardinals are more likely to want to draft a quarterback after this year, now that it’s clear that Kolb was probably a bad choice.
The Colts play in the late afternoon slot on Sunday, so we can sit back and watch the early games with more interest. It’s November now, and no matter how muddled the playoff picture, we still can take a rooting interest in several of the games.
Here’s who to root for in Week 9:
As always, we start with AFC/NFC matchups. The rule is simple. Root for the NFC. This week there is only one of note.
Jets at Lions
Let’s move on to teams at 5-2 or 6-1. They still stand on better or even footing with Indy, so they qualify as easy calls.
Patriots at Browns
Dolphins at Ravens
Chiefs at Raiders
Steelers at Bengals
The toughest game on the board is the Chargers at Texans. I’ll hear arguments from anyone saying we should want the Texans put down, but something in me says the Chargers are the more dangerous team in the long run. The playoffs will be easier with the Chiefs rather than the Chargers winning the West.
Plus, watching Rivers and Norv lose is always a treat, and I’ve felt dirty pulling for them the last two weeks.
Last week our picks went 2-2, which I can live with. We got the most important result with Denver going down hard at Baltimore. Let’s take a look at this week’s key games.
Miami at New England: Bill Belichick would like to teach the cheeky Dolphins a lesson after the beatdown the Dolphins dished out last year in New England. The Dolphins were on the road last week and play 5 of the next 7 on the road. Brutal. With four losses already, this is the biggest game of Miami’s season.
San Diego at New York (N): The Broncos have been exposed, but the Chargers are still two games back in the West. San Diego has a tough slate coming up and needs to win this game to keep their division title (and wild card) hopes alive. I hope they lose.
Baltimore at Cincinnati: Hmmm. The Colts still have to play the Ravens on the road, but I’m going with the obvious call here. I’m rooting for the Bengals to pick up their third loss. I believe if the Colts prevail tomorrow against Houston they are looking at a 13-3 season (worst case scenario). Thus, I am rooting for everyone in the AFC to have at least four losses. I believe this will happen.
Pittsburgh at Denver: I’m going with the “chalk” pick here as well. Is it risky to root for a two loss Pittsburgh team? Yes, but the Steelers still have enough tough games left to get to four losses. I want some padding in the event that the Colts blow the home game against Denver.
AFC Playoff Standings
New England (5-2)
San Diego (4-3)