1. Steelers (9-0)
2. Chiefs (8-1)
3. Bills (7-3)
4. Colts (6-3)
5. Raiders (6-3)
6. Dolphins (6-3)
7. Ravens (6-3)
8. Browns (6-3)
9. Titans (6-3)
I think it’s about time to retire the rooting rankings for the 2020 season, since it’s pretty clear who we should be rooting for (or more who we should be rooting against), so let’s spend that time digging into the standings.
First order of business, we should be rooting for the Ravens. I know it sounds crazy, but since we have the tiebreaker over them, we would effectively get a free win if they win the division over the Steelers, if we can’t get the tiebreaker win over them. Although if the Steelers lose 3 games it seems likely we would win the top seed anyway, but this would give us a bit more breathing room.
Secondly, a win this Sunday over the Raiders this week pretty much locks up the division. The Raiders would be 3 games back, and although they’d have a chance at the tiebreaker in that scenario, it seems highly unlikely that they’ll win 3 more games than the Chiefs in the last 6.
Back to the Steelers, and while obviously we want them to lose, who they lose to is extremely important. Since the top tiebreaker will be common games, the most important remaining games are the Broncos for us and the Ravens and Bills for them. As long as we take care of business against Denver a Steelers’ loss in either of those games gives us the tiebreaker. While a loss this week against the Jaguars would be nice, we’d much prefer them to lose their rematch against the Ravens in 2 weeks.
Short of that, we need them to lose AFC games. While a tie at 15-1 would still probably go to them even if they lost an AFC game, a tie at 14-2 or worse could go to us as long as our losses are to the NFC and theirs to the AFC. Given that their only remaining NFC game is against the Washington Football Team, while we have 3 NFC games against the Saints, Buccaneers, and Falcons, a 14-2 or worse tie scenario would likely mean we get the tiebreaker.
In short, with a number of tough games remaining for both teams, it’s far too early to be worrying about the Steelers being ahead of us right now.
Now, back to the Raiders. I think they actually have the most interesting playoff scenario in the AFC right now, because of Derek Carr. He, more than most quarterbacks, performs relatively well in warm weather while struggling mightily in the cold (it’s not a coincidence that his first win in Kansas City was also the first time he played here when it wasn’t cold). That means that the Raiders more than anything want to avoid playing outdoors in the cold. Obviously the simplest way to do that is to win the division and play in their nice comfy dome, but that’s unlikely to happen, even if they somehow win again this weekend. So from their likely wildcard spot what is their best path?
Those 9 teams are probably going to be make up the AFC playoffs (the current 10th place team is the 4-5 Patriots), and other than the AFC North (which doesn’t matter since every team is an outdoor cold weather team) and obviously the AFC West the division races are wide open.
For the AFC South, they would obviously prefer to play indoors in Indianapolis than outdoors in the relatively cold Nashville. But it’s the AFC East where the biggest difference lies. The division will come down to one of the coldest NFL cities in Buffalo or sunny and warm Miami. Thus, the Raiders should be hoping for the Colts and Dolphins to win their divisions, while we Chiefs fans should be hoping for Carr to embarrass himself while freezing in Buffalo.