The NFL has returned, and not only will we be rooting for the Chiefs, but we will be rooting against those teams that stand in between us and another Super Bowl championship. This is the weekly piece where I rank exactly which teams we should be rooting against that maximize the Chiefs’ odds of reaching the final game of the season.
But first the rules.
- The rankings and interests are based solely on which outcomes benefit the Chiefs the most. So while some may root for the Bills to beat the Raiders because we hate the Raiders, from the Chiefs perspective it’s best for the Raiders to win and make it easier for the Chiefs to get the top seed.
- NFC vs. NFC matchups won’t be ranked. The only way they impact the Chiefs is if we get down to the 4th tiebreaker for playoff seeding (meaning head-to-head, win-loss record in conference games, and win-loss record in common games are all tied) in which case they factor into strength of victory and strength of schedule. Not only is this unlikely to be relevant, but even if it is, we already know to root for NFC West teams (since that’s who we play this year).
- The Chiefs game won’t be ranked because, duh, we root for the Chiefs to win, and it will always be our most important game.
- I will continue to include AFC teams that are within 3 games of the Chiefs. If a team is more than 3 games back, we’ll assume they’re no longer a threat.
1: Bengals over Ravens
2: Jets over Bills
3: Raiders over Dolphins
4: Titans over Jaguars
5: Cardinals over Texans
6: Browns over Steelers
Even though either team winning hurts us (and either team losing helps), last night’s game still gets the top spot because the Ravens are far and away the biggest threat to the Chiefs for the top seed (see below). They are realistically the only team that could jump us without us feeling like we allowed them to.
The Bills I have 2nd despite being 5-5 because they are still perfectly capable of going on a run in a way other teams probably can’t. To me they need to get to 6 losses before I can comfortably say they’re not a threat (or at least if they jump us we wouldn’t have gotten the top seed anyway).
Everyone else is hard to get too excited. Even teams like the Dolphins and Jaguars aren’t that scary because we have the tiebreaker. The Raiders are actually technically the only AFC West team still alive for these rankings with the 3 game rule.
The Chiefs had the best bye week ever. Almost every game we cared about went the way we wanted it to go. The Chiefs now have a 2.5 game lead in the division with 8 to go. I said last week that the division would be very tough to lose, and now that’s even more true.
Raiders: Despite being a worse team, the Raiders have a slightly better chance than the Chargers in the division because they somehow have a better record and haven’t played the Chiefs yet. They need to sweep those games if they want any chance at all, which closes the gap by 2 games and gives them the tiebreaker, then outplay the Chiefs in the other 5/6 games. That’d be something like the Chiefs going 4-2, and the Raiders going 4-1.
I’m going to go ahead and say that’s not going to happen.
Chargers: LAC needs to be within 1 game and have the tiebreaker by our week 18 game. As long as they win their 3 remaining games against the Raiders and Broncos they’ll have the tiebreaker, so we can safely say that if this scenario somehow happens they’ll have won those games. But in the other 7 remaining games before week 18 they need to outplay the Chiefs by 2 games. So if the Chiefs go 4-3, the Chargers will need to be 6-1
You can see the division slowly but surely solidifying for the Chiefs. The Chargers and Raiders simply can’t lose many more games. They can maybe afford one more loss each the rest of the season (which can’t be to the Chiefs) if they want any reasonable chance of getting those hats and T-shirts
- Chiefs (7-2)
- Ravens (8-3)
- Jaguars (6-3)
- Dolphins (6-3)
- Steelers (6-3)
- Browns (6-3)
- Texans (5-4)
Tiebreakers: Since we’ll be talking the same tiebreakers for all of these teams, I’ll just list them at the top. They are:
- Conference Record
- Common Games
- Strength of Victory
Plus some others, but it’s very unlikely to get past that point.
Ravens: The Ravens losing to the Browns last week was exactly what the Chiefs needed. Not only is it a loss for them, but an AFC loss. The Ravens have to have 2 fewer losses for the rest of the season to catch the Chiefs. They have 6 games remaining and we have 8, so it could look like them finishing 5-1 while we finish 5-3.
What’s interesting is that the Ravens actually get a mulligan if they lose an NFC game, because losing that game would give them the tiebreaker over the Chiefs. Gaining the tiebreaker is equivalent to gaining a game in the standings, so that would cancel out the loss. The only negative is that it would then give the Chiefs the free NFC loss.
Jaguars and Dolphins: Both of the Florida teams are now a full game back of the Chiefs, and the Chiefs have a tiebreak over both. Meaning they would need to outperform the Chiefs by 2 full games over the final 8. So if the Chiefs finish 5-3, they would need to finish 7-1.