Root against the Bengals, Jets and Titans. If the Raiders don't win the division, this will be their competition for the last wild card spot in the AFC. Either the Ravens or Steelers are almost locks for the first spot. That leaves the loser of the AFC West in a heated battle with the three aforementioned teams.
First and foremost, we want the Broncos to lose obviously. If both squads win out, the Broncos will take the division on a tiebreaker. And barring the Broncos losing to the Chiefs in the season finale, the Raiders can't beat the Broncos in a tie breaker. (Side note: How awful would it be to lost the division based on division record a year after the Raiders didn't win the division despite sweeping their division games?)
So, just for the sake of this, let's say the Broncos win the division and Raiders need the wild card spot to enter the postseason.
Current AFC Wild Card Standings for The Last Wild Card Position With Week 14 Opponent
Jump over for more number crunching....
That is not a pretty picture for this week. The Bengals face the injury decimated Texans and the Jets face the injury decimated Chiefs. Out of the three teams the Raiders face, the only one that is an underdog is the Titans. The Raiders face the very real possibility of trailing two teams in the wild card race on Monday morning.
So, let's take a look at the remaining schedules of teams involved, as found on NFL.com:
Let's look at this in terms of games the teams will likely be favored to beat.
Bengals - 3
Titans - 2
Raiders - 3 (This could also be two, but the way the Lions are slipping, I say the Raiders will be favored.)
The Raiders are at a disadvantage for this week, but not at a huge disadvantage for the season. The Bengals would appear to be the biggest competition here. However, they looked awful their last time on the field, and they have only one win against a team with a winning record.
We definitely want the Bengals to lose this week. This will help with the tiebreaker. If the Raiders are tied with the Bengals, either just those two or in a three-way, it will come down to conference record and the Bengals currently sit at 6-4 in the AFC while the Raiders sit at 5-5.
Now, lets say the Bengals win their next three and lose to the Ravens in the finale, and the Raiders win three games—that includes their two remaining games in the division—they will end up tied in conference record.
In that case, it goes to record in common games. The Bengals and Raiders have four games—which is the minimum for this stat to be used—against common opponents. Those teams are the Browns, Broncos and Bills. The Raiders played the Broncos twice and the Bengals played the Browns twice.
The Bengals have a 3-1 record in those games. The Raiders are 2-2. This really isn't fair given that the Browns are awful and the Bengals beat them twice, but that is the way the rule is written. So, root like hell for TJ Yates and the Texans today.
If the Bengals and Raiders end up tied in record and record within the conference, it will come down to strength of victory (more on that below).
If the Raiders end up tied with just the Jets, the Raiders own the tiebreaker.
The Raiders currently trail the Titans in conference tie breaker by half a game. The Titans are 5-4. They also have the Colts and Jaguars on their schedule, while they play a Texans team in the finale that may have nothing to play for at that point.
If it is a three-way tie, the Jets are currently at 5-5 in the AFC. A three-way tie is where it gets really convoluted as it will likely come down to strength of victory.
The Raiders currently have a big edge here. Teams the Raiders have beat so far have 38 wins. Teams the Jets and Titans beat have have 33 wins. Teams the Bengals have beaten have 28 wins.
Obviously, this number can dramatically change. However, the Bengals are likely screwed if this scenario happens.
The Jets could receive a big boost if the Dolphins keep winning. Likewise the Raiders will receive a big boost if the Chargers keep winning. And anyway the Titans look at it, they will have to beat the Texans in their last game.
The next step is strength of schedule and that is way too close to call at this point. The Titans have the early edge here, as all of the opponents on their schedule have combined for 97 wins.
Essentially, three teams are exactly tied. Teams that the Raiders and Jets have on their schedule have won 93 games. Teams on the Bengals schedule have won 95, but they also have two more losses as the Browns and Steelers have played one more game than every other team.
So basically, we want the AFC West teams to win and the East and North teams to lose. And I officially have a headache.