Week 12 AFC South Who to Root For: What's Best for Texans, Colts, Titans & Jags

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistNovember 21, 2012

The Colts will be score-board watching this weekend
The Colts will be score-board watching this weekendAl Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Welcome back to "Who to Root For."

Every week from now until the end of the season, this column will help fans of teams in the AFC South know how to root in the games that don't involve their favorite team.

Because playoff tiebreakers and draft scenarios are often tricky, this space will help guide you through the Week 12 slate so you can understand how each game affects your team.

And yes, we here at "Who to Root For" are well aware that we should be called "For Whom to Root". However, as this is the NFL and not the EPL, we're sticking with what works, thank you very much.

Playing for: the top overall seed in the AFC. Their current odds are 58.3 percent according to the Football Outsiders.

Where They Stand: Houston has a one-game lead plus a tiebreaker over Baltimore. It has a two-game lead over New England and is up two games plus a tiebreaker over Denver.

Given the Texans' overall situation, it's fine to ignore the lesser "Texans clinch the playoffs if..."scenarios. Whether they clinch this weekend or next is irrelevant.

Who to Root For

Jets over the Patriots

Bills over the Colts: Indianapolis is no real threat to win the division, but the South is not clinched yet, so it's better to be safe than sorry.

Chiefs over the Broncos: Good luck with that.

Chargers over the Ravens

Playing for: a wild-card berth (33.5 percent), a possible division title (1.1 percent).

Top Competitors: Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Houston Texans

Where They Stand: The Colts are tied with Pittsburgh for the fifth seed, but would get it based on the conference-record tiebreaker.

The Colts have a one-game lead over the Bengals. Indy has a two-game lead plus a tiebreaker over Miami. The Colts are up two games over the Chargers and Bills. They are up two games over the Titans, but own a tiebreaker. They are up two games over the Jets, but would lose a tiebreaker.

In the division race, they are three full games behind the Texans.

Who to Root For

Texans over the Lions: Colts fans need to accept that they are not division contenders. Their best hope for the playoffs may include Houston resting starters the last game of the year. Indy fans should root for anything that helps Houston clinch the top seed in the AFC.

Patriots over the Jets: While a Pats loss helps Houston, a Jets loss likely eliminates one of the few teams with a tiebreaker over Indy.

Seahawks over the Dolphins

Raiders over the Bengals: The Bengals are the biggest threat to knock Indy out of the playoffs.

Browns over the Steelers: Injuries to the top two Pittsburgh quarterbacks could be salvation for Indy.

Jaguars over the Titans

Chiefs over the Broncos: Again, this would help Houston clinch the top seed early.

Ravens over the Chargers: Eliminating San Diego takes priority over giving Houston a cushy ride.

Tennessee Titans

Playing for: A wild-card berth (4.3 percent). The Titans are alive by the slimmest of margins. We'll keep them here until their next game. If they lose, they will be playing for draft position.

Where The Stand: Tennessee is two games behind the Colts, and loses a tiebreaker.

They are two games behind the Steelers and win a tiebreaker.

They are a game behind Cincinnati.

They are tied with the other top competitors. They hold tiebreakers with Miami and Buffalo, but lose to the Chargers. They will play the Jets later this season.

Who to Root for:

Bills over the Colts: The Titans win a tiebreaker with the Bills, so catching the Colts is the top priority.

Patriots over the Jets

Seahawks over the Dolphins

Raiders over the Bengals

Browns over the Steelers

Ravens over the Chargers

Playing for: The top pick in the 2013 draft. Their odds stand at 42.6 percent.

Where They Stand: The Jaguars are tied with the Chiefs for the worst record in football. The first tiebreaker is strength of schedule, with the worst SOS getting the top pick.

The true strength of schedule is often misreported. The correct way to figure SOS is not to calculate the record for all the teams already played. We already know the full schedule for the year, so there's no reason to pretend the record of future opponents is a variable.

The full strength of schedule as of the end of Week 10 for Kansas City is 81-79. The full strength of schedule for the Jaguars is 89-71. Again, that represents the year-to-date SOS of all 16 teams on the schedule of both clubs.

Kansas City is comfortably in front.

Jacksonville is a game "up" on the Browns and Panthers.

Who to Root For:

Jaguars fans have to root against teams the Jaguars play and for teams the Chiefs play other weeks on the schedule.

Lions over the Texans

Bills over the Colts: Division games count double for the Jaguars, so even though they play the Lions and Bills, losses by the Colts and Texans are worth more in the weighting.

Seahawks over the Dolphins

Raiders over the Bengals

Chiefs over the Broncos: Any upset win by the Chiefs at any time would be huge for Jacksonville. The Jaguars are not likely to win the tiebreaker.

Ravens over the Chargers: This would count as one loss for the Jags' opponents, and one win and two losses for the Chiefs.

Panthers over the Eagles

Browns over the Steelers