If you are a Ravens fan and it is bye week, like everyone else you probably turn on the Tube to see who other teams are playing. If you are a Ravens die-hard you watch, less because of Sunday boredom or to track stats on your Fantasy team than because of a strong desire to root against certain opposing teams.
You can sit at home, or better yet, don your Ravens jersey and head out to am establishment known to be a haven for fans of the “root against” team, like Ocean City, MD’s “Buxy’s Salt Dog,” a big Steelers bar. If the Steelers lose, as you hope, you will have something to cheer about when everyone else is ticked off at the end of the game.
The problem is when “root against” teams might actually be better off winning -keeping the Ravens’ playoff chances in mind.
For example, the New England Patriots are a team that most Ravens fans would normally root against in any given situation except for maybe when they play a front-running AFC North division opponent.
But in their Sunday game against the Dolphins, it might actually better to see a Pats win in the long-term. The Dolphins (as mentioned in a previous column) are one of those many playoff-contending teams who could tape or glue together just enough wins to have one more win than the Ravens by season’s end and enjoy the 6th playoff seed in their stocking for the holidays. The Jets are another.
A Pats AFC East Division walk-off, as what usually occurs in most years since Bill Belichick/Tom Brady got there, would be better than a close Division race between said Jets and Dolphins. Those two teams have two guaranteed losses each on their schedule, AFC losses at that, would be better than the teams closely battling the Pats unless New England struggling to make the playoffs at all is an issue.
With the Pats now at 6-2 they look good for a playoff berth, so it is very unlikely to see them not making the playoffs.
Similarly, the Bengals-Jets game was a mixed bag. A Bengals loss would have been the preferred outcome when Ravens’ playoff possibilities are considered – if their best shot is winning the Division. But if that 6th seed is really where their most-realistic shot lies, the Bengals win may actually be better.
In the close Browns-Chiefs game, common wisdom would be to say that a Browns win would be better because they are usually a Division also-ran. But considering that the Browns had the exact same record as the Ravens heading into yesterday and same number of losses as the Steelers, a Chiefs win is the preference.
The Chiefs are likely a 5th seed lock, unless they can wrestle the AFC West from the Denver Broncos. The Ravens would need KC – a team they do not play this year – to lose a bunch of games, four to be exact – to even be in the same playoff conversation. That doesn’t seem likely at this point with Andy Reid’s troops now sitting at 8-0.
The best root-against games are when AFC playoff contenders take on NFC teams. In those games, there aren’t any what-ifs to consider. Sadly, most of the NFC games haven’t really gone Baltimore’s way this year, including New Orleans’ loss to the Patriots, Green Bay’s game off against the Bengals, and the New York Giants’ late loss to the Broncos.
So, the root-against games are not as easy to define as they may initially appear.
That said, don’t expect any Ravens fans to go out and buy a Tom Brady jersey any time soon.