We all want the Bengals to win out, obviously, but even if they do a wildcard spot isn't a sure thing. The most likely result is that the Jets claim that spot. What happens, though, if the Jets lose to the Giants or Eagles, bringing their conference and overall records even with the Bengals?
The tiebreaker that would determine who goes to the playoffs and who goes home in this scenario is called Strength of Victory. It doesn't matter how many points you won by, all that matters is who you beat. Strength of Victory is the combined W-L-T percentage of all the teams you beat this year. Currently the Jets hold an advantage over the Bengals in this regard, largely thanks to the 0-13 Colts being on our win list. In order for the Bengals to gain the edge on this tiebreaker, many games in these last three weeks will have to fall just the right way.
Below is a guide for each remaining game that matters for the Strength of Victory tiebreaker and who we want to win. Note that we don't need every single game to fall this way, but each one helps. We do have some ground to make up.
TB over DAL - lost
BUF over MIA - lost
GB over KC - lost
SEA over CHI - won
BAL over SD - lost
DET over OAK - won
IND over HOU
NE over MIA
OAK over KC (root for Carson?!?)
STL over PIT
MIN over WAS
DET over SD
SEA over SF
TEN over JAX (we beat them both, but the Jets only beat JAX)
STL over SF
IND over JAX
CLE over PIT
DEN over KC
OAK over SD (Carson again?!?)
If every single one of those games goes the way we want, the Bengals win Strength of Victory tiebreaker. We have a little wiggle room, but not a lot. We don't actually need the Colts and Rams to each win 2 games, thankfully, but without them the margin gets dangerously thin.
The one thing that surprised me as I tallied that data is that the Jets aren't our most dangerous opponent for that last wild card spot, the Titans are. Their remaining games are against the Colts, Jaguars, and then the Texans. The Texans have already locked up a playoff spot so will almost certainly be resting lots of starters, while the Colts and Jaguars are the Colts and Jaguars. That means it's very likely that the Titans go 10-6. With their superior conference record, they get the wild card spot if it comes down to a three-way tie with us and the Jets.
All of that taken into consideration, I'm hoping for the Jets to lose 2. It doesn't seem all that unlikely. All of their remaining opponents have shown the ability to play with just about anyone. The dream team Eagles, the Patriot-destroying Giants, and the 'played really hard for a stretch' Dolphins. If the Jets lose 2, and the Bengals & Titans win out, it's a tiebreaker between Bengals & Titans. Since it's only 2 teams, head to head rules. We won straight up, so we're going to the playoffs. EDIT-as long as the Raiders don't win out. They beat us in every possible tie scenario due to strength of victory. How likely is it that the Raiders win out without McFadden, though?
UPDATE 12/18 -
The Titans lost today, so they're out of the playoff picture as long as the Bengals win out.
The Jets lost to the Eagles, but remember them losing to the Eagles just puts them in a tie with us for the wild card spot. The way things have been going there's not much chance we win that tiebreaker. We need them to lose another to the Giants or Dolphins.
The Raiders lost to the Lions in dramatic fashion, so they're out of the picture unless they win the AFC West or the Bengals lose a game.
Now it gets pretty easy to figure.. If the Bengals win out and the Jets lose another game, we're in. If the Jets and Bengals both win out, we need the above games to go our way. Lots of them.