New England and Cincinnati are fighting for the 3rd spot, which means they won't get Indy a week after playing in the Wild Card round. By flexing the Bengals into the late game, from their earlier start time, the Bengals will already know the outcome of the Pats game, and whether anything can be gained from playing their starters in what might be a meaningless game for them.
Now, the best case scenario for us would have been both teams play at 1:00 (which was the original schedule) play their starters and hope to win the game. Now that is not the case. So, based on that, I would venture to say only one of those teams will win on Sunday. If the Pats play hard and beat Houston, Cincinnati will rest their starters because they will have nothing to play for and lose. If the Pats lose, the Bengals will have a chance to gain the 3rd seed, will play hard and win (some might think 3rd seed, big deal....... it is! If both the Bengals and Pats beat the top two seeds in the divisional round, the championship game would be at Cincinnati, not NE).
Now, which is better for us?
If Houston beats NE (and the Jets lose to the Bengals)...... Both Baltimore AND Denver would have to lose! In that case, Houston would finish 5th and Pittsburgh would finish 6th. Am I sure? We own the tie-breaker with Denver....... The problem is Houston! If we finish in a tie with Baltimore, Denver and Houston, head to head is out the window. Baltimore will get the 5th seed, and Denver would get the 6th! If Baltimore wins and Denver loses Houston gets the 6th. If Baltimore loses and Denver wins, Denver gets the 5th and Houston gets the 6th. Finally, if Baltimore wins and Denver loses then Baltimore is 5th and Houston is 6th.
With a Houston victory, Pittsburgh WILL need losses by both Baltimore and Denver! Do I think this will happen? No, not both of them.
If Houston loses to the Pats (and the Jets win)...... our season will rest on one game, Baltimore at Oakland. It won't matter what happens anywhere else. We would win the head to head with Denver, so we would be the 5th seed. A Jets win would give them the 5th seed, so we would have to finish in 2nd in the North then we would capture the 6th spot.
With a Jets victory, Pittsburgh will need only a Baltimore loss. Do I think this will happen? No... but it could, and it would eliminate the outcome of the Denver game, so this is our best shot. Hopefully it won't come to this, but I can't see both the Bengals and Pats winning this week when the teams they are playing have so much to gain. So a Pats victory is more important to us. A Houston victory will pretty much kill our hopes.
Should both the Texans and Jets win, we are eliminated.
Should both the Texans and Jets lose, we are in with a win.