The Vikings, due to being the only 9-2 team in the NFC, currently hold control of the #2 seed in the NFC and, if they win out, will do no worse than the second seed. This would, of course, change if/when the Vikings lose, but for now, the Vikings control their own destiny for a playoff bye.
NFC North Elimination Scenarios
The Chicago Bears are all but finished in the NFC playoff chase. They are fully eliminated if any of the following happen:
-They tie and Seattle wins or ties
-They tie and Atlanta wins or ties
-Seattle wins or ties and Carolina wins or ties
-Seattle wins or ties and Atlanta wins or ties
-Atlanta wins and Carolina wins or ties
So obviously it doesn’t take a whole lot to eliminate the Bears, but they also play the 1-10 San Francisco 49ers at home, so let’s see if they manage to rebound from being annihilated by the Eagles. Hopefully the Falcons don’t win tomorrow, so if the Bears win and the Falcons lose, that would basically leave only the Seahawks/Panthers scenario as the one to eliminate the Bears.
Moving right along, the Green Bay Packers. Much is starting to be made about Aaron Rodgers’ return, but Green Bay is starting to slide out of playoff contention with their recent play. The Packers could join the Bears in being eliminated from the NFC North division title race if just two simple things happen:
-The Packers lose and the Vikings win or tie OR
-The Packers tie and the Vikings win
That’s all it takes. Of course, a Vikings win against the Falcons mean they likely need to win just one more game to win the NFC North, especially if the Lions lose tomorrow against the Ravens. Now let’s take a look at who to cheer for tomorrow.
Cheering for a Win
A little altered from last week’s article, but since the Vikings have yet to play/win, I figured it’d be better to have it go this way. As in last week’s article, the team we should want to win is in italics.
Vikings @ Falcons
Does this need explaining?
49ers @ Bears
Like I explained above, the 49ers winning eliminates the Bears from playoff contention, and I’m always up for a division rival being taken out of the playoffs.
Buccaneers @ Packers
Again, not a hard decision. First of all, the Packers can suck a big one. Second, we’re one team closer to sealing our second division title in two seasons if they lose. And the Packers losing means Aaron Rodgers coming back would mean even less for their season.
Lions @ Ravens
Like I said above, the Lions are basically the only team with a chance to challenge the Vikings for a division title this season and even now they’re basically out of it. But considering the remainder of Detroit’s schedule, them losing to the Ravens would mean the Vikings could seal the division in Week 14. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the division wrapped up that early?
Eagles @ Seahawks
Not that hard to figure out. If the Seahawks and Vikings both win, the Vikings would be the new #1 seed in the NFC, with control of their destiny to have home-field advantage straight through the playoffs. What a reward that would be! So, hard as it may be, cheer hard for those Ocean Pidgeons! The Eagles also win the NFC East if they win, so there’s that.
Wins that assist with tiebreakers
This is a pretty close one, but the Rams beating the Cardinals makes our win against them look even better as the season continues. A Cardinals win would muddy the waters in the NFC, but I think I’d prefer the Rams in the playoffs over, say, the Lions.
Panthers @ Saints
This is one of the toughest calls of the week, bar none. Either team winning does help the Vikings. If the Panthers win, the Saints, a team with a SOV tiebreaker over the Vikings (forgetting about the H2H because SOV matters more in a three-way tiebreaker if we haven’t played all parties to the three-way tie), drops a little farther back. If the Saints win, they have the full head-to-head tiebreaker with the Panthers and I would think the chances of a multi-way tiebreaker with the Vikings would fall a little. Honestly, this is such a 50/50 game that I’d say I’d root for the Panthers unless I see convincing math arguing for the Saints winning.
Game that already happened
The Redskins’ loss dropped them into 12th place in the NFC and pushed the Cowboys up to 9th. I believe that Washington’s loss dings Minnesota’s strength of victory, but I could be wrong about that. It did delay Dallas’ elimination from NFC East contention, but they will still be eliminated from contention if the Eagles win tonight.
Games that don’t matter
I don’t have the information in front of me as to which games in particular affect Minnesota’s strength of schedule or anything like that, so this list is basically the remainder of the games going on in the NFL today and tomorrow. I’ll go a little into what each game means to the teams playing in them, if they mean anything at all.
The Patriots beating the Bills keeps them in contention for the top seed in the AFC. The Patriots winning also puts them, like the Vikings, a game away from sealing their division. The Bills losing would put a huge damper on their playoff chances. Guess that whole Nathan Peterman start really will come back to bite the Bills, huh?
If the Titans beat the Texans, it eliminates both the Texans and Colts from AFC South contention, leaving Tennessee and Jacksonville as the two contenders for the division title. If both the Titans and Jaguars win, they remain as they are now, in the 3rd and 5th seeds (Titans third, Jags 5th). If the Titans lose and the Jaguars win, they swap positions (Jags 3rd, Titans 5th). If the Titans win and the Jags lose, they also remain in the same positions, even if the Ravens and Bills both win.
If the Dolphins lose, they are out of the AFC East playoff race. Of course, they are out if the Patriots win as well, so it doesn’t matter a whole lot what happens to them. As for the Broncos, the first post I linked above has the most comprehensive list of what it takes to eliminate them from both the division title race and the playoffs in totality. Trust me to say that it’s a bit of a convoluted scenario, but both can happen if enough games go right tomorrow.
Basically this game will be a nice test to see just how complete the Chiefs have collapsed this season. If they manage to win this game, they might just have a chance to stay alive in the AFC West race. If they lose, I think they are basically done this season. If they do manage to win, though, the Jets would be eliminated from the AFC East division title race.
Colts @ Jaguars
The Jaguars need to win to keep pace with the Titans, as weak as the Titans have been this season. It should, in theory, be a fairly easy win for the Jags, especially with their passing defense, but that passing defense was messed up by Blaine freaking Gabbert of all people, so who knows how this game will go. The Colts losing, as I believe I mentioned above, means they would be eliminated from the AFC South division race. They could also be eliminated from the playoffs if both the Ravens and Bengals win, so keep an eye on that.
I think this game is basically one where the Chargers are hoping to avoid being Cleveland’s only win two seasons in a row. The Chargers are also hoping that a win can continue their season’s renaissance after starting 0-4. Cleveland basically has nothing to play for, as they have been eliminated from the playoffs, so they’re just hoping to act as spoilers. Beating the Chargers would be a good way to do that.
This is a game between two teams that have had their seasons take turns for the worst. If anything, this game should probably be marked as one where we cheer for the Raiders, because I don’t think any Giants fan will be cheering for their team after how they screwed over Eli this week. Seriously, f*** John Mara and Ben McAdoo.
Steelers @ Bengals
This is another big game for AFC playoff implications. If the Steelers win, they retain the top seed in the AFC for another week. If the Bengals win, they keep themselves in the general conversation for a wild card spot. Cincy is eliminated from contention for the AFC North title if they lose, so I would assume the Steelers are going to get everything the Bengals have. Cincy winning also plays a part in both Indianapolis and Denver being knocked out of the playoffs, so I’m sure both of those teams will be cheering for the Steelers to win, if only to remain in the hunt a little while longer.
There you have it, that’s this week’s Rooting Guide. If you have any new information for me as to why we should be cheering for one team in particular over another, link to it in the comments and I’ll gladly edit the post and give you credit for it. Cheer hard everyone, there’s a lot of action going on tomorrow and lots of teams to root for!