Week 11 NFL schedule: Top storylines and rooting guide

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

We break down the big story lines in Week 11, and what to make of Sunday's schedule. Who are you rooting for and against? New to Niners Nation? Sign up here and join the discussion!

The San Francisco 49ers get their Week 11 action going at 1:25 p.m. PT, and it's a big one for them. The 49ers travel south to face the New Orleans Saints. The 49ers have won two straight, including last year's game at the Superdome. Of course, we know the Saints are a different team this year compared to last year, thanks to the return of Sean Payton and an influx of some talent.

Whether the 49ers win or lose to the Saints (I think we're all rooting for the winl), there are still plenty of pertinent matchups to consider. Here is a quick rundown of some of the pertinent Week 11 matchups.

Could the Seahawks put away the division?

Even after this week, there is a lot of football still to be played. Ideally the 49ers take care of business in New Orleans, but with the Seattle Seahawks facing the struggling Minnesota Vikings at Century Link Field, the 49ers focus could end up almost solely on the wildcard after this weekend.

The Seahawks last two home games have been one possession wins, so we can't just hand them the win over Minnesota quite yet. But, a win over Minnesota puts them in position to potentially take a three game lead over the 49ers with seven weeks remaining. I'm hoping for the best, but that has to be on the radar.

Rooting interest: Go, Fightin' Christian Ponders!

And about those Arizona Cardinals...

How about those Arizona Cardinals? They've won two straight, beating the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans at home. Now they head east to face the 1-8 Jacksonville Jaguars. Arizona is an eight point favorite, and while the Jaguars did manage their first win, I'd imagine most folks are picking the Cardinals. Of course, this could be that moment when Arizona finds the way to fall flat on their face.

If the Cardinals do manage the victory, they have a chance to climb into a tie with the 49ers. I think we can all agree the 49ers are better than the Cardinals, but Arizona is getting feisty. They've got some very winnable games coming up, but I still don't know quite what to make of these Cardinals. I view them as a good bad team. They have a very solid defense, but lots of question marks on offense.

Rooting interest: No more NFC West love at this point in the season. I'm pulling for Jaxson DeVille's squad.

Can the Panthers stay hot?

The Carolina Panthers don't play until Monday Night Football, but it is a doozy. Carolina hosts the New England Patriots in one of the best matchups of Week 11. Can the Panthers continue their streaking ways? The Patriots have a two-game lead in the AFC East, but they have not looked like the Patriots of old. This will be a huge test for them.

Rooting interest: The 49ers just need to handle their own business, but it doesn't mean I won't root against the team they're tied with in the wildcard race.

Lions, Packers and Bears...oh my?

The NFC North will continue to get combined together given how bunched up these three teams are at the top of the division. The 6-3 Detroit Lions hold a one-game lead over the Bears and Packers, but this race won't be over anytime soon. The Lions head to Pittsburgh, looking for their first win in the Steel City since 1955. This is not quite as crazy as it sounds given that the two teams rarely play each other, but it still sounds like a really long time!

The 5-4 Chicago Bears host the 4-5 Baltimore Ravens, while the 5-4 Green Bay Packers are traveling to face the surging 3-6 New York Giants. The Bears will be starting QB Josh McCown, while the Packers will be starting QB Scott Tolzien. I'm guessing Bears and Packers fans didn't see that one coming back in September.

Rooting interest: Let's keep it close in the NFC North. Go Steelers, Ravens and Giants!

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