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Week 11 NFL schedule: Top storylines and rooting guide

We break down the big story lines in Week 11, and what to make of Sunday's schedule. The 49ers have another important early game, but there will be plenty of other pertinent action throughout the day. Who are we rooting for this week?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to another week of the NFL rooting guide. Last year, as the playoffs were approaching, we took a look at the many games on the schedule, and discussed rooting interests for pertinent games. The playoffs are a long ways off, but heading into Week 11, things are heating up. The The San Francisco 49ers wrap up the second half of a two-game road trip with a 10 a.m. PT game against the New York Giants, and as long as they keep winning, things will figure themselves out appropriate. However, there is plenty of important football around them to at least consider.

1. Detroit Lions @ Arizona Cardinals

This is kind of a huge one, with the top two teams in the NFC going at it. Yep, the top two records belong to Arizona and Detroit (Lions ahead of Eagles by way of conference record). The Cardinals will be without quarterback Carson Palmer, whose season ended due to a torn ACL last week. Drew Stanton takes over, and has actually been reasonably solid for the Cardinals. They were 2-1 in games he started. They beat the Giants more due to the running game and defense, while Stanton made some big throws in their win over the 49ers. Stanton struggled against the Broncos before an injury brought in Logan Thomas. All that added up, this Cardinals team is built well enough to win some games without Palmer, so long as Stanton avoids mistakes. We'll see what Sunday brings.

Rooting interest: Lions

2. Seattle Seahawks @ Kansas City Chiefs

The Seahawks are an underdog in this game, marking their first time getting points since the Super Bowl (yep, technically they were the underdog in that game!). The Seahawks are not as good on the road as they are at home, although they are obviously still tough. The Seahawks are 8-4 in road games dating back to last season, and 7-5 against the spread. They face a Chiefs team that has won four straight. Kansas City beat the Chargers to open the streak, but since then their wins are over the Rams, Jets, and Bills. Wins are wins, but that's not exactly a murderer's row of talent. We're rooting for the Chiefs, but I'm a bit skeptical on this one.

Rooting interest: Chiefs

3. Philadelphia Eagles @ Green Bay Packers

I had considered posting this as the No. 2 game given that it involved a pair of NFC playoff contenders. I would say they are almost tied at No. 2. The Seahawks get the top billing because of the divisional rivalry, but this Eagles-Packers game is a big deal. The 49ers have a tiebreaker over the Eagles, while they do not get the Packers.

I'm leaning toward rooting for the Eagles in this game for a couple reasons. The 49ers hold a tiebreaker over the Eagles, but they also hold it over the Cowboys. One of them will win the division, so for this week, I am fine with the Eagles helping drop the Packers down a notch. The 49ers still have a shot at the NFC West if the Cardinals stumble, but the wild card seems more likely for now. If that is the case, I'd prefer to move as many teams behind the 49ers as possible.

Rooting interest: Eagles

4. Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears

The Vikings are only a game back of the 49ers, so we cannot quite count them out of the playoff picture yet. A loss to the Bears combined with a 49ers win would just about end that. I suppose the Packers and Lions both losing would make things at least mildly interesting (both Minnesota and Chicago would be three games back), but it would not mean a whole lot of much.

Rooting interest: Bears, I guess

5. Denver Broncos @ St. Louis Rams

The Rams are two games back of the 49ers, and three games back of the Seahawks in the wild card race. They have little chance of climbing back into this thing, and a loss to the Broncos would all but send them packing. Given the problems St. Louis has caused to the 49ers this year, I am perfectly fine just ending those playoff chances.

Rooting interest: Broncos

6. NFC South nonsense

The NFC South is incredibly sloppy at this point, so I don't think they deserve separate billing for each game. Carolina hosts Atlanta, and New Orleans hosts Cincinnati. If the Saints lose to the Bengals, the Panthers could climb mathematically ahead of the Saints, while a Falcons win would move them into a tie. Whatever the case, I want to see pure chaos in the division

Rooting interest: Bengals and Falcons

Playoff standings

1. Arizona Cardinals (8-1)
2. Detroit Lions (7-2)
3. Philadelphia Eagles (7-2)
4. New Orleans Saints (4-5)

5. Dallas Cowboys (6-3)
6. Seattle Seahawks (6-3)

7. Green Bay Packers (6-3)
8. San Francisco 49ers (5-4)
9. Minnesota Vikings (4-5)
10. Carolina Panthers (3-6-1)
11. Atlanta Falcons (3-6)
12. Chicago Bears (3-6)
13. St. Louis Rams (3-6)
14. New York Giants (3-6)