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NFL playoff picture, Week 12: Top storylines and rooting guide for the 49ers

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We break down the big story lines in Week 12, and what to make of Sunday's schedule. The 49ers host Washington in the afternoon, and there is plenty of pertinent action throughout the day. Who are we rooting for this week?

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

We're back for 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 playoff chase is heating up, with only six games remaining. The San Francisco 49ers are back home hosting Washington in the first of two games over four days. On Thanksgiving they host the Seattle Seahawks, so let's hope the 49ers do not look past Washington!

The 49ers just need to keep winning, but there are are some huge games on the schedule, so we might as well figure out who we want to win them.

1. Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks

This is the big one. So long as the 49ers beat Washington, they benefit no matter who wins this game. On Thursday, I suggested that my heart was rooting for Seattle, but my head was rooting for Arizona. The 49ers can win the division, but with a road game in Seattle still to come, the 49ers would find themselves in a tough situation because of how the division record tiebreaker could shake out. So long as the 49ers can keep on winning, I'm going to stick with the hopes of claiming the division title. If Arizona wins, this will likely be the last week of that, but winning the division is not entirely out of the realm of the possible, particularly with Seattle struggling this season, to some extent.

Rooting interest: Seahawks

2. Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings

The Packers have a one-game lead on the 49ers, and a loss this week combined with a 49ers win would potentially move San Francisco into one of the wild card spots. The 49ers do not face Green Bay this season, so it comes down to just move entirely clear of them, rather than worrying about tiebreakers. The Packers are playing some really good football, but divisional road games are never easy.

Rooting interest: Vikings

3. Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants
4. Tennessee Titans @ Philadelphia Eagles

The Cowboys and Eagles are tied in the NFC East, with the Eagles holding the divisional record tiebreaker until these two square off twice over the coming weeks. The 49ers hold the head-to-head tiebreaker on each of these teams, so if they lose, it opens the door for the 49ers to gain some necessary ground. The head-to-head tiebreaker when dealing with more than two teams for the wild card applies when there is a sweep. So, if the 49ers ended up tied with the Cowboys, Eagles and say the Packers, I don't believe the head-to-head sweep would matter. Nonetheless, the more losses for Dallas and Philadelphia, the better.

Rooting interest: Giants/Titans

5. Detroit Lions @ New England Patriots

This is an intriguing one depending on how you view the playoff picture. If the Lions lose and the Packers win, Green Bay moves into first place. If the Packers and Lions both lose, the Lions retain the edge because of their win in Detroit. If the 49ers are headed toward a wild card berth, do they want to potentially make another trip to Green Bay? Or would they want to face the Lions at Ford Field? This is not a guaranteed matchup, but it is something to consider. At this point I'm down with everybody losing, but it's still something to ponder.

Rooting interest: Patriots

6. NFC South nonsense (Ravens @ Saints, Bucs @ Bears, Browns @ Falcons)

The embarrassment that is the NFC South does not deserve separation. There is actually a minor chance a 5- or 6-win team claims this division. It is small, but the fact that it even exists speaks volumes. That, and the fact that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-8, which points them closer to the No. 1 pick than a .500 record, and yet they are still alive in the divisional race.

So what do I want? I want to see the Bucs win, and the Falcons and Saints lose. That would give us two teams at 4-7, one team at 3-7-1, and one team at 3-8. I demand chaos!

Rooting interest: Ravens, Bucs, Browns