We're back for another week of the NFL rooting guide. The San Francisco 49ers got their game in on Thursday, so today is just a day of keeping an eye on the other teams in the mix. Thursday's loss seriously wounded the 49ers playoff chances, but they still do exist. The team has not shown they can string together the kind of wins they'll need, but I suppose crazy things can happen.
Most of the significant action of NFC playoff participants took place on Thursday. Alongside 49ers-Seahawks, we saw Lions-Bears and Cowboys-Eagles occupy our day. For Sunday, we get two legitimate divisional leaders in action, and then the NFC South.
1. New England Patriots @ Green Bay Packers
It would seem to make more sense to put the Cardinals up here, but as the 49ers continue to stumble, the division is effectively out of reach. And so, we look at what might happen elsewhere. The Packers have a half game lead on the Lions. A win moves them to a more secure 9-3, a loss brings them back into the pack of 8-4 squads. The Packers remain a 1/2 game up on the 49ers with their conference record, but a loss to the Patriots would at least keep them steady.
Rooting interest: Patriots
2. Arizona Cardinals @ Atlanta Falcons
The Cardinals hold a 2.5 game lead on the 49ers. Combine that with a head-to-head win, and a 2-1 division record compared to 1-3 for the 49ers, and they're in pretty good shape. I would not be surprised to see Seattle overtake the Cardinals, but with five games remaining, Arizona is in a position to try and run out the clock for the division title. The only upside to a Cardinals win would be seeing the NFC South potentially have a 4-8 division leader after this weekend. Dare to dream!
Rooting interest: Falcons
3. New Orleans Saints @ Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Carolina Panthers @ Minnesota Vikings
Whatever happens with the Cardinals-Falcons game, I am always down to root against the Saints. If the Saints and Falcons lose, even if the Panthers win, we'd still have a 4-win team in first place. I confuse the math to be done with a tie, but either way, a crappy, crappy team will be in first in the NFC South. Well, even if all three win, a crappy, crappy team will be in first in the division, so that's that.
Rooting interest: Steelers, Vikings