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NFL playoff picture, Week 14: Top storylines and rooting guide for the 49ers

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We break down the big story lines in Week 14, and what to make of Sunday's schedule. The 49ers get going later this afternoon, but in the meantime, who are we rooting for this week?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to another week of the NFL rooting guide. The San Francisco 49ers are in action at 1:25 p.m. PT when they face the Oakland Raiders up at the O.Co Coliseum. The 49ers playoff chances are not dead yet, but they are teetering. The 49ers need to beat the Raiders, but they also are going to need some help if they are going to earn a playoff berth.

The NFC got things going on Thursday with the Dallas Cowboys beating the Chicago Bears. The Bears are effectively eliminated from playoff contention, while the Cowboys got a key win. Dallas is half a game back of the Eagles, with the Eagles hosting the Seahawks on Sunday.

1. Kansas City Chiefs @ Arizona Cardinals

The Seahawks-Eagles game is all NFC, and we can find some reasons to root for either team. The Cardinals-Chiefs game is an easy one to figure out. I list this one first because I think Cardinals are more likely to slip the rest of the season, and potentially open the door for the 49ers. The Cardinals will be without Andre Ellington and Tyrann Mathieu, as the injuries continue to pile up. We'll be rooting for Alex Smith and company today.

Rooting interest: Chiefs

2. Seattle Seahawks @ Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles are currently leading the NFC East, and have a huge tiebreaker over the Cowboys thanks to a win at Dallas. The Seahawks are playing well right now, and seem like they have a good shot at the NFC West title. However, they are only a game up on the 49ers. I am not holding my breath for a 49ers win next week in Seattle, but assuming they beat Oakland today, a win over Seattle next week could move them ahead of the Seahawks with two games remaining. There is a lot of work to be done, but a Seattle loss to Philadelphia opens up some big possibilities.

Rooting interest: Eagles

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Detroit Lions

I have zero faith in the Bucs, but maybe they'll surprise us. The Lions are currently No. 7 in the standings, a game up on the 49ers. They also have an edge in conference record, sitting at 6-2 to the 49er 6-4. The Lions close out the season at home against Minnesota, and then on the road against the Bears and Packers. I'd like to see a Bucs win today, but there are enough losable games remaining on the Lions schedule.

Rooting interest: Bucs

4. Atlanta Falcons @ Green Bay Packers

Monday Night Football features two division leaders, although only one is actually a good football team. I think we see the Packers stomp the Falcons, but maybe Atlanta surprises us. The Packers don't have the toughest schedule to close out the season, so I am not really concerning myself with them all that much. They are probably going to win the NFC North, leaving Detroit as the team we will be tracking the final few weeks.

Rooting interest: Falcons

5. Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints

The NFC South remains up for grabs as the Falcons and Saints stumble to the finish line. The Saints have lost three straight home games, but I don't see them losing this one. That being said, I would be entertained to no end to see the NFC South leader sitting at 5-8 heading into Week 15.

Rooting interest: Panthers

NFC standings

1. Arizona Cardinals (9-3)
2. Green Bay Packers (9-3)
3. Philadelphia Eagles (9-3)
4. Atlanta Falcons (5-7)

5. Dallas Cowboys (9-4)
6. Seattle Seahawks (8-4)

7. Detroit Lions (8-4)
8. San Francisco 49ers (7-5)
9. New Orleans Saints (5-7)