The Detroit Lions are no longer in sole possession of first place in the NFC North, but they still control the No. 3 seed in the NFC thanks to a tiebreaker. On Sunday, the Lions will look to hold on to first place when they host the 2-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Aside from the Lions, which teams should you be rooting for this week? Here's our Week 12 rooting guide:
Saints (8-2) at Falcons (2-8) | 8:25 p.m., NFL Network (Thursday night)
At this point, the No. 2 seed in the NFC is highly, highly unlikely for the Lions. Even so, it'd be nice to at least keep the possibility alive going forward in case the Lions get hot down the stretch and put together a big winning streak. For the door to at least remain cracked, the Saints need to start losing some games.
Root for: Falcons
Vikings (2-8) at Packers (5-5) | 1 p.m., FOX
This one is pretty simple. The Lions could use a cushion between them and the Packers in the NFC North standings, especially with Aaron Rodgers set to return soon. He won't be back this week, so this is the time for Green Bay to continue losing. Go Vikings.
Root for: Vikings
Bears (6-4) at Rams (4-6) | 1 p.m., FOX
This is a similar situation, except the Bears are actually tied for first in the NFC North with the Lions. Because the Lions own the tiebreaker, it's more like a one-game lead, but that doesn't change the fact that Detroit needs the Bears to lose. They are currently the biggest threat in the NFC North, and the Lions lost their cushion last week with Chicago beating Baltimore in overtime.
Root for: Rams
Panthers (7-3) at Dolphins (5-5) | 1 p.m., FOX
If the Lions have to rely on the wild card because they are unable to win the NFC North, the Panthers will be a big threat in the race for a playoff spot. The more they lose, the better for the Lions going forward.
Root for: Dolphins
Colts (7-3) at Cardinals (6-4) | 4:05 p.m., CBS
The same thing is true for the Cardinals. They have managed to get right in the thick of the wild-card race, which is not good for the Lions. The teams in the hunt for a wild-card spot need to drop some games in order for the Lions to actually have a fallback option for the playoffs.
Root for: Colts
Cowboys (5-5) at Giants (4-6) | 4:25 p.m., FOX
On the one hand, a Giants win would add yet another team to the wild-card race. On the other hand, a Cowboys win would improve the chances of two NFC East teams getting a playoff spot. I'd personally rather see the Cowboys drop to 5-6, even if that means the Giants will be 5-6 as well.
Root for: Giants
49ers (6-4) at Redskins (3-7) | 8:30 p.m., ESPN (Monday night)
With the way the 49ers have been playing lately, they are in danger of losing control of the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoff picture. As long as the Cardinals lose, it's best for the Lions that the 49ers keep losing as well. That would improve the chances of the Lions coming away with a wild-card spot should the NFC North not go their way.
Root for: Redskins
If the Lions beat the Buccaneers on Sunday and everything else goes according to plan, the NFC playoff picture will look like this going into Week 13:
- Seattle Seahawks (10-1)
- New Orleans Saints (8-3)
- Detroit Lions (7-4)
- Philadelphia Eagles (6-5)
- Carolina Panthers (7-4)
- San Francisco 49ers (6-5)
- Arizona Cardinals (6-5)
- Chicago Bears (6-5)
- New York Giants (5-6)
- Dallas Cowboys (5-6)
- Green Bay Packers (5-6)
- St. Louis Rams (5-6)
Two observations on this: 1) The wild-card race will be quite crowded should the standings look like this next week; and 2) Detroit would essentially have a two-game lead in the NFC North in this scenario. They would actually be two games ahead of the Packers, and with the tiebreaker in hand, they would basically be two games ahead of the Bears. Works for me.