NFL Playoff Picture: Who to root for in Week 13 if you’re a Washington Commanders fan

Week 13 Washington Commanders rooting guide originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

After a 1-4 start to the season, the Washington Commanders (7-5) have reeled off six wins in their past seven contests to take hold of the final playoff spot in the NFC. A dramatic turnaround for a team that looked like they were one drive away from mailing in the season.

Now, they’re in the driver’s seat for a Wild Card berth. Take care of business and Washington will be in the NFL Playoffs.

Things aren’t always that simple, though, especially with this team. Their upcoming schedule includes several teams ahead of them in the NFC postseason picture. That’s good in the sense that the Commanders can improve their positioning. It’s also a slight concern with their future opponents expecting to provide a bigger challenge than their past opponents. 

Beating the Atlanta Falcons (5-7) in Week 12 could end up being a huge result in determining the Commanders’ fate in the playoffs. Atlanta is in a heated NFC South divisional race which means they aren’t going to fold over, despite their record as the season winds down.

This week against the New York Giants (7-4) is just as imperative. Not only is the opportunity there for Washington to rise to the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoff standings, but a loss puts them in the thick of a crowded race for the final spot in the NFC without many tiebreakers.

Keep in mind, the rest of their schedule consists of the Giants again, the San Francisco 49ers (7-4), the Cleveland Browns (4-7) and a Week 18 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys (8-3).

Right now, the Commanders are mathematically alive for all seven seeds in the NFC, including the No. 1 seed. No team has been eliminated from playoff contention, yet.

There is a methodology for this guide. The initial selection of which team to root for is based on the assumption that Washington wins out the remainder of the season (resulting in a 12-5 record). The only time it will not is when there is a bigger benefit in direct playoff positioning between the Commanders and another team for a matchup.

Tiebreaking procedures are considered with head-to-head results being the priority, followed by the win-loss percentage in division games (for NFC East opponents) and then record vs. common opponents. 

So far Washington has tiebreakers over the following teams:

-Falcons (5-7) – head-to-head 

-Green Bay Packers (4-8) – head-to-head 

-Chicago Bears (3-9) – head-to-head 

The Burgandy and Gold have lost the tiebreakers to these teams:

-Minnesota Vikings (9-2) – head-to-head

-Detroit Lions (4-7) – head-to-head

Tiebreakers that are yet to be determined by contending teams:

Philadelphia Eagles (10-1), Dallas Cowboys (8-3), San Francisco 49ers (7-4), New York Giants (7-4), Seattle Seahawks (6-5), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6), Carolina Panthers (4-8), Arizona Cardinals (4-8), New Orleans Saints (4-8) and Los Angeles Rams (3-8).

Washington Week 13 Rooting Guide

Washington Commanders (7-5) at New York Giants (7-4)

Sunday, Dec. 4 at 1 p.m. ET

Washington wants to remain in control of its own destiny for as long as it can. Right now, the Commanders have a good step ahead of the field in the playoff chase. They need to keep that advantage. There is a also reasonable path to the No. 5 seed in the NFC, but it starts with beating the Giants on Sunday. Root for the Commanders.

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-7) at Atlanta Falcons (5-7)

Sunday, Dec. 4 at 1 p.m. ET

Hard to see the Falcons going on a run as they are currently constructed. Either way, it’s AFC vs. NFC so always root for the AFC side. Root for the Steelers.

Green Bay Packers (4-8) at Chicago Bears (3-9)

Sunday, Dec. 4 at 1 p.m. ET

Washington has the tiebreaker over both teams. With the Packers a game up in the standings, root for the Bears.

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7) at Detroit Lions (4-7)

Sunday, Dec. 4 at 1 p.m. ET

Another AFC vs. NFC matchup. It probably won’t matter in the long run but root for the Jaguars, just in case.

New York Jets (7-4) vs. Minnesota Vikings (9-2)

Sunday, Dec. 4 at 1 p.m. ET

If, somehow, the Commanders can make a run at the NFC East title, the Vikings will be a competitor for seeding. It’s another AFC vs. NFC matchup so it’s pretty straightforward. Root for the Jets.

Tennessee Titans (7-4) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (10-1)

Sunday, Dec. 4 at 1 p.m. ET

This week’s results in the NFC East could drastically change the tune of the Commanders’ season. Just imagine what it will be like if Washington wins, the Eagles lose and the Commanders are just 2.5 games back of the division lead with a head-to-head upcoming. Root for the Titans.

Seattle Seahawks (6-5) vs. Los Angeles Rams (3-8)

Sunday, Dec. 4 at 4:05 p.m. ET

Seattle is shaping up to be Washington’s biggest competition for the final Wild Card spot in the NFC. If the season ended today, Commanders’ fans should send a thank you note to Josh Jacobs. Root for the Rams to give the Commanders some breathing room.

Miami Dolphins (8-3) vs. San Francisco 49ers (7-4)

Sunday, Dec. 4 at 4:05 p.m. ET

A lot of cross-conference games this week. You never know what could happen so still root for the AFC and root for the Dolphins in this matchup.

Indianapolis Colts (4-7-1) at Dallas Cowboys (8-3)

Sunday, Dec. 4 at 8:20 p.m. ET

Normally, Commanders fans are rooting for Dallas to lose anyways. Chasing them in the playoff hunt is just an added incentive. But this game carries more weight than some others. If Washington were to beat the Cowboys in Week 18 and somehow tie, the final tiebreaker may come down to record against common opponents. The Commanders already beat Indianapolis, they need a Dallas loss here to even that tiebreaker. Root for the Colts.

New Orleans Saints (4-8) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6)

Monday, Dec. 5 at 8:15 p.m. ET

Neither of these teams is on the Commanders’ schedule this season so the tiebreakers will get interesting if the Buccaneers or the Saints go on a run. Unless Washington goes to contend for the division title, it won’t really matter what Tampa Bay does. Still, the further you can put teams behind you, the better. Root for the Saints.

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