NFL Playoff Picture: Who to root for in Week 14 if you’re a Washington Commanders fan

Week 14 Washington Commanders rooting guide originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington


A tie with the New York Giants threw a wrinkle into everyone’s vision of the NFC playoff picture for the Washington Commanders (7-5-1). That result didn’t help and, for the most part, didn’t really hurt the Commanders as they make their playoff push. Washington’s playoff fate and seed still could very well be decided by how other results go during the final five weeks of the season.

The tie did, however, push them out of the playoff field for now. The Seattle Seahawks (7-5) moved into the final seed in the NFC Playoff field with their win.

But, the Commanders’ playoff destiny remains in their hands. If they win out, it doesn’t matter what the rest of the NFC does.

That is due to their upcoming Week 15 matchup with the Giants (7-4-1) that was flexed to Sunday Night Football. Win that game and the rest, then Washington is guaranteed no worse than the No. 7 seed. Those games are against the San Francisco 49ers (8-4), the Cleveland Browns (5-7) and a Week 18 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys (9-3).

To go higher than that, results need to go their way, mainly for the Seahawks and Cowboys to lose.

On a bye for Week 14, Washington gets a chance to sit back, mostly relax and see if games they may have rooting interest in go their way.

Right now, the Commanders are mathematically alive for all seven seeds in the NFC, including the No. 1 seed. However, for that to happen, the Philadelphia Eagles (11-1) must lose out and the Commanders win out, at minimum. An Eagles win this week would limit Washington to the Wild Card and seeds No. 5-7.

The Chicago Bears (3-10) were eliminated from playoff contention last week. That leaves 15 teams vying for seven spots. No one has clinched but that can change this week.

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 an 11-5-1 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 (5-8) – head-to-head

-Green Bay Packers (5-8) – head-to-head

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

-Minnesota Vikings (10-2) – head-to-head

-Detroit Lions (5-7) – head-to-head

Tiebreakers that are yet to be determined by contending teams:

Philadelphia Eagles (11-1), Dallas Cowboys (9-3), San Francisco 49ers (8-4), New York Giants (7-4-1), Seattle Seahawks (7-5), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6), Carolina Panthers (4-8), Arizona Cardinals (4-8), New Orleans Saints (4-9) and Los Angeles Rams (3-9).

Washington Week 14 Rooting Guide

Las Vegas Raiders (5-7) at Los Angeles Rams (3-9)

Thursday, Dec. 8 at 8:15 p.m. ET

It would take a collapse of monumental proportions for the Rams to pass the Commanders in the Wild Card race. A loss, however, eliminates Los Angeles altogether. Root for the Raiders.

Houston Texans (1-10-1) at Dallas Cowboys (9-3)

Sunday, Dec. 11 at 1:00 p.m. ET

In the overall playoff picture, a tie didn’t hurt the Commanders. But when it came to chasing the Cowboys, it really put them in a large hole when pairing their Indianapolis win in Week 13.

A – shocking – Texans win on Sunday would even the Dallas and Washington’s record against common opponents. Either way, it would take a lot from both teams for that to become a factor down the stretch. Root for the Texans.

Minnesota Vikings (10-2) at Detroit Lions (5-7)

Sunday, Dec. 11 at 1 p.m. ET

While Washington can catch the Vikings in the standings, getting the NFC East title is nearly out of their reach to make that chase relevant. The Lions, meanwhile are only two games back and do hold a tiebreaker over the Commanders. Root for the Vikings.

Philadelphia Eagles (11-1) at New York Giants (7-4-1)

Sunday, Dec. 11 at 1 p.m. ET

I’m warning you now, you likely aren’t going to like this explanation.

It’s quite simple. The Giants hold a spot in the standings that Washington could claim in two weeks’ time. Yes, an Eagles win would officially end any hope of the NFC East division title and the No. 1 seed as well, but the only way that could happen is if the Eagles lose out (unlikely) and the Commanders win out (also unlikely).

As much as it will pain you to do so, root for the Eagles. 

Carolina Panthers (4-8) at Seattle Seahawks (7-5)

Sunday, Dec. 11 at 4:25 p.m. ET

Seattle leapfrogged Washington this past week with their victory over the Rams. The Commanders could leapfrog them right back for the No. 7 seed if the Seahawks were to lose this game. Root for the Panthers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6) at San Francisco 49ers (8-4)

Sunday, Dec. 11 at 4:25 p.m. ET

This is an interesting one for both the Commanders and the playoff picture as a whole. Arguments could be made on both sides.

Look at it this way, for the Buccaneers to contend for a playoff spot they will have to lose multiple games. The 49ers just have to lose their Seahawks matchup to drop them back into the Wild Card race.

No need to play mind games and the game of motivation in a week-to-week league with the Week 16 head-to-head looming. The Commanders can afford to let Tampa win this one, root for the Buccaneers.

New England Patriots (6-6) at Arizona Cardinals (4-8)

Monday, Dec. 12 at 8:15 p.m. ET

It’s AFC vs. NFC, so always root for the AFC opponent. Root for the Patriots.

NFC Playoff contending teams on a bye: New Orleans Saints (4-9), Atlanta Falcons (5-8), Washington Commanders (7-5-1) and Green Bay Packers (5-8).

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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