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Who Should I Root For? A Week 15 guide for every team in the playoff hunt

With the Cowboys' loss to the Jets on Thursday Night Football: Saturday Edition, Dallas are no longer able to make the playoffs. The number


With the Cowboys’ loss to the Jets on Thursday Night Football: Saturday Edition, Dallas are no longer able to make the playoffs. The number of teams still mathematically alive for the postseason now stands at 24, with just three of the twelve playoffs spots locked in. By the time the final whistle blows on Monday Night Football, however, we there could be several other teams that will have joined the Panthers, Patriots and Cardinals in the playoffs – and many others who’s seasons will be mathematically over. With that in mind, we’ve produced this guide to every game taking place today, telling the fanbase of all 24 teams still alive for the playoffs who they should be rooting for, in order to either secure their team’s playoff place, or just to stay alive for another week!  

Early Games

Kansas City Chiefs @ Baltimore Ravens

  ROOT FOR THE CHIEFS

  • Chiefs fans. That’s it. No other team will benefit from a Chiefs victory.

ROOT FOR THE RAVENS

  • Texans fans. As things technically stand, the Texans could still make the postseason as a wild card team if they don’t win the division, but the Chiefs could help to end that if they win or tie today, if the Texans end up tying with the Colts. A Ravens victory could keep the Texans’ dream alive if they tie today rather than win their own game, depending what happens between the Steelers and Broncos later.
  • Bills fans. Like the Texans, a win or tie by the Chiefs could end the Bills’ chance of a wild card if they tie in their own game today. Unlike the Texans, the wild card is the only option left to the Bills to see the postseason, so Buffalo fans should be rooting hard for the Ravens.
  • Raiders fans. There’s a few scenarios that could end the Raiders’ season today, but the worst one of all would be a win by both the Chiefs and Steelers – if that happens, then the Raiders are officially done for the year, even if they win their own game. A Ravens victory will mean that the Raiders will stay alive another week as long as Oakland take care of business.
  • Steelers fans. Rooting for your archrivals may be emotionally difficult, but with the Jets winning last night, a Chiefs loss would put the Steelers in position to control their destiny for the post season, as long as they beat the Broncos.
  • Jets fans. The Jets are currently ahead of the Steelers in tiebreakers, due to their superior conference record – but if the Steelers win out, they can match the Jets’ conference record, forcing a strength-of-victory tiebreaker which could see the Steelers edging them out of the postseason. So, the Jets need the Chiefs or Steelers to slip up in their remaining games, so a Baltimore victory will put the Jets back in control of their own destiny.
  • Colts fans. As with their division rivals the Texans, the Colts could still make the playoffs as a wild card if they don’t win the AFC South, but a Chiefs tie or win means that anything less than a victory for the Colts will force them to have to win the division to make the postseason.
  • Broncos fans. The Broncos kick off at 4:25pm ET today, but they could have already secured the AFC West before they set foot on the field. A Chiefs loss will hand them the division before they’ve played a down today.

UNAFFECTED Jaguars, Bengals, Patriots, Every NFC team  

Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts

  ROOT FOR THE TEXANS

  • Jaguars fans. A win by the Texans means that even if the Jags lose to the Falcons today, they’re still in with a shot of winning the AFC South.
  • Texans fans. Obviously, Texans fans would be rooting for the Texans anyway, but this game has more importance than others. A loss isn’t necessarily fatal to the Texans’ postseason hunt, but it would hand the head-to-head tiebreaker to the Colts, putting Indy firmly in the driving seat for the division.

ROOT FOR THE COLTS

  • Colts fans. Again, it seems obvious, but it’s worth repeating that a win today puts the Colts in charge of their own destiny. In fact, a win today could see the Colts wrap up the AFC South next week, allowing them to rest their starters in Week 17.

UNAFFECTED Bills, Raiders, Steelers, Jets, Chiefs, Broncos, Bengals, Patriots, Every NFC team

Atlanta Falcons @ Jacksonville Jaguars

  ROOT FOR THE FALCONS

  • Falcons fans. The Falcons are the only team who benefit from a victory today – and a loss will end their season, though their season could end anyway depending on the outcomes of other games.

ROOT FOR THE JAGUARS

  • Jaguars fansA loss won’t automatically end the season for the Jags in itself, but it will be over if the Colts also win today. A victory will guarantee the Jaguars stay alive another week.
  • Vikings fans. There are eight possible scenarios that will see the Vikings secure a playoff spot this week, but six of them require a Falcons loss or tie, so if you wear purple, support teal today.
  • Seahawks fans. A Falcons loss or tie will open up three potential scenarios for Seattle to claim a playoff spot – two of which mean they can make the post season if they tie in their own game.

UNAFFECTED Texans, Bills, Raiders, Steelers, Jets, Chiefs, Colts, Broncos, Bengals, Patriots, Bears, Saints, Bucs, Rams, Giants, Eagles, Washington, Packers, Cardinals, Panthers

Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings

  ROOT FOR THE BEARS

  • Bears fans. A given, as a tie or loss would eliminated them from the playoffs.
  • Saints fans. If the Vikings tie or win, then the result of the Seahawks game could end the Saints’ season regardless of what happens in their own game. A Bears victory will keep the Saints alive another week.
  • Bucs fans. As with Saints fans, tie or wins by both the Vikings and the Seahawks end their season, so a Bears win would keep the Bucs alive a while longer.
  • Giants fans. The Giants can’t be eliminated from their division race this week, but they could be eliminated from a wild card spot with a Vikings tie or win; a Vikings loss, however, guarantees they can’t be eliminated from the wild card this week.
  • Eagles fans. In the exact same situation as the Giants, a Vikings loss would guarantee the Eagles can’t be eliminated from the wild card hunt this week.
  • Falcons fans. The Falcons could be eliminated this week regardless of their own game if both the Vikings and Seahawks win. A Vikings loss, however, means that a win or tie in their own game will keep the Falcons alive.
  • Washington fans. Like the Giants and Eagles, Washington are still in the mix for a wild card spot, even if they don’t win their division. A Vikings win, however, will put them at risk of being forced out of the wild card race depending on what happens in their own game and the Seahawks game.
  • Seahawks fans. A Vikings loss would open up one of the six scenarios that would guarantee Seattle a playoff spot, and in either case, will help Seattle out when it comes to deciding who’ll hold the #5 seed and who’ll hold the #6 seed.

ROOT FOR THE VIKINGS 

  • Vikings fans. A given, really, but there’s no way the Vikings can secure a playoff spot this week without at least a tie.

UNAFFECTED Rams, Packers, Cardinals, Panthers, every AFC team

Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots

  ROOT FOR THE TITANS

  • Broncos fans. The Broncos are just a game behind the Patriots, and own the head-to-head tiebreaker over them, so a Titans upset would give the Broncos the chance to leapfrog the Patriots in the seedings.
  • Bengals fans. The Patriots currently have a better conference record than the Bengals, but a Titans win would see the two both at 8-2 in the AFC, which will come into play when it comes to seedings.

ROOT FOR THE PATRIOTS

  • Patriots fans. The Pats are the only team that benefit from them winning, and a win could help them secure a first-round bye this week.

UNAFFECTED Jaguars, Texans, Bills, Raiders, Steelers, Jets, Chiefs, Colts, Every NFC team

Carolina Panthers @ New York Giants

  ROOT FOR THE PANTHERS

  • Eagles fans. The Giants might be currently coming out third in the three-way tie at the top of the NFC East, but still, the less competition for the Eagles the better, especially as Philly have to face Big Blue in Week 17, a game which would be made all the easier for the Eagles if the Giants have nothing left to play for.
  • Vikings fans. The Vikings have eight possible scenarios for clinching a playoff spot today, but four of them require the Giants to tie or lose, and a fifth requires an outright loss for the Giants.
  • Seahawks fans. A Giants tie or loss against the Panthers would mean that a Seattle victory will clinch them a playoff spot, and an outright Giants loss could even see Seattle get into the postseason today on a tie, depending on the Falcons game.
  • Washington fans. As with the Eagles, a Giants loss will just make everything a little easier for Washington. A Giants loss today, coupled with an Eagles loss, could see Washington secure the division next week.
  • Packers fans. A Giants tie or loss will clinch the Packers a playoff spot, regardless of the outcome of their own game.
  • Panthers fans. One step closer to 16-0.

ROOT FOR THE GIANTS

  • Giants fans. The Giants would be the only team to benefit from a victory, in keeping them in the mix for the division title.

UNAFFECTED Bears, Saints, Bucs, Rams, Falcons, Cardinals, Panthers, every AFC team.

Buffalo Bills @ Washington Redskins

  ROOT FOR THE BILLS

  • Bills fans. The Bills can’t be eliminated from the wild card chase if they win today, but a tie will put them at risk of being eliminated, while a loss will end their season outright.
  • Giants fans. The Giants are at the mercy of both Washington and the Eagles in terms of tiebreakers, so a Bills victory would at least give the Giants the opportunity to move ahead of Washington.
  • Eagles fans. As with the Giants, the Eagles are at the mercy of tiebreakers to Washington, who would win the division if they win out. A Washington loss, coupled with an Eagles victory, would set up next week’s game between the two teams to have a huge impact on the division race.
  • Vikings fans. The Vikings could clinch a playoff spot if one of eight different scenarios come to pass, but three of them require Washington to lose or tie, and two further require an outright loss by Washington.
  • Seahawks fans. The Seahawks also have multiple scenarios for clinching a playoff spot, five in their case. Of those, one of them requires a Washington tie or loss, and another requires an outright loss by Washington. In the former, the Seahawks would clinch if they beat the Browns today.
  • Packers fans. The Packers will clinch a playoff spot with a Washington tie or loss.

ROOT FOR WASHINGTON

  • Washington fans. Washington will be the only team to benefit from a victory, but doing so will keep them out front in the NFC East – if they win out, the division will be theirs, due to owning various tiebreakers over the Eagles and Giants.

UNAFFECTED Jaguars, Texans, Raiders, Steelers, Jets, Chiefs, Colts, Broncos, Bengals, Patriots, Bears, Saints, Bucs, Rams, Falcons, Cardinals, Panthers.

Late Games

Green Bay Packers @ Oakland Raiders

  ROOT FOR THE PACKERS

  • Seahawks fans. A Packers win or tie could help the Seahawks clinch a playoff spot, in one of five scenarios that could see Seattle secure a place in the postseason today.
  • Packers fans. A win or tie against the Raiders will clinch the Packers a playoff spot.

ROOT FOR THE RAIDERS

  • Raiders fans. A loss today will end the Raiders season. In fact, even a win today won’t necessarily be enough to save the Raiders, as victories by both the Chiefs and Steelers will eliminate Oakland from the playoffs, but a loss will be an instant termination of the 2015 campaign.
  • Vikings fans. Though the division seems to be slipping away from Minnesota, mathematically the Vikes could still bounce back to win the NFC North. A Packers loss today would go a big way to helping that happen.
  • Cardinals fans. The Cardinals haven’t secured the NFC West yet, but could do so today; however, they can do more than that – if the Pack lose or tie, then a Cards win won’t just clinch them their division, but also a first round bye. Even if the Cards tie, an outright Packers loss will give Arizona one of the top two seeds in the NFC.

UNAFFECTED Jaguars, Texans, Bills, Steelers, Jets, Chiefs, Colts, Broncos, Bengals, Patriots, Bears, Saints, Bucs, Rams, Giants, Eagles, Falcons, Washington, Panthers.

Cleveland Browns @ Seattle Seahawks

  ROOT FOR THE BROWNS

  • Saints fans. A tie or win by the Seahawks could eliminate the Saints from the postseason, depending on what happens on the Vikings game – even if the Saints win their own game.
  • Bucs fans. As with several other teams, a Seahawks tie or win, coupled with a Vikings tie or win, will end the Bucs’ season.
  • Rams fans. A Seahawks tie or win will eliminate the Rams from the playoffs.
  • Giants fans. The Giants, like the other two teams they are tied with in the NFC East, are mathematically still alive for the playoffs, but a Seahawks tie or win could see the Giants eliminated from a wild card spot, depending on the result of their own game and the Vikings game.
  • Eagles fans. In the same situation as the Giants – a Seattle win or tie, depending on the results of their own game and the Vikings game, could eliminate the Eagles from a wild card spot.
  • Falcons fans. Even a Falcons win might not be enough to save their season if both the Seahawks and the Vikings win, so Atlanta fans should be rooting for the Browns today.
  • Washington fans. Similarly to the Giants and Eagles, Washington could mathematically win a wild card spot if they fail to win the division, but a Seahawks tie or win could stop that being the case, depending on the Vikings game and Washington’s own result.
  • Vikings fans. The Vikings have eight scenarios that could see them clinch a playoff spot today, two of which would require a Seahawks loss or tie.
  • Cardinals fans. A loss or tie by the Seahawks would mean that the Cardinals automatically win the NFC West.

ROOT FOR THE SEAHAWKS

  • Seahawks fans. There’s no other team that would benefit from a Seattle victory; on the other hand, a win or even a tie could see them clinching a playoff spot, with five scenarios that could guarantee them a place in the postseason.

UNAFFECTED Bears, Packers, Panthers, every AFC team.

Denver Broncos @ Pittsburgh Steelers

  ROOT FOR THE BRONCOS

  • Texans fans. The Texans are still alive for a wild card spot if they don’t win their division, but a Steelers win would mean that if the Texans tie, they would be eliminated from a wild card spot (they would be eliminated anyway with an outright loss due to the Jets’ victory last night).
  • Bills fans. A Steelers win would mean that anything but a victory for the Bills would end their season.
  • Raiders fans. The Raiders might be eliminated from the playoffs even if they win today, if the Chiefs and Steelers both win. A Steelers loss means that the Raiders can at least guarantee they remain alive for one more week with a victory.
  • Jets fans. The Jets currently own the conference record tiebreaker over the Steelers, but that will not be the case if the Steelers win their remaining game. A Broncos victory today would put the Jets in control of their destiny for a wild card spot.
  • Colts fans. Like the Texans, the Colts could mathematically make the playoffs with a wild card if they don’t win the division, but a Steelers victory could stop the being the case, depending on the outcomes of the Colts and Chiefs games.
  • Broncos fans. A Broncos victory would clinch the AFC West for the team if the Chiefs lose or tie their game. Even if the Chiefs win their game, a Broncos victory would guarantee them at least a wild card spot.
  • Bengals fans. A Steelers loss would give the Bengals the AFC North crown, as would a Steelers tie if the Bengals themselves either tie or win their own game.
  • Cardinals fans. Due to the strength of schedule tiebreaker, the Cardinals could win their division today even if they lose their own game and the Seahawks get a win. To do so, the Steelers would have to lose, coupled with a Bengals victory and Saints victory.

ROOT FOR THE STEELERS

  • Steelers fans. Though they may be third in the three-way tie for the two wild card spots today, if the Steelers win out, they will actually own a tiebreaker over the Jets. With the Jets having won last night, a win here is key to stay in the driving seat for a wild card spot.
  • Chiefs fans. If the Broncos lose today, then the Chiefs cannot be eliminated from the AFC West championship race this week.
  • Seahawks fans. The Seahawks are on the cusp of losing the race for the NFC West crown, but if the Steelers win or tie, then Seattle can keep the race alive for another week with a victory.
  • Patriots fans. A Broncos loss, coupled with a win in their own game, will clinch a first round bye for the Pats.

UNAFFECTED Jaguars, Bears, Bucs, Rams, Giants, Eagles, Falcons, Vikings, Washington, Packers, Panthers.

Miami Dolphins @ San Diego Chargers

  UNAFFECTED Every playoff-contending team. This is the only game that has no playoff implications whatsoever in the whole of Week 15, though Monday Night Football’s game could be equally irellevant if today’s results sees the Saints knocked out of playoff contention.

Cincinnati Bengals @ San Francisco 49ers

  ROOT FOR THE BENGALS

  • Bengals fans. The Bengals will secure at least a playoff spot with a victory today, and could clinch the AFC North depending on the Steelers game.
  • Seahawks fans. The Cards could clinch the NFC West regardless of the outcome of their own game or the Seahawks game, due to strength-of-schedule tiebreakers. A Bengals victory means that the Cardinals can’t win the division on strength-of-schedule alone.

ROOT FOR THE 49ers

  • Steelers fans. A 49ers victory would mean that the Bengals can’t clinch the AFC North this week.
  • Cardinals fans. As mentioned above, the Cards could clinch the NFC West even if they lose and the Seahawks win. For that to be the case, the Bengals would have to tie or lose this game, along with the outcomes of some other games.

Sunday Night Football

Arizona Cardinals @ Philadelphia Eagles

  ROOT FOR THE CARDINALS

  • Giants fans. The Giants are in a three-way tie with the Eagles and Washington, but are currently slated to finish third in the NFC East once tiebreakers are applied. A loss by the Eagles will at least give the Giants the opportunity of moving a game ahead.
  • Washington fans. Washington will win the NFC East if they win out, but if the other teams tied at the top of the division stumble, it will help reduce the pressure on the team. A loss by the Eagles may even allow Washington to wrap up the division next week.
  • Vikings fans. The Vikings have eight scenarios where they could make the playoffs; an Eagles loss or tie is required for two of those eight.
  • Cardinals fans. The Cardinals will win the NFC West with a win or tie, and could even clinch a first round bye as well depending on the outcome of the Packers game.

ROOT FOR THE EAGLES

  • Eagles fans. Next week, the Eagles face Washington, who are currently in the driving seat for the NFC East. They end their season with a game against the Giants. Being tied at the top of the division with both these teams, they cannot afford to lose ground in the race for the NFC East crown before they face their two divisional rivals.
  • Panthers fans. The Panthers have a chance to secure the #1 seed in the NFC, but they’ll need some help from the Eagles to get there. A Cardinals loss or tie, combined with a Panthers win, would give Carolina homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

DEPENDS ON OUTCOMES OF THE EARLIER GAMES

  • Seahawks fans. Yes, it seems bizarre, but there’s a particular scenario where Seahawks fans may have to root for their divisional rivals tonight. Seattle are obviously trying to chase Arizona for the NFC West, but a loss or tie earlier in the day will give the division to the Cards. If Seattle lose earlier in the day, then the outcome of this game won’t affect them, and the ’12th ‘man’ will no doubt be cheering for their rivals to fail, even if they won’t actually gain anything from it. But if the Seahawks tie, then they may be out the division race, but they could still clinch a playoff place this week. There’s two scenarios where that’s the case, both of which require the Falcons to lose or tie, and if the Falcons win, then there’s no need to root for the Cards. If the Falcons do lose or tie, however, then there’s two possibilities for the Seahawks to secure a postseason berth this week – either with a Giants loss, OR both a Washington loss AND an Eagles loss or tie. So, to recap: if the Seahawks tie, and the Falcons lose or tie, and the Giants win, and Washington lose, THEN, and only then, does it make more sense for Seahawks fans to want the Cardinals to win or tie, as that would result in Seattle clinching a playoff berth.

UNAFFECTED Bears, Saints, Bucs, Rams, Falcons, Vikings, Packers, every AFC team.

Related Reading


Gur Samuel

Hi! I'm Gur and I'm RealSport's Editor-in-Chief. I'm also currently the site's tennis editor, and contribute to our NFL, wrestling and Formula 1 coverage as well. I'm also an NFL analyst for CNN International and contributor to SB Nation, and have contributed to, or been interviewed by, various print, broadcast and online media, including the BBC, Mail Online, ABC, NBC, CBS, the Boston Globe, and Yahoo! Sports.

Who Should I Root For? A Week 15 guide for every team in the playoff hunt

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