The Commanders are in the thick of the wildcard race in the NFC. If the team simply wins both of its remaining games, it will end up in the playoffs at no worse than the 7th seed. We can’t, of course, count on going undefeated, so it’s good to know each week which teams to root for to maximize Washington’s chances of making the playoffs with the optimal seeding.
This week’s rooting guide
This week, we will also be taking into account the 2023 draft pick that the New Orleans Saints traded to the Eagles, so here’s the draft order (prior to Thursday Night Football):
Playoff possibilities for all 32 teams
Here’s where each of the 32 teams stand with respect to the playoffs with two games to go:
Clinched playoff berth:
AFC: Bills, Chiefs, Bengals Ravens, Chargers
NFC: Eagles, Vikings, 49ers, Cowboys.
Win 2 games & in:
AFC: Jaguars, Dolphins
NFC: Giants, Commanders, Buccaneers,
AFC: Patriots, Jets, Titans, Steelers, Raiders
NFC: Seahawks, Lions, Packers, Panthers, Saints
AFC: Texans, Broncos, Colts, Browns
NFC: Bears, Cardinals, Rams, Falcons
Rooting guide for Week 17
If you want to know who to root for in this weekend’s games, here’s a handy rooting guide aimed at maximizing Washington’s chances of earning a wildcard seeding, along with some other considerations:
Cowboys at Titans
No mystery here. Titan up!! A Dallas loss would eliminate any possibility of the Cowboys winning the division — in effect, locking them in as the 5th seed. The potential advantage of this outcome is that the Cowboys might want to rest starters in their Week 18 game against Washington. (Update: The Cowboys won this game, keeping them in contention for the NFC East championship, and, at this point at least, still with a mathematical chance of earning the #1 seed, along with a Week 1 bye and home field throughout the playoffs)
Colts at Giants
Jeff Saturday needs to get Nick Foles or his QB du jour to lift Indy (+5.5) to victory on Sunday.
Bears at Lions
Easy call here - we’re all Chicago Bears fans on Sunday!
Jets at Seahawks
Per DraftKings, the Jets are currently favored by 2 points. I’m counting on Mike White’s return for the Jets this week. Seems like I say it every week, but root for NYJ. J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets!
Saints at Eagles
There are three issues here:
- We hate the Eagles and always want them to lose
- The value of the Saints 2023 first round draft pick traded to the Eagles
- NFCE Division Champ and Philly’s playoff seeding (they could end up 1, 2 , 3 or 5)
Based on #1, we want the Saints to win.
With respect to #2, Per Tankathon, based on current records, that Saints ==> Eagles pick will be the #10 in the draft. We want the Saints to keep winning to keep reducing the value of that draft pick. In fact, the Saints are still in contention for the NFC South division championship, which would put them into the playoffs as the #4 seed instead of the Buccaneers (currently leading the NFC South division).
- If Philly ends up with the same record as the Vikings, the Eagles get the higher seeding based on having beaten the Vikings in the regular season.
- The only way the Cowboys tie the Eagles is if Dallas beats Washington in Week 18, which we don’t want to plan for; however, a win by Philly here clinches the division and opens up the possibility that Dallas rests starters.
The #Eagles have an opportunity to double-dip this week: A win over the Saints would clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC -- and would also raise the value of the Saints first-round pick, which Philadelphia owns. https://t.co/wZHYZZcVfx— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) December 29, 2022
The “Dallas fighting for a division championship” thing isn’t insignificant, but on the whole, I’d say to root for the Saints to upset the Eagles, who are currently favored by 5.5 points. The silver lining of an Eagles victory, if it occurred, would be that it would lock the Cowboys into the 5th seed, giving Dallas nothing to play for in their Week 18 game at FedEx Field.
Panthers at Buccaneers
This game could decide or help decide the division champion in the NFC South. As mentioned above, the Saints can still win the division if Tampa Bay goes 0-2 in Weeks 17 & 18, which would dramatically degrade the value of the Eagles’ first round draft pick acquired in trade from New Orleans. Root for the Panthers (+3.5) to get the road upset against the Buccaneers. #KeepPounding
49ers at Raiders
I don’t know about you, but I’m not keen to play the 49ers in the first week of the playoffs, so I’m happy for them to finish as the #3 seed; that means I don’t want them supplanting the Vikings as the #2. This outweighs my desire for the Raiders to stay ahead of the Saints in the daft order. The Raiders opened as 4 point underdogs, but the line has moved to +9.5 with the news that Derek Carr has been put on the shelf. Root for a very unlikely Las Vegas upset of the Niners, who are the hottest team in the NFL at the moment.
Vikings at Packers
Two for the price of one. Clearly, we want the Packers to lose. We want the Vikings to hold onto the #2 seed. #SKOL (Packers are favored by 3)
Jaguars at Texans
The Jags are one of the 7-win teams that could end up picking ahead of the Saints in the draft if they lose both of their remaining games. While the Texans were not a serious threat to win a game a few weeks ago, their performance in recent weeks, including Saturday’s victory over the Titans, make the current 3.5-point underdogs a decent bet to challenge the surging Jaguars (3-game win streak) this week. Back the underdog Houston team.
Dolphins at Patriots
Once again, the 7-win Patriots could end up picking ahead of the Saints in the draft. This is pretty thin reasoning, but root for Miami (+2.5) this week.
Cardinals at Falcons
The Cardinals are currently 4-11 while the Falcons are 5-10. Root for Arizona to win in Week 17 to keep both teams a game ahead of New Orleans in the 2023 draft order.
Rams at Chargers
Just to make sure the Rams and Saints don’t end up with the same number of wins (the Rams have tougher Strength of Schedule, so the Saint would move up in the draft order), cheer for the Chargers, who are favored by 6.5 points.
Steelers at Ravens, Broncos at Chiefs
Sit back and enjoy these AFC matchups; root for whomever you like. One of these games will have the front runner for 2022 MVP playing in it.
Bills at Bengals
This looks like it could be one of the games of the year. Sit back and enjoy what looks like a great MNF matchup in which the Commanders have no identifiable rooting interest.
National survey results from Reacts email poll
SB Nation sends out a weekly email poll (you can click here to sign up). Here are the game predictions from NFL fans from across the globe.
- They’ve already got the Thursday night game right
- You can see that they’ve picked the Commanders to prevail over the Browns on Sunday afternoon
- A predicted win by the Eagles would lock Dallas into the 5th seed
- The predicted Giants win would lock them in as the 6th seed
- And the predicted win by the Vikings would keep the Commanders mathematically alive in the playoff hunt if they lose to the Browns, or eliminate the Packers from playoff contention if the Commanders win. It would also keep the Vikings in the #2 seed (the 49ers would be seeded ahead of the Vikings if the two teams finish with identical records)
- The predicted Buccaneers win would eliminate the Panthers from playoff contention. If they Eagles also win, then the Bucs would clinch the NFC South division title with a win. A loss by the Bucs would see the Panthers take over 1st place in the division and the #4 seed in the NFC
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