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Who to Root for in the NFL Week 17?

Six teams fighting for two spots in the tournament

Miami Dolphins v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

With only two games left in the NFL regular season, it’s now or never for teams still hoping to get into the postseason tournament. In the NFC, the stakes are high with as many as six teams vying for the sixth and seventh spots, which are final two entries into the playoffs (see chart below).

NFC Standings Through Week 16, Courtesy of x = clinched playoff berth. y = clinched division title. - Click to Enlarge

Positions 1 to 5 are already qualified for the playoffs, and the only thing left to decide atop the conference is which team will get the highly coveted first-round bye. The Green Bay Packers currently occupy the top spot, but are only one game ahead of the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Any slip up, and the Packers could find themselves playing on Wild Card weekend.

Where the fun resides in these last two weeks of the regular season is from rank 6 to 11. The San Francisco 49ers (8-7) are 6th in the NFC, yet only two games separate them from the 11th-seeded Washington Football Team (6-9) and with two games to go, anything can happen. The New Orleans Saints sit in the 10th position, a game behind the Philadelphia Eagles (8-7), and tied record-wise with the Minnesota Vikings (7-8) and Atlanta Falcons (7-8).

So, who should you root for this week in the NFC if you want the New Orleans Saints to have a chance of making it into the postseason for the fifth consecutive year? Let’s get to the games.

Atlanta Falcons (7-8) at Buffalo Bills (9-6) - Jan. 2, 12:00 PM CT

This one is easy: we always want the Falcons to lose. The setting here is propitious for the Saints, as the Falcons travel to cold Buffalo to play a Bills team that is battling the New England Patriots for the AFC East crown and will be playing to win. Root for Josh Allen and the Bills to break the spirit of the Falcons in flight and demolish them. A blowout would be appreciated. Should the Falcons lose and the Saints win against the Panthers on Sunday, New Orleans would leapfrog Atlanta in the NFC standings ahead of their matchup in Atlanta on the last day of the regular season.

Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) at Washington Football Team (6-9) - Jan. 2, 12:00 PM CT

The Eagles have been on a roll, winning three straight games to get their record over .500. Philly currently holds the final playoff spot and also owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over New Orleans. To that effect, this is a “root against the Eagles” game all the way. To supplant the Eagles in the NFC standings, the Saints need to win out and have the Eagles lose out. How about that losing out starts this Sunday? Geaux WFT!!!

Minnesota Vikings (7-8) at Green Bay Packers (12-3) - Jan. 2, 6:20 PM CT

Yo Aaron, do you also own the Vikings? If not, Sunday night would be a good place to start. After beating the Chicago Bears for the umpteenth time earlier this season, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers famously screamed to the Bears fans that he owned them. HE was right. Rodgers also somewhat owns the Minnesota Vikings, as the Packs have dominated the NFC North in the past decade. On Sunday night, a loss by Minnesota would seriously hamper their chance at making it into the playoffs, while a win by Green Bay would inch them closer to the number one overall seed in the NFC. You can expect the Packers to play hard in this one, and Saints’ fans to be rooting hard to Green Bay. An additional plot twist in this game is that Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is in COVID-19 protocols and will miss the game. Get well Kirk, but this is good news sports-wise for the Saints.

San Francisco 49ers (8-7) vs. Houston Texans (4-11) - Jan. 2, 13:05 PM CT

This game here is more wishful thinking than anything, as the Texans have been dreadful in a year filled with turmoil at every level. However, against all expectations, the Texans beat the competent Los Angeles Charges 41-29 last week. As the wise man once said: that’s why they play the games. Root like heck for Houston here, hoping that lightning strikes or the 49ers’ bus breaks down en route to the stadium. A loss here by San Francisco would open the door wide for a frantic finish in the NFC regular season.


There you have it friends, root away and watch the scoreboard, eat a ton of burgers and if you drink, please let someone else drive you.

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