NFL Playoff Scenarios 2012-13: What Each Fringe Team Should Be Rooting for

Tim KeeneyContributor IDecember 21, 2012

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 16:  Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins calls a play during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Sun Life Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Contrary to popular belief, winning isn't everything.

Nope, in addition to winning, you also need your rivals to lose, and in some really fun cases, you need your rivals to beat your other rivals. 

Thus the beauty of the last two weeks of the NFL season. 

For many squads still fighting for a final playoff position, they not only need to win out, but they need to do the unthinkable and cheer for the enemy.

Let's take a look at what the teams currently on the outside looking in (note: a complete playoff picture can be found at the bottom of this page) need to root for. 

Chicago Bears (8-6)

The Bears are aiming for that last wild-card spot.

Assuming Chicago wins out and finishes 10-6, Bears fans should be rooting for either Houston or Green Bay to knock off Minnesota in the next few weeks.

Additionally, if two NFC East teams finish 10-6, the Bears will be passed up by the Giants. The easiest way to avoid this is to see New York fall to Baltimore this week and sit back and relax as Washington and Dallas play each other (thus meaning one won't finish with 10 wins) in Week 17.

To sum up: Go Houston! Go Green Bay! Go Baltimore!

Dallas Cowboys/Washington Redskins (8-6)

Pretty simple here, as each team controls its own fate: If either wins out, it will take home the NFC East crown.

As such, that's all either fan base should be worried about at this point. 

To sum up: Just win, baby

New York Giants (8-6)

The Giants, realistically, are going to have to win out.

Even if they do that, the playoffs aren't a full-blown guarantee. If Washington (at Philadelphia) and Dallas (vs. New Orleans) both win their Week 16 games, the Giants are going to need both Minnesota (at Houston, vs. Green Bay) and Chicago (at Arizona, at Detroit) to fail to win 10 games to avoid a tiebreaker for the final spot. 

To sum up: It's still a little early to tell, but rooting for Philadelphia and New Orleans this week (in addition to yourselves) is probably the best way to spend your time, Giants fans

St. Louis Rams (6-7-1)/New Orleans Saints (6-8)

Both of these squads are mathematically alive, but in addition to winning out, they need a lot of help. 

For the Rams, the Bears, Cowboys (or Redskins) and Giants all need to lose out.

For the Saints, the Bears, Cowboys (or Redskins), Giants and Rams all need to lose out.

To sum up: Go upsets!

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)

Pittsburgh can still actually win the AFC North if it wins out and the Baltimore Ravens lose to both the Giants and the Cincinnati Bengals. 

That would result in a three-way tie between Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincy, and according to ESPN's playoff machine, the Steelers would come out on top in that situation. 

To assure a wild-card spot, Pittsburgh needs to beat Cincy this week and hope the Bengals lose next week.

To sum up: Just win

Miami Dolphins (6-8)

Believe it or not, but the Dolphins are still in it. 

If they win out, Cincinnati loses out (at Pittsburgh, vs. Baltimore) and Pittsburgh loses in Week 17 to Cleveland, the Dolphins will secure the final wild-card spot. 

To sum up: Go Baltimore! Go Pittsburgh! Then, boo Pittsburgh! Go Cleveland!

NFC Playoff Picture

Division Leaders
 No. 1 Seed Atlanta Falcons (12-2) Clinched NFC South
 No. 2 Seed San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) Lead NFC West; Clinched Playoff Berth
 No. 3 Seed Green Bay Packers (10-4) Clinched NFC North
 No. 4 Seed Washington Redskins (8-6) Lead NFC East
Wild Card Leaders
 No. 5 Seed Seattle Seahawks (9-5)
 No. 6 Seed Minnesota Vikings (8-6)
In the Hunt
 Chicago Bears (8-6)
 Dallas Cowboys (8-6)
 New York Giants (8-6)
 St. Louis Rams (6-7-1)
 New Orleans Saints (6-8)

AFC Playoff Picture

Division Leaders
 No. 1 Seed Houston Texans (12-2) Clinched AFC South
 No. 2 Seed Denver Broncos (11-3) Clinched AFC West
 No. 3 Seed New England Patriots (10-4) Clinched AFC East
 No. 4 Seed Baltimore Ravens (9-5) Lead AFC North; Clinched Playoff Berth

Wild Card Leaders
 No. 5 Seed Indianapolis Colts (9-5)
 No. 6 Seed Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)
In the Hunt
 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)
 Miami Dolphins (6-8)

Remaining Schedule


Atlanta: vs. Detroit, vs. Chicago

San Francisco: at Seattle, vs. Arizona

Green Bay: vs. Tennessee, at Minnesota

Washington: at Philadelphia, vs. Dallas

Seattle: vs. San Francisco, vs. St. Louis

Minnesota: at Houston, vs. Green Bay

Chicago: at Arizona, vs. Detroit

Dallas: vs. New Orleans, at Washington

New York: at Baltimore, vs. Philadelphia

St. Louis: at Tampa Bay, at Seattle

New Orleans: at Dallas, vs. Carolina


Houston: vs. Minnesota, at Indianapolis

Denver: vs. Cleveland, vs. Kansas City

New England: at Jacksonville, vs. Miami

Baltimore: vs. New York Giants, at Cincinnati

Indianapolis: at Kansas City, vs. Houston

Cincinnati: at Pittsburgh, vs. Baltimore

Pittsburgh: vs. Cincinnati, vs. Cleveland

Miami: vs. Buffalo, at New England