Let's start with this fact: The Falcons control their playoff fate. Win their remaining games, and they are the NFC South champions, and they will host a playoff game. And could possibly earn a first round bye.
But that doesn't mean there isn't a lot on the line for the Falcons in other NFC games. Even if the Falcons win out, playoff seeding is still on the line. And just in case they don't win out, it's good to know what implications the other games have.
So if you're a Falcons fan, here's who you should be rooting for this weekend:
1. The Falcons, duh.
A win over the 1-12 49ers would keep the Falcons on track to an NFC South championship, and it would put pressure on the two teams immediately above them in the race to a playoff bye: Seattle and Detroit. The Falcons have put themselves in position to win out and not worry about a lot of the noise below. But just in case that doesn't happen...
2. The Cowboys (over the Buccaneers)
You probably know this already, but the NFC South championship is the clearest path to the playoffs for the Falcons. A Dallas win over Tampa helps. But not as much as you may think. A Tampa loss to Dallas may not dramatically improve the Falcons path to NFC South championship. The Falcons would still need to beat both remaining NFC South foes on the schedule, if the Buccaneers do the same.
3. The Panthers (over the Redskins)
Pulling for a division rival is always counter-intuitive. But should the Falcons not win the NFC South, they would likely need to finish ahead of the Redskins, Vikings and Packers (or Lions) in order win a Wild Card berth in the NFC. The Redskins are only half a game back of the Falcons right now, so a loss to the Panthers would help.
4. The Colts (over the Vikings)
Like the Redskins, the Vikings are a Wild Card competitor if the Falcons don't win the NFC South. And at 7-6, they're only one game back of Atlanta. And just as a rule of thumb, it's almost always good to root for an AFC team when they're playing an NFC competitor.
5. The Bears (over the Packers)
See the Panthers and Colts above. And by the way, the Bears final three games are against the Packers, Redskins and Vikings. If you're a Falcons fan, it may not be the worst idea to learn the words to 'Bear Down' over the course of the next few weeks.
6. The Rams (over the Seahawks)
UPDATED: Er, nevermind.
7. The Giants (over the Lions)
There is a scenario where a Lions win over the Giants would be more beneficial for the Falcons. But in the best case scenario for the Falcons they would playing for a first-round bye, not a Wild Card spot. With that in mind, a Giants win would help the Falcons climb over the Lions for a higher seed.