NFL playoff picture: 49ers bye week potential faces stiff test

USA TODAY Sports

We break down the NFC playoff picture heading into Week 16, and what the 49ers playoff scenarios look like.

The 49ers secured a huge road win on Sunday in defeating the New England Patriots, and locked up a playoff berth with that victory. Obviously a playoff berth is only the first step in what will hopefully be a long journey next month and into February. But given how tight things are getting in the NFC, it is nice to secure that initial party invitation.

The win over the Patriots was especially big because of the Seahawks win over Buffalo and this weekend's Sunday Night Football matchup. The win maintains the 49ers 1 1/2 game lead over the Seahawks, which means San Francisco merely needs to split their last two games to clinch the NFC West. Of course, a 1-1 finish would mean the 49ers would need the Packers to lose a game to keep the first round bye.

Now that the 49ers have clinched a playoff berth, their playoff scenarios the rest of the way are pretty simple. For Week 16, a win or tie against the Seahawks clinches the NFC West. A win and Green Bay Packers loss or tie, OR a tie and a Packers loss clinches a first round bye. The 49ers hold a half game lead on Green Bay, so their Week 16 matchup against the Titans will be one to watch.

Here are the playoff standings following Week 15 NFC action:

1. Atlanta Falcons (12-2)
2. San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1)
3. Green Bay Packers (10-4)
4. Washington Redskins (8-6)
5. Seattle Seahawks (9-5)
6. Minnesota Vikings (8-6)

Bubble
Chicago Bears (8-6)
Dallas Cowboys (8-6)
New York Giants (8-6)
St. Louis Rams (6-7-1)

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