The San Francisco 49ers took care of business Sunday in defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33-14. The 49ers had a chance to clinch a playoff spot on Sunday, but the Arizona Cardinals win over the Tennessee Titans put that off for the week. In spite of that, the 49ers got some huge help from the St. Louis Rams!
The Rams are having their way with the New Orleans Saints, and are set to drop the Saints to 10-4. The Carolina Panthers defeated the New York Jets, which leaves them tied with the 10-4 49ers, and moves them into a tie with the now 10-4 Saints. Both the Panthers and Saints have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the 49ers.
However, the Panthers and Saints square off in Carolina next week. The winner takes the division lead, while the loser would be in the wildcard race. More importantly, if the 49ers beat the Falcons on Monday Night Football, the 49ers would move ahead of the loser of Panthers-Saints.
As the No. 5 seed, the 49ers would face the No. 4 seed, which would be the "worst" division winner. If they won that game, and the 6 seed won their playoff game (realistic given Carolina or New Orleans would likely be that team), the 49ers would avoid the Seahawks in the NFC divisional round. That puts one more team in the Seahawks path to the Super Bowl. This all is still a ways off, but it's something to think about it.
Of course, those two lower division winners are up in the air. The Philadelphia Eagles held on to the NFC East lead this week after the Dallas Cowboys somehow blew a 26-3 lead to the Green Bay Packers. In the NFC North, the Chicago Bears hold a half-game lead over the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. A Lions win on Monday Night Football would give them the lead due to head-to-head tiebreaker against the Bears.
Here are the current playoff standings:
No. 1 Seattle Seahawks 12-2 (NFC West leader)
No. 2 New Orleans Saints 10-4 (NFC South leader)
No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles 8-6 (NFC East leader)
No. 4 Chicago Bears 8-6 (NFC North leader)
No. 5 Carolina Panthers 10-4 (Wild Card)
No. 6 San Francisco 49ers 10-4 (Wild Card)
As we head into next week, the 49ers can clinch a playoff spot with a win or an Arizona Cardinals loss. Fittingly enough, the Cardinals head north to face the Seattle Seahawks. It would be especially fitting if the Seahawks were the team to officially propel the 49ers into the postseason. The 49ers are in good shape to go even with a Cardinals win, but it would be amusing to some extent.
And of course, with the Seahawks winning in Week 15, the 49ers chances at claiming the division are fairly slim. Yes, they Seahawks could lose their final two games, but if you think they'll drop a pair of home games, I've got some great ocean-front property you might be interested in.
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