Week 15 comes to a close Monday evening with the Detroit Lions hosting the Baltimore Ravens. The Lions need a win to maintain their lead in the NFC North. They would move into a tie with the Chicago Bears, but they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
In the meantime, the 49ers did what they needed to do in Week 15, and got some help along the way. The 49ers beat the Buccaneers 33-14 to improve to 10-4. They saw the Eagles and Cowboys lose, but they did not get the necessary Cardinals loss to clinch a playoff berth. Nonetheless, their positioning improved on Sunday. The Saints lost an ugly one to the Rams, while the Panthers beat the New York Jets. The Saints and Panthers are now tied for first in the NFC South, and tied with the 49ers at 10-4. The Saints and Panthers square off in Week 16, and whether they tie, or one loses, a 49ers win vaults San Francisco into the No. 5 seed.
For now, that is what the 49ers are playing for. The Seahawks have two home games left to clinch the NFC West and the best record in the conference. Anything is possible, but I don't see back-to-back home losses. But, we'll hope for the best!
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)
Week 16 schedule
49ers vs. Falcons - The 49ers can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Falcons. The Falcons season has gone down the toilet, although it should surprise nobody that Washington made them look halfway decent for a while in Week 15. The passing game is their biggest threat, but the 49ers get another crack at old friend Steven Jackson. The long-time Ram made his way southeast, but it's been a miserable season as he's dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness.
Cardinals @ Seahawks - The 49ers could already have a playoff berth sewn up before Monday Night Football even starts. If the Cardinals lose in Seattle, the 49ers clinch a playoff berth. The 49ers technically can still clinch the division if they win out and the Seahawks lose out, but I just don't see the Seattle losing home games to the Cardinals AND Rams.
Saints @ Panthers - The Saints were stunned at St. Louis on Sunday, opening the door for some movement for the 49ers. If the 49ers win out, they will claim the No. 5 seed because the loser of this game will drop a game back of them. And even if they tied, they'd be a half-game back. We like that!
Cowboys @ Washington - The NFC East is kind of a mess, with the Cowboys sitting a game back of the Eagles. Dallas has a home game left against Philadelphia however, but they need to win at Washington (or see Philly lose). This is a huge game.
Giants @ Lions - The Lions are a half game back of the Bears heading into Monday Night Football. A win moves them back into first and a chance to claim the title with two more wins. The Giants looked awful against the Seahawks and have just about mailed it in.
Steelers @ Packers - The Packers remain alive in the playoff race, and Aaron Rodgers could be on his way back. They're a half game back of first, so a slip-up by the Lions and Bears opens the door for the Packers. Oh, and the Packers travel to Chicago to close out the season. Very interesting....
Bears @ Eagles - A matchup of two desperate teams looking to just pile on the win total. Neither impacts the 49ers, but both have huge implications in tight divisional races.