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NFL Playoff Picture: 49ers Hope For Some Help On Sunday

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The good news heading into Sunday is that San Francisco 49ers "control their own destiny" when it comes to securing the number two seed and accompanying first round bye. Although technically destiny seemingly cannot be controlled, we'll leave that aside for the moment. If the 49ers win their final three games, the bye is there.

While it would be nice just to have the 49ers handle their business and move on, that is not going to stop us from hoping for a little help along the way. Why make life difficult when somebody else can mess up and ease the road a bit? The 49ers primary competition for the two seed is the New Orleans Saints. The Cowboys are still alive in that battle, but realistically, New Orleans and San Francisco are the ones battling it out for the two seed.

The Saints travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings. While it is great that it is a road game, it is indoors at the Metrodome, which would seem to play into the Saints hands. Of course, the Saints did play indoors against the Rams and lost, so anything is possible. The Saints almost slipped up last week against the Titans, but the Saints got their act together in the fourth quarter and held off the Titans.

Although the 49ers' primary focus is the Saints, there is still some playoff positioning that could impact potential opponents. The Atlanta Falcons currently hold the top wild card and have the best chance of locking it up in the coming weeks thanks to their numerous tiebreaker advantages.

However, the Detroit Lions are in a tough situation coming down the stretch. They hold the other wildcard with a full one-game lead on the Bears and Giants and a two-game lead on the Seahawks and Cardinals. And yet, it is not a simple process for them down the stretch.

The Lions final three games are at Oakland, home against San Diego and at Green Bay. Realistically they can beat Oakland and San Diego, but those are not gimmes. The Raiders are struggling but will look to bounce back at home. The Chargers record does not reflect their current hot streak in December that has become an annual event.

One possible bizarro situation? The Seahawks win out, the Giants and Lions both lose two of three and the 49ers end up with the three seed, not the two seed. What does that leave us with? A first round playoff matchup between the 49ers and Seahawks. Ideally the 49ers will win out, thus earning the bye and costing Seattle a playoff spot, but that alternative possibility is not quite as crazy as it might seem at first glance.