The 49ers will kick off in a few hours, but in the meantime, the AM slate of NFL action provides some pretty big matchups to follow. The 49ers have control over whether they can secure a first round bye, but three morning games could help them in their playoff quest.
The first step to earning a first round bye is securing the division. The 49ers hold a game and a half lead over the 6-4 Seattle Seahawks, but it would be nice to extend that out a bit more. The Seahawks travel to South Florida to take on the Miami Dolphins. The Seahawks are playing some solid football, but they currently sit at 1-4 on the road. Let's hope the road woes continue for Seattle.
The 7-3 Chicago Bears host the 6-4 Minnesota Vikings in a pretty huge NFC North matchup. The Bears have dropped into a tie with the Packers and the Packers hold the tie-breaker for now. The Bears need to hang steady with the Packers, while the Vikings are also hanging around. Jay Cutler is expected back for the Bears, so we'll see how big a difference he makes for that offense.
The biggest game of the morning in my mind has to be the Falcons-Buccaneers. The 6-4 Bucs host the 9-1 Falcons in a game that could tell us just how legit Tampa Bay really is. They have a lot of work to do to have a shot at the division, but a win would keep the Bucs right in the thick of the wildcard race. And it would also help out the 49ers, who sit a game and a half back of the Falcons for the best record in the NFC.