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NFC Playoff Picture, Week 12: A bye week is critical for the 49ers

It’s the easiest path to the Super Bowl

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The last month and a half of the NFC playoff races will be a sight to see. The two seed for Week 12 could be the five seed by Week 13. Here are the six current. Playoff teams in the NFC:

  1. San Francisco 49ers (9-1, NFC West)
  2. Green Bay Packers (8-2, NFC North)
  3. New Orleans Saints (8-2, NFC South)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (6-4, NFC East)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (8-2, Wild Card)
  6. Minnesota Vikings (8-3, Wild Card)

The next three teams are on the outside looking in but could sneak in with a few breaks going their way.

7. Los Angeles Rams (6-4)

8. Philadelphia Eagles (5-5)

9. Carolina Panthers (5-5)

The 49er’s goal should be to win their division and secure a first-round bye. They’re the one seed with six weeks to go, but we all know how tough the last part of the Niners schedule is. The next three games will be the toughest three-game stretch at this point in the season in NFL history:

The next two NFC opponents the 49ers face are the other top two teams in the conference. Sunday night’s game against the Packers will have a significant impact on the NFC playoff standings as well as the NFC West. A 49ers loss coupled with a Seahawks win over the Eagles will put the 49ers in second place in the division, since they would lose the current head-to-head tiebreaker with Seattle.

If you want to drive yourself crazy with simulations, ESPN has a playoff machine. There’s a real chance that the 49ers can finish 12-4, but have the fifth seed. A road Wildcard game would be the worst-case scenario considering the start of the season. That would also require the Vikings winning out. Far-fetched, but possible. I found a scenario where the 49ers could go 12-4 and end up with the sixth-seed. It also had Seattle as the second seed. That would be the worst-case scenario.

If the 49ers handle their business, they’ll have a first-round bye. There’s a strong chance that Week 17 will determine who gets a bye, and who has to go to Lambeau Field in January. As an expert in simulations, here’s the most logical way the playoff picture will turn out:

1) Saints

2) 49ers

3) Packers

4) Cowboys

5) Vikings

6) Seahawks

The NFL has never given us logic, however. Nothing is ever easy, much like the 49ers’ final six games.