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The 49ers are still in control of their own destiny

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Win out and none of these scenarios will matter

Atlanta Falcons v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Rob will have his five takeaways on the 49ers loss to the Falcons Sunday. It was a difficult loss for all fans. The game was frustrating, considering how many things went wrong. In the NFL, you can’t make the kind of mistakes San Francisco did and expect to win. More on that later Monday afternoon.

My takeaway from the game was that if the Niners beat the Rams next Saturday and the Seahawks in Week 17, then San Francisco will be the top seed in the NFC and be NFC West champs. Losing to Atlanta was painful, but the 49ers season will come down to beating divisional opponents, as it should. The issue with losing to the Falcons was that the 49ers no longer have any margin for error. Let’s talk through some scenarios.

Divisional crown

If the 49ers beat Seattle Week 17, there’s a strong chance that they’ll be divisional champs, no matter what happens Week 16 against the Rams. Why? The tiebreaker. Let’s say both teams end up 12-4; it would come down to the strength of victory. San Francisco beat the Packers, Saints, and Washington. Seattle beat the Falcons, Vikings, and Eagles. If I’m doing this correct, that gives the 49ers a three-game lead.

These tiebreakers will put your brain in a pretzel, but we do need to talk through them. Here’s how the three-game lead applies: So we said Week 16 isn’t important for divisional purposes for the 49ers, and here’s why. Let’s say San Francisco loses to the Rams, and the Seahawks beat the Cardinals. That gives Seattle a one-game lead over San Francisco headed into their pivotal Week 17 matchup. When the 49ers beat Seattle, that will give them the same record as Seattle. It also gives the Niners and ‘Hawks the same divisional record at 4-2, same common games and conference record. The next tiebreaker is the strength of victory, which refers to the combined winning percentages of the opponents that a particular team has beaten. The combined victories for the three opponents for Seattle is 21, while San Francisco’s trio is 24, and would go to 25 if the Saints beat the Colts on Monday night football. We’re not rooting for New Orleans completely, though. A Saints loss would likely give the 49ers a bye, but we can get there when that happens as well.

This means Saturday’s game against the Rams matters only from a seeding standpoint for Week 17, as does the Seahawks game against the Cardinals. Seattle will be the No. 1 seed if there is a three-way tie at 13-3 with Green Bay and San Francisco. Here’s to hoping it doesn’t get to that so we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Worst-case scenario

The worst-case scenario would have been missing the playoffs in its entirety, which would have been still possible if the Rams had won on Sunday. The 49ers have clinched a spot in the playoffs with a Rams loss.

San Francisco can still end up as the sixth seed. They would have to finish 12-4 with both NFC North teams, but if the Niners one loss is Week 17, then they would go-to strength of schedule against the Vikings, and San Francisco would be the sixth seed. That’s the worst-case scenario in my eyes. Starting the season as they did, going into December with the best record in the NFL, and having a road playoff game as a Wildcard to kick off the tournament. Yes, it would be at Lambeau, and that is still not a good matchup for Green Bay. Again, you want to play as few games as possible in general, and hopefully, two of those are in Santa Clara.

Win out, and none of this will matter.