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NFC Playoff Picture heading into Week 14: Just keep winning

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You too, Rams.

San Francisco 49ers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

If the season ended today, the 10-2 San Francisco 49ers would have to go on the road and face the 6-6 Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs. Thankfully, Eric Branch has provided some insight on the topic:

The 49ers would likely be five-point favorites, steamroll Dallas, and have a road game the next week against the Saints. It’s the principle, though. Rewarding a six-win team because they play in a division that has an out of conference record that’s something like 10-26, I believe, is faulty.

Playoff picture

Heading into Week 14, here are the standings:

DIVISION LEADERS

No. 1: New Orleans Saints (10-2, NFC South)

No. 2: Seattle Seahawks (10-2, NFC West)

No. 3: Green Bay Packers (9-3, NFC North)

No. 4: Dallas Cowboys (6-6, NFC East)

Wildcard

No. 5: San Francisco 49ers (10-2, NFC West)

No. 6: Minnesota Vikings (8-4, NFC North)

In the hunt

No. 7: Los Angeles Rams (7-5, NFC West)

No. 8: Chicago Bears (6-6, NFC North)

We’ll limit the teams to the ones that are .500 or better. If the Rams or Bears lose again, they can all but kiss their playoff dreams goodbye.

Scenario time

The good news for San Francisco is they still control their destiny. If they win out, they’ll be the No. 1 seed. That would give the 49ers a 14-2 record, and give a loss to the Saints and Seahawks. While the remaining four games on the Niners schedule are viewed as difficult, I’d imagine the team feels confident about their chances of finishing 4-0. They have significant matchup advantages in each game. It’ll come down to execution.

You will drive yourself nuts going through all of the different scenarios. If the 49ers lose to the Rams or Seahawks but win every other game, Seattle would win the tiebreaker scenario due to the better record in the division. The worst-case scenario for the 49ers would be losing a divisional game.

Beating the Saints would give the 49ers a better strength of schedule/victory than the Seahawks. Sunday’s game is huge. If you’re wondering how the tiebreakers go: It’s a head-to-head, then divisional record, conference record, record against common opponents, conference record, strength of victory, strength of schedule. You can read more about that here.

Strength of victory matters for the NFC South opponents. A win over New Orleans would give the 49ers a better strength of victory over Seattle, but a loss to the Falcons would cause the Niners to fall behind Seattle if both teams end up 13-3. Don’t lose to a 3-9 team, basically.

Assuming Jadeveon Clowney doesn’t have the game of his life again and the 49ers beat the Seahawks Week 17, that would make the two teams 1-1. Let’s say the Niners win out and Seattle is 13-2 heading into Week 17. That would mean the two teams have the same divisional record (5-1), conference record (10-2), and same record against common opponents (10-2.) San Francisco would win the tiebreak scenario here. Again, win out, and none of this matters. If the 49ers do lose, a loss to the Rams or Saints would be devastating.

Here’s how I project things to go:

1) SF 14-2

2) NO 13-3

3) GB 12-4

4) DAL 10-6

5) SEA 13-3

6) MIN 12-4

That’s a tough break for the fifth and sixth seeds.

Rant time

I’m sure you guys are used to this, but I’m not. It’s tough to think back to a team that has gotten as many breaks as the Seahawks. If we use Monday’s game as an example. You couldn’t script it like this if you tried.

The second half was a train wreck for Minnesota. Sack-fumble on their first drive, and Seattle scored a touchdown to make it 17-17. The very next play, the Vikings fumble. Seattle gets a short field, and a field goal makes it 20-17. On the following possession, the Vikings have a coverage bust. Like that, it’s 27-17. As if things couldn’t get any worse, a ball deflects off Stefon Diggs and into a Seahawks defender’s hands and three plays later it’s 34-17. Are you site decorum serious? The cherry on top was the fullback fumbling at the end of the game. An unreal half that sums up Seattle’s season.

Has it been that egregious? No. Seattle has ten wins by a combined 38 points. Heading into Week 13, they were the only team with a winning record to allow more than 263 points. I mentioned how point differential helps gauge the quality of the team. Seattle’s point differential is +36. That’s worse than the 7-5 Titans who had to make a quarterback change. For reference, San Francisco’s point differential is +166. The only thing these two teams have in common is their record.