The 49ers make the playoffs if they beat the Rams. They’re locked into the No. 6 seed if the Saints lose, too. How San Francisco makes the playoffs is pretty cut and dry. Who they play depends on a combination of outcomes based on how today’s games play out.
Let’s walk through each.
To play the Buccaneers
Tampa Bay feels like the most plausible outcome of all. The 49ers would travel to Tompa next week with a win paired with a Panthers win (they’re 9.5-point underdogs against the Bucs) as well as a Cardinals win at home over the Seahawks.
If the Rams win, but the Falcons beat the Saints, San Francisco will face the Bucs next week no matter the outcome of Tampa Bay and Carolina.
To play the Cowboys
If you want to go to Jerry’s world in Dallas, and I do, for the scene and nostalgia between these two teams, the 49ers, Buccaneers, and Seahawks have to win. The former two are an easy sell. Seattle is currently a 5.5-point underdog to Arizona, but it’s a divisional game, and anything goes.
To play the Rams
If you want to do this dance for a third time against the Rams next week, the Niners would need a win today, as well as an upset from the Panthers and Seahawks. This feels like the least likely scenario of all.
I’ve seen different scenarios that include the 49ers playing the Rams, but this is the only one I’ve seen, according to ESPN's playoff simulator. Feel free to correct me in the comments if that’s not accurate.
To play the Cardinals
Despite sweeping San Francisco, the Cardinals would be the team I think the 49ers would be closest to being favored against. They’re the best matchup. I also live 25 minutes from Arizona’s stadium, so I want this to happen for selfish reasons.
If the 49ers win, Tampa Bay wins, and the Cardinals win, the Niners are going to the desert next week.