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49ers can still earn home-field advantage, or miss the playoffs

3:42 PM, Dec 23, 2013   |    comments
Photo by the Associated Press
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The simple story about the 49ers is that if they beat the Falcons tonight, they're in the playoffs.

The complex story is this: San Francisco's postseason fortunes are nowhere close to being determined, and the 49ers could be anywhere from home-field advantage throughout the playoffs to out of the playoffs entirely.

San Francisco's best-case scenario is this: The 49ers win tonight against the Falcons and beat the Cardinals on Sunday while the Seahawks lose to the Rams and the Panthers lose to the Falcons. In that (admittedly unlikely) scenario, the 49ers and Seahawks would be tied for the best record in the NFC, but the 49ers would win the NFC West based on the division record tiebreaker. That would make the 49ers the No. 1 seed and the Seahawks the No. 5 seed.

San Francisco's worst-case scenario is this: The 49ers lose tonight against the Falcons and next week at Arizona. If that happens, the 49ers would be 10-6 and miss the playoffs altogether. If the 49ers lose both of their remaining games they miss the playoffs, no matter what happens in any other game.

The most likely scenario for the 49ers is that they beat the Falcons tonight to wrap up a playoff berth, but they lose any shot at the division title when the Seahawks take care of business next week at home against the Rams. The 49ers appear to be headed toward a wild card, but in this unpredictable NFL season, they may end up a lot better off than that, or a lot worse.

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