NFL Playoffs: How the 49ers can win a playoff spot in Week 17

I was nervous for Monday night as Miami was only a 3-point favorite against a team that played its fourth-string quarterback and down in its starting offensive tackles and left guard. But Ian Book’s early pick-six gave the 49ers the sigh of relief they needed.

After the Saints’ loss to the Dolphins, the 49ers can win a playoff spot as early as Sunday. If San Francisco beats the Houston Texans as 13-point home favorites – there was a 2-point adjustment, provided Trey Lance is below center.

So with a win over the Texans, the Niners would also need the Panthers to beat the Saints. If the duo Sam Darnold and Cam Newton can do it, the 49ers are in. Unfortunately, Carolina is 5-10 without any presence of an ongoing game. The hope is that if New Orleans are down in their top two offensive tackles, Haason Reddick and Brian Burns could be game-damaging.

Without going too far down the rabbit hole, thanks to the Saints Week 16 loss, the 49ers are controlling their own destiny again. With a win over the Texans and Rams, the Niners are in the playoffs. Simple.

  1. Green Bay 12-3
  2. Dallas 11-4
  3. Los Angeles 11-4
  4. Tampa Bay 11-4
  5. Arizona 10-5
  6. San Francisco 8-7
  7. Philadelphia 8-7
  8. Minnesota 7-8
  9. Atlanta 7-8
  10. New Orleans 7-8

The Rams are the NFC West Champions if the Cardinals lose to the Cowboys next week. Los Angeles holds the conference tiebreaker over the Bucs, but not over Dallas, which is why they are 3-seeded.

Let’s say the Rams have NFC West unlocked on their way into Week 18. If they are locked into the 3-seed, there is nothing to play for. Still, why should they take it easy with the division opponent who has owned them for the past few years? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate payback for Sean McVay if he was the reason Kyle Shanahan’s team did not reach the playoffs?

An ideal situation for the 49ers is to win the 6-seed this coming weekend. How does it happen? So we have mapped above that it requires a Saints loss and a Niners victory. Additionally, if the Eagles lose to the Washington football team, San Francisco will cement itself as the 6-seed.

That would give the team a week of much-needed rest. Nor do you have to worry about playing the Rams in a must-win game without Azeez Al-Shaair, Dre Greenlaw and potentially Emmanuel Moseley.

Perhaps the biggest benefit is that you no longer have to rely on your rookie quarterback – provided Jimmy Garoppolo is out for more than a week – to win away from home against one of the best teams in football, for you has a shot in the playoffs.

Clinching in week 17 is ideal for the 49ers.

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