I need a Tylenol. I just looked at the 49ers' various playoff scenarios, and it's a maze of conditionals, possibilities and dead ends. The straightest path to the postseason is to win the division outright. As it stands now, the Cardinals (8-5) have a two-game lead on the 49ers (6-7) with three games to play. The 49ers need Arizona to lose at least two of its remaining games. If the Cardinals win just one game, the 49ers need to sweep their final three. If the Cardinals lose all their remaining games, the 49ers just need to win two. If the two teams finish with the same record, say 9-7, the 49ers win the division because they beat the Cardinals twice in head-to-head competition. (See: tie-breaker rules below).
The problem is that Cardinals have two easy games. Here's their remaining schedule:
Dec. 20 @ Detroit
Dec. 27 vs. St. Louis
Jan. 3 vs. Green Bay
The Wildcard scenario is far more complicated because it involves five other teams. The 49ers can't catch one of them, Green Bay, because the Packers (9-4) already have won nine games and own the tie breaker by virtue of their win over the 49ers. The 49ers also lost to Atlanta (6-7), which means that they must finish at least one game better than the Falcons.
The second tiebreaker is
division games conference record. As it stands now, the 49ers have a 5-4 conference record, the Giants (7-6) have a 5-4 conference record and the Cowboys (8-5) have a 6-3 conference record. Dallas, however, has some tough NFC games remaining including the next one in New Orleans. Philadelphia (9-4) has an 8-2 conference record, but if the 49ers and Eagles finished at 9-7, the 49ers would win the tiebreaker because of their head-to-head win.
Here are the 49ers' playoff competitors remaining schedules:
Falcons (6-7) @ NYJ, vs. BUFF, @TB
Giants (7-6) @ Wash, vs. CAR, @MIN
Dallas (8-5) @ NO, @ Wash, vs. PHI
Philadelphia (9-4) vs. SF, vs. DEN, @DAL
Tiebreaker rules for Wildcard
- 1. Head-to-head, if applicable.
- 2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
- 3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
- 4. Strength of victory.
- 5. Strength of schedule.
- 6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
- 7. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
- 8. Best net points in conference games.
- 9. Best net points in all games.
- 10. Best net touchdowns in all games.
- 11. Coin toss.
-- Matt Barrows