With three games left in the 2013 regular season, the playoff picture is heating up for the San Francisco 49ers and the rest of the NFC. If San Francisco wants to clinch a playoff spot, host a home playoff game or still have a chance at winning the NFC West division, Niners fans should be cheering for the Jets, Titans, Giants, Vikings and Packers this weekend.
The New York Jets are playing the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers, who currently hold the fifth seed in the NFC playoff picture, have the same record as the 49ers at 9-4. However, Carolina holds the tiebreaker over San Francisco because of the loss in Week 10. Should the Panthers lose against the Jets and the 49ers win on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco would move up to the fifth seed. If the Niners would hold onto the fifth seed they would have a road playoff game in the Wild Card Round.
In Week 15, the Tennessee Titans are hosting the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals currently sit one game behind the 49ers with an 8-5 record in the NFC West and for the sixth seed in the playoffs. The 49ers beat the Cardinals in Week 6 this season, so they hold the tiebreaker. But the final game of the season pits the Niners against the Cards and that may very well determine a playoff berth for both teams.
After a loss on the road to the 49ers, the Seattle Seahawks get to travel cross-country to play against the New York Giants, who are eliminated from the playoffs. However, the G-Men can still play the role of spoilers in the final three weeks of the season. A win by the Giants over the Seahawks will keep open the long-shoot possibility of the 49ers still winning the NFC West. The Seahawks need just one more win or finish with a tie in their last three games to clinch the NFC West title. Seattle has already clinched a playoff berth. One loss by the 49ers in the final three weeks would clinch the NFC West for the Seahawks as well.
Clinching Scenarios for Niners
For the 49ers this weekend, a win over the Bucs, plus a loss by the Cardinals and either a Philadelphia Eagles or Dallas Cowboys loss, will clinch a playoff berth for the team.
After playing in the Snow Bowl last week, the Eagles travel to Minnesota to play indoors against the Vikings. With running back Adrian Peterson questionable to play against the Eagles, the 49ers might have to rely on a loss by the Cowboys against the Green Bay Packers.
However, quarterback Aaron Rodgers will miss his sixth straight game against the Cowboys because of a broken collarbone. Green Bay has a 1-4-1 record since Rodgers went down with an injury this season.
What it all comes down to for the 49ers is winning out the rest of their games. If they do that, they control their own destiny of making the playoffs for the third straight season and trying another run at the Super Bowl.