No. 4: Clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC
San Francisco is pretty comfortable in the Wild Card, as the nearest opponent not in a playoff spot already is three games behind with four games to go.
So with not much to worry about right now with the teams trying to make the Wild Card, the focus is on trying to get one of the first-round byes to rest up for the playoffs.
With playoff rules in effect, this essentially means that to do this they must beat the Seahawks in Week 17.
The Seahawks have games against the Rams, Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals before that finale. The 49ers face the Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Rams before Week 17.
Ideally, both teams will win out if the Niners can walk out of Louisiana with a vital road win. If the 49ers lose that but win the next two, then they would need to beat the Seahawks to finish 13-3 with Seattle.
For those who don’t know or forgot, the first tiebreaker to break a tie in the division is head-to-head record. This would be a tie.
Then it moves to divisional record. This would also be a tie in this scenario with identical 5-1 records.
Then it would go to common games, or games where both teams have played an opponent. Essentially the NFC West, NFC South and AFC North.
This is where it gets tricky.
Both teams have played all their games against the AFC North, finishing 3-1 with losses to the Baltimore Ravens each. The team each have one more game against the NFC South, where the 49ers have the advantage 3-0 to 2-1.
However, San Francisco has the Saints left to play.
If we combine the hypothetical 5-1 division record for both teams (and subtract games against each other) and suppose the Niners lose to the Saints, both teams would have identical 10-2 records for common opponents. Then finally it goes to conference, where I will skip the technical speak and just say it’s tied once again.
I realize this may be overly technical for some, but it is very close between the 49ers and Seahawks to the point several tiebreakers could come into play.
Where it finishes, however, is the fifth tiebreaker: strength of victory.
In short, the Niners have thumped teams when they’ve won, while the Seahawks have (as mentioned above) won by close margins. The 49ers have this tiebreaker will and truly sown up.
It may seem like folly to be so calculating with a month left of football to play. But we have a good enough idea of the 49ers and Seahawks that we can at least acknowledge this is a realistic scenario.