The San Francisco 49ers visit the Seattle Seahawks in Week 17, which will determine a lot about how the NFC shapes up en route to the 2020 NFL playoffs this January. Here are the three possible scenarios.
All other things being equal, had the San Francisco 49ers beaten the Atlanta Falcons back in Week 15, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. The Niners would have secured the No. 1 overall seed in the conference and would have won the NFC West, made possible by the Seattle Seahawks losing to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16.
But it’s a silly argument. “What ifs” don’t exist, and there’s little point in going back and looking at San Francisco’s flat efforts at home against Atlanta.
Instead, head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad faces off against the 11-4 Seahawks in Week 17 on Sunday Night Football to close out the 2019 regular season.
And, boy. There’s a lot riding on the game.
At 12-3, the Niners hold a one-game lead over the Seahawks in both the conference and division. But Seattle’s prior win over San Francisco back in Week 10 means another 49ers loss would give the Seahawks the immediate tiebreaker after both teams finish with the same record.
After the Green Bay Packers dispatched the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football to close out Week 16, though, the NFL playoffs appear a lot clearer. As of now, the NFC will send the following teams to the playoffs:
- 49ers (12-3)
- Packers (12-3)
- Saints (12-3)
- Eagles (8-7)
- Seahawks (11-4)
- Vikings (10-5)
Here are the three scenarios for San Francisco entering its prime-time bout in Seattle.
49ers Beat Seahawks
With a Niners win, Shanahan’s squad would improve to 13-3 and would secure the NFC West, a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The 49ers own the tiebreakers over both the Packers and Saints from wins in Weeks 12 and 14, respectively, so it doesn’t matter what either Green Bay or New Orleans does in Week 17.
This is the best-case scenario for San Francisco, obviously, as it would give the team a much-needed break to rest and prepare, along with the benefit of the NFC playoffs going through Levi’s Stadium.
49ers Lose to Seahawks
This is easily the worst-case scenario for the Niners, as a loss in Seattle would see the Seahawks swap places with the 49ers in the NFC West.
Not being a division winner, the 49ers would do no better than securing the No. 5 seed in the conference, being forced to play a Wild Card game on the road against either the Eagles or, possibly, the Dallas Cowboys.
If there’s any consolation, Seattle’s Week 16 loss means its shot at the No. 1 seed only happens if the Packers and Saints both lose to the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers in Week 17, respectively. One probably wouldn’t bet on that happening.
49ers Tie Seahawks
This is where things get messy. And given the less-than-likely possibility of a tie happening in Week 17, it might not seem all that important. But the Seahawks’ earlier win at Levi’s Stadium this year came very late in the overtime frame, so one can assume there’s at least a chance.
Should both San Francisco and Seattle tie on Sunday, the 49ers end up winning the NFC West by default, but the seeding still depends on the results from earlier in the day.
If both the Packers and Saints win, the Niners become the No. 3 seed. If either the Packers or Saints lose, though, a San Francisco tie would put them in second place within the conference.
But if the 49ers tie the Seahawks, and the Packers and Saints both wind up tied in their games, the Niners hold the No. 1 seed.
Should that happen, Niner Noise is buying all of you dinner at your favorite restaurant of choice.
Either way, San Francisco can simply handle its business by winning on Sunday, alleviating any of the other confusing scenarios making up the final week of the NFL playoffs picture.