Who will 49ers face in Wild Card round of NFL playoffs?

Running back Lance Dunbar #25 of the Dallas Cowboys rushes against linebacker Michael Wilhoite #57 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Running back Lance Dunbar #25 of the Dallas Cowboys rushes against linebacker Michael Wilhoite #57 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

There’s a lot yet to be determined regarding the 49ers’ postseason fate in early 2022, but things are shaping up for Wild Card matchups.

If the 2021 NFL regular season came to a close today, the San Francisco 49ers would be in the playoff dance as the No. 6 seed in the NFC and would make a trip to take on the No. 3-seeded Los Angeles Rams at SoFI Stadium in the Wild Card round.

But the regular season does not end today, and the Niners haven’t even clinched a postseason berth just yet. With two games remaining — Week 17 versus the Houston Texans and Week 18 on the road against the Rams — one of any number of different scenarios could play out.

San Francisco can get no higher than its current seed, thanks to Los Angeles’ current record of 11-4, while the only other NFC West team that could potentially thwart LA is the 10-5 Arizona Cardinals, who beat the 49ers twice already this season and own the head-to-head tiebreaker if both teams finish with 10-7 records this season, Arizona losing out and the Niners winning their remaining games.

Ahead of Week 17, the current NFC playoff seeding is as follows:

  1. Green Bay Packers (12-3)
  2. Dallas Cowboys (11-4)
  3. Los Angeles Rams (11-4)
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4)
  5. Arizona Cardinals (10-5)
  6. San Francisco 49ers (8-7)
  7. Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)

San Francisco holds that tiebreaker over Philly, which is a plus, and the Miami Dolphins’ Week 16 win over the New Orleans Saints helped thwart a potential three-way tie between the 49ers, Eagles and Saints where head-to-head records are thrown out the window and conference records are used to determine who makes the cut instead.

If this winds up being the case, the Niners would be out.

Assuming they get in, though, which teams are most likely to host San Francisco in the Wild Card round?

49ers likely won’t play Packers in Wild Card round

There’s a remote chance the 49ers will have to travel to a frozen Lambeau Field in January to take on the red-hot Packers, at least in Round 1.

Green Bay hasn’t officially clinched the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye just yet. But for all intents and purposes, it has. The Packers would have to lose at least one of their next two games, both within the NFC and against the Minnesota Vikings and lowly Detroit Lions, while the No. 2-seeded Cowboys would have to win both of theirs, first against the Cardinals and then against the Eagles.

Possible, just not likely. While the Vikings own one of those three Packers losses this season, they haven’t swept their NFC North rivals since 2017.

In all likelihood, Green Bay won’t be the Round 1 opponent the Niners (or anyone for that matter) face in the Wild Card round.

Cowboys, Rams and Buccaneers shaping up to be 49ers’ first playoff opponent

That Cowboys and Eagles game in Week 18 will be of serious interest to San Francisco, both in terms of who finishes in the No. 7 seed and just how far Dallas might climb in the standings. Should the Cowboys win out, and the 49ers manage just one more win out of two games remaining, only the Saints finishing with two more wins could potentially thwart the Niners’ playoff chances.

Whoever finishes in that No. 7 seed would then take on Dallas, while the No. 6-seeded team would then face the Rams.

Yet there’s a wrinkle in that scenario, too, particularly if San Francisco pulls off a Week 18 win over Los Angeles, bumping LA to a possible 12-5 finish and removing that three-way tie within the top four of the standings.

Read More: What 49ers need to do to clinch a playoff berth

The Buccaneers, meanwhile, close out their regular season with winnable games against the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers, all but suggesting Tampa Bay goes 13-4 en route to the No. 2 seed, if the Cowboys win out and thanks to the Bucs beating Dallas way back in Week 1 for the head-to-head tiebreaker.

If that plays out, the 49ers won’t have to travel to take on quarterback Tom Brady and the Buccaneers if the Niners finish in the sixth seed, all but ensured if they beat both the Texans and Rams to close out the season.

Instead, it’d likely be the Cowboys.

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