Who is playing Thursday Night Football in Week 16 (and why are 49ers interested)?

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9)
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) / Sean Gardner/GettyImages

Week 16 kicks off with an NFC showdown, and the top-seeded 49ers may want to pay a little bit of attention to this particular bout.

One of the best things about this time of year on the football calendar is that there's so much at stake when looking at the NFL's playoff picture.

Each win and each loss matter so much, and scoreboard watching becomes almost as big a tradition as tailgating at games.

If Week 16's Thursday Night Football matchup happened earlier in the season, fans may not be particularly interested. Certainly, San Francisco 49ers fans wouldn't exactly care much even though it's an all-NFC showdown.

However, given where we are in the season, the outcome of Thursday's game could end up having some notable repercussions for both the Niners and the conference's playoff outlook as a whole.

So, why is this game of interest? Let's take a look.

Rams will host Saints on Thursday Night Football in Week 16

Thursday's game will feature two 7-7 teams on the cusp of the NFC's playoff-bound crop, the Los Angeles Rams hosting the New Orleans Saints, the broadcast viewable on television in local markets and on Amazon Prime's streaming services.

For starters, while San Francisco won't play Week 16 until a massively high-profile showdown versus the 11-3 Baltimore Ravens, the 49ers will host LA to close out the regular season in less than three weeks.

More importantly, though, Los Angeles is currently the seventh seed in the conference, and if the season was to end now, it'd visit the Dallas Cowboys in the Wild Card round, whereas the top-seeded Niners would be idle on a first-round bye.

The NFC South, meanwhile, has been a putrid division, and the ninth-seeded Saints realistically have to win out to secure a Wild Card berth if they're unable to win their division outright.

Needless to say, they'll be desperate.

So will the Rams, though, whose playoff probability drops from 73 percent in the wake of a would-be win to a mere 15 percent if they lose.

Los Angeles and New Orleans kick off their Thursday Night Football showdown on Dec. 21 at 8:20 p.m. ET from SoFI Stadium in Inglewood, California.

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