The 49ers can still get into the playoffs if they lose to the Rams, but they’ll need some help from the Atlanta Falcons to avoid a tiebreaker scenario that leaves San Francisco on the outside of the playoff picture.
Before diving into the scenarios for Sunday, here’s what the NFC playoff standings look like going into the final week:
1. Packers (13-3)
2. Rams (12-4)
3. Buccaneers (12-4)
4. Cowboys (11-5)
5. Cardinals (11-5)
6. 49ers (9-7)
7. Eagles (9-7)
8. Saints (8-8)
The 49ers are the only team inside the playoff picture, including the Eagles, that hasn’t clinched yet.
It’s pretty simple for the 49ers. They clinch the No. 6 seed with a win over the Rams. They also clinch a playoff spot if the Saints lose to the Falcons.
Things get hairy if the 49ers lose and the Saints win in Atlanta.
In any scenario where they tie with New Orleans, the tiebreaker skips over head-to-head and goes directly to conference record since they didn’t face each other in the 2021 regular season.
A 49ers loss would put them at 9-8 overall with a 6-6 record in the NFC. The Saints by winning would go to 9-8 overall with a 7-5 record in the NFC, lifting them into the 49ers’ playoff spot and leaving San Francisco out of the postseason for a second-consecutive year.
This same scenario goes for a three-way tie where the 49ers and Eagles lose and the Saints win. San Francisco’s head-to-head tiebreak over Philadelphia goes by the wayside because the trio of teams didn’t all face each other. In that case, the Eagles and Saints would both have 7-5 conference records while the 49ers sat at 6-6.
The good news for San Francisco is despite the nightmare tiebreak situations, they still control their own destiny. If they beat the Rams they’re in with no tiebreakers necessary. That’s what’ll matter most come Sunday.