The NFL's kaleidoscopic playoff picture—always changing with every week—is finally coming into clearer focus. While the 49ers can still finish anywhere from being the No. 1 seed to missing out on the postseason entirely, they remain in control of their own destiny and can help their situation immensely with a strong regular-season finish.
To use an old sports proverb, it's always how you end.
New Orleans and Carolina each have identical 10-4 records. One of those teams will suffer its fifth loss when they play each other next week (Spoiler alert: it's going to be the team that can't win on the road, schemes to injure opposing players and wears black and gold uniforms), which means San Francisco will finish as the No. 5 seed if it beats both the Falcons and the Cardinals to close out the year.
The only chance the 49ers have of winning the West is if the Seahawks lose to both the Cardinals and the Rams at home. Arizona has won six out of its last seven games and remains one game out of the final NFC playoff spot. St. Louis came within five yards of upsetting Seattle earlier in the season.
There's always the possibility of crazy happening. Just Look at Week 15 around the league. I mean, really? Who would have seen the Chargers outshooting the Broncos in Denver, Justin Tucker kicking a ludicrous game-winning 61-yard field goal to beat the Lions or Tony Romo throwing two fourth-quarter interceptions to lose a game the Cowboys once led by 23 points? Well, maybe crazy got mixed in with a little normalcy.
But methinks that the road to the Super Bowl will go through the land of rain and the 12th man. Aside from the Seahawks, there may be a few other teams the 49ers may not be happy to see in January.
Who they face depends on how the rest of the NFC shakes out.
Here then are three foes the 49ers don't want to play on anything but their Xbox One.