If the 49ers lose to the Rams Sunday, it's over.
All the way over.
Not the franchise as we know it or anything, but the team's hope of an NFC West title will have gone completely dormant, like the glimmer of hope that has stayed dimly burning as the weather has gotten colder, and as Autumn has turned to Winter.
The show down in St. Louis is the first of the Rams final two games against division contenders. The winner of the contest will have a certain leg up on the other two teams in the three-way campaign for the title of "Winner of the Worst Division in the NFL."
The specific implications (of the possible outcomes) of Sunday's showdown are such that if the 49ers lose, their season is done. They will have been mathematically eliminated. Their old rival, the St Louis Rams, will be at the doorstep of a triumphant return to NFC West supremacy. St Louis would then have a battle at Seattle on their hands for the title.
If the 49ers win, however, the Seattle-Tampa Bay game will become of great interest, and importance. This is because if San Francisco beats St Louis, and Seattle beats Tampa, then the Seahawks will be in sole possession of first place. That is, until they play St. Louis the next week in the divisional showdown.
Who gets the division?
If the 49ers beat St Louis, and Seattle loses to the Buccaneers, then the 49ers will be tied with Seattle and St Louis, but hold tie-breakers over both of them, and thus have the division lead. San Francisco would then need to beat Arizona to shore up the division title, but of course they'll cross that bridge when (and if) they get there.
So if the 49ers win this week, and Seattle loses, San Francisco's finale against Arizona will be paramount, and the Rams trip to Seattle will take a backseat.
If the 49ers win, and Seattle wins, then the 49ers will be praying for the Rams to beat Seattle for them, while preparing themselves for another must-win game against Arizona.
If the 49ers lose and Seattle loses, the Rams' visit to Seattle will decide the division.
If the 49ers lose and Seattle wins, the Rams' visit to Seattle will decide the division.
Ties have another whole set of strange and complex implications, but the probability of any of these games ending in a tie is pretty much remote enough to ignore.
Most tie scenarios, however, would not favor the 49ers, as they are presently one full game behind Seattle and St Louis for the division lead.
Here we go...
The Rams-Seahawks season finale won't mean as much as the 49ers-Cardinals season finale, unless the 49ers lose this week. If that happens, then the two will be playing one final high-stakes game at Qwest Field in Seattle.
Nothing matters for the 49ers this season however, unless they win this Sunday against the Rams.