Why San Francisco 49ers Still Have Legit Shot at NFC No. 1 Seed

John RozumCorrespondent IDecember 20, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 19:  Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers runs with the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Candlestick Park on December 19, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With their 20-3 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night, San Francisco remains two games back of Green Bay and right on pace with New Orleans atop the NFC.

Now, before we get to how this plays out in regards to the Saints and Packers, we must first look at what lies ahead for San Francisco.

Currently holding an 11-3 record, Frisco is 8-2 in NFC games. That's one game better than New Orleans and obviously two back of Green Bay. However, with two road games left against Seattle and St. Louis, after their win over Pittsburgh it's for certain how confident the Niners are.

The Seahawks may have a solid ground game but San Fran has yet to allow a rushing TD this season and ranks No. 1 in rush defense. The 49ers are a more complete team, so beating Seattle soundly will happen but it won't be a blowout as the Seahawks do have a respectable defense.

Thereafter is the Rams in Week 17, and because St. Louis is back to their losing ways from their days in Los Angeles during the 1990s, don't expect the Rams to put up any kind of fight. They simply lack talent across the board and the 49ers will win handily.

Finishing 13-3 and with a 10-2 NFC record, the 49ers at the very least lock up the No. 2 seed.

New Orleans needs them to lose once more in order for the Saints to have a shot at a playoff bye, but don't count on that. Hence, The Big Easy also finishes 13-3 but 9-3 in the NFC and gets the No. 3 seed.

As for the Green Bay Packers, sitting at 13-1 it appears the Kansas City Chiefs slightly open up the treasure chest that contains the blueprint map for beating Titletown.

The problem for San Francisco in the hopes of getting the No. 1 seed though, is that the Packers have the Chicago Bears at home this week. And with so many injuries plaguing The Windy City right now, it's a long-shot for the upset.

That being said, as long as the Bears don't turn the ball over, get good QB pressure with Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije, the legit upset is possible. We know the Bears are still one of the best special teams units in the game with Devin Hester and kicker Robbie Gould, so that is to their advantage.

And let's say Chicago does upset Green Bay, well then the Detroit Lions must duplicate that outcome. The Lions are much better suited to beat the Packers though, as they have an offense capable of keeping pace.

As long as Detroit can establish some sort of pass rush then all is well, but it's highly improbable regardless. All this being said, if this happens both would finish 13-3 and 10-2 in the NFC.

The next tiebreaker lies with their records in common games since the Packers and 49ers didn't play each other. For this season, those common games are the Rams, Giants, Buccaneers and Lions.

Assuming both finish 13-3, San Francisco would then hold a 5-0 record to Green Bay's 4-1 in common games which would then propel The Bay Area to the NFC's top seed. So yes, this is still possible.

However, don't get your hopes up for the No. 1 seed 49er fans because the Packers aren't losing twice in a row at home to two division rivals/inferior opponents. Nonetheless, Frisco will still get the No. 2 seed and a playoff bye.

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