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It Should Be “Fins Up!” for 49ers Fans Watching MNF

Brian Renick
Dec 27, 2021 at 10:15 AM

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The San Francisco 49ers went into Tennessee on Thursday night with a slim chance to win the division, and at the very least, the ability to control their own Wild Card destiny.

They left Nissan Stadium with an embarrassing loss and they lost control of their own playoff fate. Ouch.

Week 16 ends tonight with Monday Night Football. The Miami Dolphins (7-7), winners of 6 straight after starting the season 1-7, are visiting the New Orleans Saints (7-7), who are coming off of a 9-0 victory over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With QBs Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian on the COVID-19 list, the Saints will be starting their 4th different quarterback this season with the NFL debut of 4th round rookie Ian Book out of Notre Dame.

This should be good news for 49er fans, because a Saints loss would go a long way towards securing a playoff spot.

Here is where the playoff picture currently stands:

What Do the 49ers Need to Do

Plain and simple: the 49ers need to win out. There is no margin for error anymore. The team must win its next two games—Week 17 at home against Houston, then Week 18 at Los Angeles against the Rams—in order to have a chance at a wild card spot.

Worst-Case Scenario

There are currently three teams in the NFC with 7 losses: the 49ers, Eagles and Saints. If all three teams win their remaining games, they would finish the season at 10-7 and in a three-way tie for the final two Wild Card spots

When there is a three-way tie for a Wild Card spot(s), the first tie-breaker the NFL applies is division record and ranking. In this scenario, where all three teams win out, the division records would be as follows:

  • San Francisco (2-4, 3rd in the West)
  • Philadelphia (4-2, 2nd in the East)
  • New Orleans (4-2, 2nd in the South)

San Francisco would lose the first tie-breaker and the final two Wild Card spots would go to Philadelphia and New Orleans, even though the 49ers have a head-to-head victory over the Eagles.

Best-Case Scenario

The 49ers win out, and the Saints lose tonight to the Dolphins. This would guarantee San Francisco a Wild Card spot, regardless of any other outcomes.

While there are two other teams who still have a shot at a Wild Card—Minnesota and Atlanta are both 7-8—and many different scenarios that would unfold with win/loss combinations amongst these five teams, we can take a look at those if, or when, they arise.

As it stands right now, the path is clear for the 49ers and their fans: win the next two games, and hope for a Dolphins victory over the Saints on Monday Night Football.

Fins Up!
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