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NFL Playoff Scenarios: 49ers Must Beat Steelers To Stay Ahead Of Saints For First-Round Bye

The San Francisco 49ers have clinched the NFC West, assuring themselves that they will play at least one game in front of their home crowd. The big question is can they earn themselves a first-round bye?

The Green Bay Packers will wrap up homefield advantage for the rest of the playoffs with one win in their final three games, and considering the Kansas City Chiefs are next in line, they are almost certain to wrap it up next week. The more realistic battle for the 49ers is with the New Orleans Saints, who also sit at 10-3. The 49ers currently hold the number two seed because of the conference tiebreaker (San Francisco is 8-2 against the NFC, New Orleans 6-3). But all it takes is a loss for them to drop back.

The 49ers probably have the toughest game left on the schedule because they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. But their final two games are against the mediocre Seahawks and awful Rams, so at the very worst they're likely to go 2-1. Even if they lose to the Steelers, they will still hold the conference tiebreaker over the Saints since the game is against an AFC opponent.

New Orleans still has to play the Falcons on Monday Night Football, and Atlanta might need to keep on winning at that point to preserve their playoff spot. But that game is at home. They also face a possible trap game against the Vikings in the Metrodome, but otherwise they look like they're in good shape to win their final three games at home. The 49ers will have to win on Monday to reestablish their advantage on that #2 seed.

To discuss the situation with 49ers fans, go to Niners Nation.