The 49ers lost a tough matchup to the Baltimore Ravens last week, but in the grand scheme of things, San Francisco is still rolling toward its first playoff berth since 2013.
In fact, the 10-2 49ers can clinch a postseason spot by the end of this weekend.
If San Francisco beats (or ties) the 10-2 Saints in New Orleans Sunday, and the Los Angeles Rams lose (or tie) against the Seattle Seahawks that night, the Niners will clinch a spot in the NFL tournament with three games still to play.
Yet the 49ers want more than just to get into the playoffs. They remain in the hunt for the NFC West title – they have the same record as Seattle but the Seahawks have the advantage with a head-to-head win – and a possible No. 1 seed.
Currently, San Francisco ranks as the NFC’s No. 5 seed. Fortunately for the 49ers, the playoffs won’t start until January. If the 49ers can beat the Saints, Falcons (Dec. 15), Rams (Dec. 21) and Seahawks (Dec. 29, to close out the regular-season), San Francisco will be the NFC West champion and top-seeded team in the conference, with home-field advantage.
After last weekend’s loss in Baltimore, it’s imperative the 49ers rebound quickly and come away from New Orleans with a victory in the third straight challenging game for San Francisco, following a win over Green Bay and the decision in Baltimore.
One encouraging development for the 49ers going into the Saints game is the possibility of getting several key players back on the field. Head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters Tuesday that running back Matt Breida, defensive end Dee Ford and left offensive tackle Joe Staley are likely to return to practice this week and could play Sunday.
Sunday’s game in New Orleans is set to kick off at 10 a.m. (Bay Area time).