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News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

December 3, 2013
49ers' best playoff scenario: Win and hope the Panthers lose

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The last team to beat the Seahawks in Seattle? The 49ers did it on Christmas Eve in 2011, winning by two points after Larry Grant stripped quarterback Tarvaris Jackson of the ball at the end of the game. No visitor has won there since, but if the 49ers want to make it back to the Super Bowl, they'll probably have to break Seattle's streak. By virtue of their blowout win over New Orleans last night, Seattle secured a playoff spot and is in the driver's seat for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Here's the current seeding scenario in the NFC, and my guess is that this is where the teams will be standing at year's end, too.

1. Seattle
2. New Orleans
3. Detroit
4. Dallas
5. Carolina
6. San Francisco

Wildcard round: 49ers @ Lions
Wildcard round: Panthers @ Cowboys

NFC South
The winner of the NFC South is very tough to predict. The Saints and Panthers are both 9-3 and they play each other twice in the next three weeks. What's more, their opponents over the last four games have the same record, so it's impossible to say who has the easier schedule. As of now, the Saints have the superior conference record. They're also the more experienced squad, so let's give them the edge and have them win the NFC South.

Saints: CAR (9-3), @STL (5-7), @CAR (9-3), TB (3-9)
Panthers: @NO (9-3), NYJ (5-7), NO (9-3), @ATL (3-9)

NFC East
The NFC East promises to be decided on the final day of the season when Dallas hosts Philadelphia. The Eagles have the slightly tougher schedule from here on out but the Cowboys have the toughest road game, Sunday at Chicago. You might argue that the Eagles aren't built for cold weather and will sputter. Their remaining road games, however, are in domes; bad weather on Week 16 at home against the Bears could trip them up. The Cowboys won the teams' earlier meeting.

Cowboys: @CHI (6-6), GB (5-6-1), @WAS (3-9), PHI (7-5)
Eagles: DET (7-5), @MIN (3-8-1), CHI (6-6), @DAL (7-5)

NFC North
As of now the Lions (7-5) have a one-game lead on the Bears (6-6). What's more, the two teams already have played twice and Detroit won both. That means that the Bears have to finish the season one game ahead of the Lions to win the division. The Lions have one outdoors game remaining - Sunday at Philadelphia. The rest are indoors where they are most comfortable.

Lions: @PHI (7-5), BAL (6-6), NYG (5-7), @MIN (3-8-1)
Bears: DAL (7-5), @CLV (4-8), @PHI (7-5), GB (5-6-1)

NFC West
With Seattle three games ahead of the 49ers with four games to play, it would take a meltdown of colossal proportions for the Seahawks not to win the division. The 49ers' best hope is to finish December so strong that they earn the No. 5 seed and the Panthers the No. 6. That might mean that instead of going on the road to Seattle in the divisional round, the 49ers go to New Orleans and, if they win, then presumably play Seattle in the conference championship. Goosebumps, anyone? An even more ideal scenario: Carolina somehow pulls off a road win in Seattle in the divisional round and the conference championship is played in San Francisco. How's that for a goodbye to Candlestick?

49ers: SEA (11-1), @TB (3-9), ATL (3-9), @AZ (7-5)
Seahawks: @SF (8-4), @NYG (5-7), AZ (7-5), STL (5-7)

* Questions, arguments, counterpoints? Join me for an 11 a.m. 49ers chat. Log onto www.sacbee.com/live to get in. When you get to the entrance, tell them you know Barrows ...

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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