Win and they're in. That's the only playoff equation the 49ers claim to be interested in, though they could make their third straight postseason before Monday's game against the Falcons even kicks off.
A loss Sunday by the Cardinals, who are on the road in Seattle, would clinch a playoff berth for the 49ers. If Arizona loses, that will drop them to 9-6 heading into next week's finale with San Francisco. The best Arizona could finish - and the worst the 49ers could finish - is 10-6, and the 49ers hold the tiebreaker by virtue of a better division record.
With a win Sunday, the Seahawks not only would wrestle away the division title from the 49ers, they would have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Some of the 49ers already have resigned themselves to a return trip to Seattle. They lost there, 29-3, in Week 2. They also are the last team to have won in Seattle, having done so on Dec. 24, 2011.
"We understand that it's going to come down to going to Seattle and winning," safety Donte Whitner said. "We understand that. No matter what team it is in the NFC, you're going to have to go to Seattle to win, so that's the only thing: winning football games and then going up there and beating them in their home stadium."
The 49ers' playoff seed also would improve if they beat Atlanta on Monday. The key game Sunday involves the Saints and Panthers, both of which have 10-4 records. If the Saints win, they will take the NFC South title and earn a first-round bye. A Panthers win means they will secure a playoff spot but still must win in Week 17 to wrap up the division.
The loser, however, would drop to the No. 6 seed and allow the 49ers slip into the No. 5 spot provided they win against the Falcons.
If that scenario holds, the 49ers would be matched against either the winner of the NFC North or NFC East in the first round of the playoffs, depending on which has the lower seed.
Those spots, however, are very much up in the air with five teams still in the mix. For example, the Bears and Eagles could take their respective divisions with a win Sunday. But they play each other at 5:30 p.m. The Cowboys, Lions and Packers also remain in contention.
Et cetera - Jim Harbaugh said guard Mike Iupati "had a good week" of practice but that "no decision has been made" on whether he'll play on Monday. Iupati, who damaged his left MCL on Nov. 17, hasn't gone through a full practice since then and is listed as questionable on the injury report.
* Wide receiver Mario Manningham was the only 49er who did not practice Saturday. Manningham also missed Thursday's session with what was listed as a knee and illness. He also is questionable for Monday.
A recent bone scan on rookie offensive tackle Luke Marquardt's foot yielded positive results, allowing Marquardt to add more to his rehabilitation routine. The 49era are hoping Marquardt, who stands 6-8 and weighs 315 pounds, will compete for the job of swing tackle next offeseason.
-- Matt Barrows