49ers playoff picture: Breaking down San Francisco’s seeding scenarios in 2023 NFL bracket

By | January 8, 2023

What the 49ers have done this season is fascinating. After Trey Lance was injured and missed the year in the second game of the season and Jimmy Garoppolo was hurt later, Kyle Shanahan has molded Mr. Irrelevant 2022 Brock Purdy into a perfect manager of his offense.

The 49ers have a legitimate shot at the No. 1 seed in the NFC, as they enter Week 18 12-4 on the year. They could end up anywhere between Nos. 1 and 3, and they’re currently No. 2.

The Eagles, who have struggled in recent weeks without Jalen Hurts, are looking to hold onto the No. 1 seed. The Vikings, meanwhile, are trying to eke their way into No. 2, but other things have to happen for that to occur.

Here are the different scenarios for the 49ers.

How the 49ers can get the No. 1 seed in the NFC

The 49ers are behind the Eagles by one game in the NFC, so their path is simple: They beat the Cardinals, Eagles lose to the Giants.

The latter may or may not happen depending on how both teams approach the game. Jalen Hurts is reportedly expected to play, and with the Eagles looking to hold off the Cowboys in the division, they’ll undoubtedly treat it as the high-stakes game it is.

Here’s a look at the current NFC standings.

Team Record
Philadelphia Eagles 13-3
San Francisco 49ers 12-4
Minnesota Vikings 12-4
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-8
Dallas Cowboys 12-4

The 49ers hold tiebreakers over the other NFC teams.

MORE: NFL power rankings: Chiefs, 49ers overtake Eagles

How the 49ers can get the No. 2 seed in the NFC

A myriad of permutations could keep the 49ers at No. 2. If they lose and the Vikings lose, they would remain at No. 2. The Vikings are playing the Bears whereas the Cowboys play the Commanders.

If the 49ers win but the Eagles beat the Giants as well, they’ll also stay at No. 2. Finally, if the Eagles lose, the Cowboys win, and the Vikings lose, they’ll also finish second.

How the 49ers can get the No. 3 seed in the NFC

There’s always a Week 18 Doomsday scenario. If the 49ers lose and the Vikings win, the Vikings would jump them to the No. 2 spot regardless of what happens with the NFC East.

This would be an unfortunate — but entirely possible — finish to the year for Shanahan’s Niners.

49ers potential playoff matchups

The Niners’ playoff matchups can go a few different ways. Here’s a look at their potential first-round opponents.

  • 49ers vs. Seahawks: 49ers clinch the No. 2 seed, Seahawks beat the Rams, Lions defeat the Packers.
  • 49ers vs. Lions: 49ers clinch the No. 2 seed, Seahawks lose to Rams, Lions beat Packers.
  • 49ers vs. Packers: 49ers clinch the No. 2 seed, Packers beat Lions.
  • 49ers vs. Giants: 49ers clinch the No. 3 seed.
  • 49ers bye: 49ers clinch the No. 1 seed.

A lot is riding on the NFC East this week for San Francisco, but their path to No. 1 is at least relatively straightforward and contingent on one other game. If they take care of business against the Cardinals, there won’t be too much scoreboard watching going on in Santa Clara.