49ers vs. Seahawks winner-take-all game in Week 17 all but assured

49ers vs. Seahawks winner-take-all game in Week 17 all but assured

It can be very simple for the 49ers.

According to the NFL, neither the 49ers nor the Seattle Seahawks can clinch the NFC West this week. But both teams have already assured themselves of spots in the playoffs.

If the 49ers win their next two games, they will win the NFC West and earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

But even with a home loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night, it could still set up a winner-take-all game between the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks in Week 17 for the NFC West title.

But home-field advantage – or even a first-round playoff bye – becomes a lot more tenuous if the 49ers were to stumble at Levi's Stadium this weekend.

San Francisco appears to have a distinct tie-breaker advantage over the Seahawks if both teams were to finish with the same record.

But a loss against the Rams would open the door for both the New Orleans Saints (11-3) and Green Bay Packers (11-3) to leapfrog the NFC West champion and secure one of the top two seeds and an opening-round playoff bye.

The 49ers hold head-to-head tiebreakers over the Saints and Packers based on having victories over those teams. But if those teams win out, and the 49ers drop one game, those teams would have better seedings in the NFC playoffs. Only the top two seeds in each conference earn a first-round bye in the playoffs.

So . . . let’s say the Rams beat the 49ers, and the Seahawks defeat the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16. Then, if the 49ers win at Seattle in Week 17, it would leave the 49ers and Seahawks both with 12-4 records.

The NFL would consult its tie-breaker formulas to determine which team is crowned the division champ and which team enters the playoffs as a wild-card team.

Here are the tie-breakers and how they factor into this equation:

1, Head to head: The 49ers and Seahawks would have split their two meetings.

2, Division record: The 49ers and Seahawks would both be 4-2 in NFC West games.

3, Common games: Each of the 49ers’ and Seahawks’ four losses would be in common games.

4, Conference record: Both teams would be 9-3 in the NFC.

5, Strength of victory: Here’s where it gets tricky, but it appears to favor the 49ers . . .

Seattle currently leads in the strength of victory category with the teams they’ve beaten having won 72 games. Teams the 49ers have beaten have won 68 games.

The Seahawks would pick up another four games with a win over the Cardinals to take an eight-game lead. The 49ers want Green Bay, Washington and New Orleans to win their remaining games, while Philadelphia, Minnesota and Atlanta victories will benefit the Seahawks.

But the big one for the 49ers is Week 17. If the 49ers defeat Seattle, that would add another 12 wins to the 49ers’ strength-of-victory and would seemingly place the 49ers in an advantageous position to win the strength-of-victory tiebreaker.

[RELATED: Where 49ers sit in NFC playoff picture with two weeks left]

If, by some bizarre happening, the teams end up tied in strength of victories, it goes to strength of schedule. And, there, it appears the Seahawks hold a significant advantage with a seven-game lead over the 49ers with two weeks to play.

For more on how the 49ers are set up entering the final two games of the regular season, listen here to The 49ers Insider Podcast.

49ers mailbag: Could co-coordinators ease Kyle Shanahan's workload?

49ers mailbag: Could co-coordinators ease Kyle Shanahan's workload?

It has been two weeks since the 49ers’ loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. That’s more than enough time to turn the page and look ahead.

So that’s what we’re doing -- with the help from some of our Twitter friends. Here is the first offseason edition of the 49ers Mailbag.

Kyle Shanahan is one of the best play-callers in the NFL. I don’t think there’s even a question about that. Is there? So I can’t envision any scenario in which Shanahan stops doing the thing he does best.

Shanahan certainly believes McDaniel and LaFleur are ready to call plays. McDaniel and LaFleur are, in essence, co-offensive coordinators. They are responsible for putting together the first components of the weekly game plan.

Through the first three seasons together with the 49ers, they have found a pretty good rhythm together and Shanahan finds himself placing more trust in them. What they’re doing is working.

If the 49ers have the $19 million-plus in cap room to devote to a franchise tag for Arik Armstead, then I think they could work out a long-term deal that would work for both sides.

As for the question about a tag-and-trade, I’m sure you’re thinking about how the Kansas City Chiefs tagged Dee Ford a year ago and, then, traded him to the 49ers. In that instance, the Chiefs had Frank Clark on the line, so that made sense.

In this case, I don’t think there’s anyone who plays Armstead’s position they would prefer over him. Armstead is exactly what the 49ers need: A defensive end on base downs who moves inside next to DeForest Buckner to rush the passer in nickel situations.

There is no need for the 49ers to do anything with Thomas, except work with him to continue to improve and become more valuable as a rotational player on the defensive line. The 49ers certainly will not pick up the fifth-year option on Thomas for the 2021 season. But with Thomas’ rookie contract guaranteed, there is no cap advantage in parting ways with him this year.

Regardless, Thomas should have a significant role next season. But if for whatever reason Armstead is not back, Thomas has a strong chance to be a starter.

The possibility of recouping a draft pick is part of the reason the 49ers felt compelled to make the trade in the first place. In my opinion, they would have preferred Mohamed Sanu, who was under contract through the 2020 season. But the Patriots offered the Atlanta Falcons a second-round draft pick, and the 49ers did not have a second-round pick after dealing it to Kansas City for Dee Ford.

Instead, the 49ers acquired Sanders and a fifth-round pick from Denver in return for third- and fourth-round draft picks. The 49ers do not figure to be active with veteran acquisitions on the free-agent market this offseason, so it is likely the 49ers have more losses than gains. If Sanders is a loss, the 49ers would stand a good chance of picking up a compensatory pick for the 2021 draft.

Get stronger. Work. Work. Work.

Pettis had a good offseason program a year ago, but he was not the same player when he came back for training camp. Other receivers on the team came back stronger at the opening of camp. Pettis did not. That is why Pettis struggled and fell out of favor to the point he rarely played in the second half of the season.

Pettis needs to take it up another few notches to get stronger and avoid the nagging injuries that also set him back last season. Pettis has more ability than almost anyone on the team to run some of Shanahan’s favorite routes. He will have an opportunity to prove himself in the offseason and training camp this year.

If Jalen Hurd and Pettis are both healthy, I think the answer is Hurd. The reason is because of his size and his unique skill set.

I envision Hurd being a big part of the 49ers’ two-minute offense because of his versatility. The 49ers can line him up anywhere in the formation, including running back. That puts the onus on the defense to figure out how they want to treat him. Is he a runner, wide receiver or tight end? Then, based on the defensive personnel, the 49ers can exploit those weaknesses.

[RELATED: Juice sick of Jimmy G, Shanahan criticism after Super Bowl]

The draft takes place more than a month after free agency. So the answer to this question could change, based on what the 49ers’ roster looks like at the time of the draft. But, right now, if the 49ers hold onto the No. 31 overall pick, the team can choose among the best available wide receiver, cornerback or defensive lineman.

There are two ways to look at this. But if there’s a team willing to move up to No. 31 overall, then that is the default move. It would make a lot of sense to sit out the first round of the draft to come away with multiple picks on Day 2.

But if there is someone at No. 31 with whom the organization has fallen in love, then they should take that player. The advantage of holding onto the first-round draft pick is that the 49ers would control the contract rights to the player for five years, instead of four.

49ers' Kyle Juszczyk sick of Jimmy Garoppolo, Kyle Shanahan criticism

49ers' Kyle Juszczyk sick of Jimmy Garoppolo, Kyle Shanahan criticism

Losing the Super Bowl was tough on the 49ers, to say the least. It was especially tough for the team's fullback, Kyle Juszczyk, who hated hearing the criticism of Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan, his quarterback and coach.

"Those are two guys that have absolutely nothing to prove to the rest of the guys in the locker room," Juice said Friday on NFL Network's "Good Morning Football." "You look at Jimmy, for people that are stats guys, 4,000 yards passing, better than a two-to-one, touchdown-interception ratio, 70 percent completion."

He added with that alone, you're looking at a "phenomenal quarterback."

"For whatever reason, Jimmy just gets this extra criticism, this extra heat, but I think at one point in the game he was like 19-for-22," Jusczyk said. 

"That's football, though -- you just change one or two plays in the game, and the whole dialogue changes, the whole narrative."

Juice mentioned the moment that could have put Jimmy G in the same category as Tom Brady as a Super Bowl MVP. The moment that could have led to the 49ers popping champagne in San Francisco amongst the faithful.

That could have been a game-changer.

The play in question caused wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to storm out of the media room following the Super Bowl LIV loss to the Chiefs. Garoppolo's overthrow in the fourth quarter changed everything.

[RELATED: What Juice regrets most from 49ers' Super Bowl collapse]

And they know it. Jimmy knows it. Sanders knows it. Shanahan knows it. 

"It's a shame that one or two plays can really change everyone's outlook on someone," Juszczyk said.