As the San Francisco 49ers close out the Week 16 schedule, their playoff standing is very much up in the air. They can either finish with the No.1 seed in the NFC or miss the postseason all together.
Entering Sunday, the 49ers were a longshot to win the division. Now, that idea is a much more realistic possibility. At 10-4, the 49ers trail the Seattle Seahawks by 1.5 games. If the 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons on "Monday Night Football," they will be a game out of first place. A tie atop the NFC West would give San Francisco the division title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
While the Seattle loss may have helped the 49ers in the division race, it didn't help San Francisco clinch a playoff berth. The Seahawks were defeated by the Arizona Cardinals, who moved to 10-5. If the 49ers can’t win on Monday, they’ll fall into a three-way tie with the Cardinals and New Orleans Saints for the No.5 and No.6 seed. The 49ers would face the Cardinals in the regular season finale in what would, essentially, be a one-game playoff for San Francisco.
The Falcons don’t have anything to play for. They are 4-10 and a half-game out of first place. A year ago, they faced the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Now, they have one of the worst records in all of football.
The Falcons have the unenviable task of going up against one of the NFL’s top defenses. Only two teams have given up fewer points per game than San Francisco. The Falcons aren’t even in the top 20 in scoring.
One of the biggest reasons for Atlanta’s struggles has been the poor play of Matt Ryan. The quarterback was given over $100 million in the offseason, and hasn’t lived up to the hype. When he plays well, the Falcons usually coming out on the winning end. However, those performances haven’t been consistent enough. In Atlanta victories, Ryan has thrown seven touchdowns and just one interception. In their 10 losses, he’s thrown just two more scores than interceptions.
Ryan will play opposite Colin Kaepernick, who has improved his numbers in recent weeks. After struggling to move the ball through the air in the first half of the season, the quarterback has played very well in the last month. Kaepernick has registered a passer rating of at least 108.8 in three of his last four contests.
Player To Watch: Matt Ryan
Time: 8:30 p.m. Monday
Place: Candlestick Park
Online Stream: WatchESPN
Updated Betting Odds: 49ers by 14
Prediction: 49ers over Falcons, 33-17