Either the San Francisco 49ers or the New Orleans Saints will be making the NFC playoffs.
While they are not facing each other head-to-head like the Las Vegas Raiders and the Los Angeles Chargers are on Sunday night, these former NFC West foes are pitted against their biggest historical rivals with a playoff berth on the line. San Francisco faces the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi, while New Orleans will duke it out with the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Between the 49ers and the Saints, who will be the seventh and final team to clinch a playoff berth over in the NFC?
Which team makes the NFC playoffs: San Francisco 49ers or New Orleans Saints?
For the 49ers (9-7) to make the playoffs, they need to beat the Rams in Inglewood or see the Saints fall to the Falcons in Atlanta. For the Saints to make the playoffs (8-8), they need to beat the Falcons on the road, as well as see the 49ers fall on the road to Los Angeles. The Saints would get in if both teams finished the year at 9-8 due to having a better overall conference record (7-5).
This comes down to what scenario is more likely to happen. San Francisco has more pathways of getting in, but are the underdogs on the road vs. Los Angeles. New Orleans needs to beat Atlanta and needs help, but the Saints are slight road favorites over the Falcons. San Francisco won the earlier meeting over the Rams in Santa Clara, while the Saints lost at home earlier to Atlanta.
As far as what the opposition is playing for, the Rams have way more at stake. A win over the 49ers gives the Rams an NFC West crown and a home playoff game. Atlanta is only looking for a season sweep of its arch rival, as the Dirty Birds were eliminated from playoff contention last week up in Buffalo. There is also one other big thing to consider: The 49ers have owned the Rams.
Though San Francisco lost the season series to both the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers did beat the Rams for the fifth time in a row. Kyle Shanahan absolutely has Sean McVay’s number, going 6-3 head-to-head and having won the last five rivalry games. To date, Arthur Smith has yet to lose a game to Sean Payton, albeit he has played the Saints once.
Ultimately, more has to go wrong for the 49ers than right for the Saints. Trusting the Falcons to win a game at home is never in one’s favor. However, there is a great chance the Rams play tight in a huge game with San Francisco who is fighting for its playoff lives. The past best indicates future performance. It is why the 49ers will beat the Rams, regardless of what the Saints do in Atlanta.
The 49ers control their own destiny and are playing a team it has own the last three seasons.