NFC playoff picture: How 49ers compare to other wild-card hopefuls

SANTA CLARA — Three games remain before the 49ers’ likely playoff return. It’s not guaranteed, yet, but they are in the NFC’s No. 6 playoff spot, with time to move up or down from the second of three wild-card berths.

If the playoffs started today — rather than the Jan. 15-17 on Super Wild-Card Weekend — the 49ers would be visiting the reigning champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Mateo native Tom Brady.

Sunday’s 31-13 home win over the Atlanta Falcons pushed the 49ers to an 8-6 record, with the NFC West title likely destined for the Los Angeles Rams (9-4) or Arizona Cardinals (10-4).

In other divisions, the Green Bay Packers (11-3) clinched the NFC North, while the Buccaneers (10-4) and the Dallas Cowboys (10-4) are closing in on NFC South and East titles, respectively.

So where do things stand with the 49ers and their competitors for wild-card spots? Here are some tiebreaker factors if it’s down to two teams (more convoluted scenarios exist but this is as streamlined as it looks):

* * *Cardinals (10-4) — current No. 4 seed

Remaining schedule: vs. Colts (Saturday); at Cowboys (Jan. 2); vs. Seahawks (Jan. 9)

Head-to-head wins: 49ers (two), Vikings; Seahawks (Jan. 9 rematch awaits); split with Rams

Conference record: 6-4

Strength of victory: .452

Strength of schedule: 466

* * *Rams (9-4) — No. 5

Remaining schedule: vs. Seahawks (Tuesday); at Vikings (Sunday); at Ravens (Jan. 2); vs. 49ers (Jan. 9)

Head-to-head wins: Seahawks (Tuesday rematch awaits); split with Cardinals

Conference record: 6-3

Strength of victory: .391

Strength of schedule: 481

* * *49ERS (8-6) — No. 6

Remaining schedule: at Tennessee Titans (Thursday); vs. Houston Texans (Jan. 2); at Rams (Jan. 9; could flex to Jan. 8)

Head-to-head wins: Falcons, Eagles, Vikings, Rams (Jan. 9 rematch awaits)

Conference record: 6-5 (two NFC games left)

Common games: They’d lose this category to the Rams and the Cardinals; they’d either tie or lose to the Saints and Washington.

Strength of victory: .403

Strength of schedule: .487

* * *Saints (7-7) — No. 7

Remaining schedule: vs. Dolphins (Dec. 27); vs. Panthers (Jan. 2); at Falcons (Jan. 9)

Head-to-head wins: Washington, Buccaneers (twice, if it comes down to NFC South title)

Conference record: 5-5

Strength of victory: .563

Strength of schedule: .528

* * *Washington (6-7)

Remaining schedule: at Eagles (Tuesday); at Cowboys (Sunday); vs. Eagles (Jan. 2); at Giants (Jan. 9)

Head-to-head wins: Seahawks

Conference record: 5-3

Strength of victory: .439

Strength of schedule: .539

* * *Eagles (6-7)

Remaining schedule: vs. Washington (Monday); vs. Giants (Sunday); at Washington (Jan. 2); vs. Cowboys (Jan. 9)

Head-to-head wins: Saints, Falcons

Conference record: 4-4

Strength of victory: .363

Strength of schedule: .478

* * *Vikings (6-7)

Remaining schedule: at Bears (tonight); vs. Rams (Sunday); at Packers (Jan. 2); vs. Bears (Jan. 9)

Head-to-head wins: Seahawks

Conference record: 4-4

Strength of victory: .470

Strength of schedule: 514

* * *Falcons (6-8)

Remaining schedule: vs. Lions (Sunday); at Bills (Jan. 2); vs. Saints (Jan. 9)

Head-to-head wins: Saints

Conference record: 3-7

Strength of victory: .333

Strength of schedule: .474

* * *Seahawks (5-8)

Remaining schedule: at Rams (Tuesday); vs. Bears (Sunday); vs. Lions (Jan. 2); at Cardinals (Jan. 9)

Head-to-head wins: 49ers (two)

Conference record: 2-6

Strength of victory: .414

Strength of schedule: .528

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