The San Francisco 49ers dominated the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night en route to an impressive 20-3 victory. The win was the 49ers 11th of the season, and it means they are in line to receive the No. 2 seed in the NFC for at least another week. If the 49ers can win road games against the Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams to close out the season, the second overall seed will be theirs.
What this means for the Detroit Lions is that they are currently in line to face the New Orleans Saints. Despite being one of the hottest teams in football right now, New Orleans could end up being the third seed in the NFC. If the Lions finish as the sixth seed, they would have to head back down to New Orleans to once again take on the Saints.
Here's how the NFC playoff picture currently shapes up:
4. Dallas Cowboys (8-6)
6. Detroit Lions (9-5)
First-round bye: Packers, 49ers
Cowboys vs. Falcons
While we're talking playoffs, I want to correct something I wrote yesterday about teams from the NFC East no longer being a concern in the wild-card race. That's only half-true. The New York Giants are not a threat to the Lions because they would have to win out to match Detroit's win total. If the Giants do win out, they will win the NFC East, so a spot in the wild card won't be affected. The Cowboys, on the other hand, technically are still in the hunt for a playoff berth via the wild card. Both the Lions and Falcons would have to lose out, and Dallas would have to win this week and lose to the Giants in Week 17 with the division title on the line for this scenario to even be on the table. It seems unlikely, and it will be irrelevant if either the Lions or Cowboys win this week (or if the Giants lose). Still, it's worth keeping in mind as we look ahead to Week 16.