Playoff berth a possibility this week

<P>The 49ers, believe it or not, can clinch a playoff berth this week. All they need to do is beat the Miami Dolphins, then have the outcome of three other games go their way. </P>

Under a playoff scenario released this week by the NFL, the Niners - who are tied with the Packers and Bears for the second-best record in the NFC at 9-3 - could sew up their first postseason berth in three seasons if these four things happen this coming football weekend:

--- The 49ers beat the AFC-East leading Miami Dolphins (9-3) on Sunday at 3Com Park.

--- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5) lose Sunday to the Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago.

--- The Washington Redskins (6-6) lose or tie Sunday when they host Philadelphia (8-4), leader of the NFC East and San Francisco's opponent next week.

--- The New Orleans Saints (7-5) lose Monday night at home to the St. Louis Rams, who lead the NFC West with the NFL's best record (10-2).

If the Niners beat the Dolphins on Sunday, they wouldn't need any help the next week to reach the postseason. Two more wins put them in the playoffs, regardless of what any other NFC team does. And they probably only need one more win to be guaranteed a playoff berth. Since the NFL went to three wild cards and the 12-team playoff format in 1990, teams that had at least 10 victories have qualified for the playoffs 31 out of 33 times, a 94 percent success rate. The two teams that failed to qualify meet next week at 3Com Park: The 1991 Niners and Eagles.


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