49ers still in playoff twists

  • If the 49ers defeat the Cardinals and the Seahawks lose to the Rams, San Francisco would win the NFC West. (JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Enemy territory is where the 49ers find themselves for Sunday's regular-season finale — and most likely through their upcoming playoff run.

Running back Frank Gore doesn't mind.

“We're cool with it,” Gore said recently. “If anybody's built (for road games), we are.”

Playoff scenarios abound for where and when the 49ers (11-4) will resume their NFC title defense, once they finish the regular season Sunday against the playoff-hopeful Arizona Cardinals (10-5).

A Candlestick Park encore is doubtful, attainable only through NFC West magic in which the 49ers beat the Cardinals while the Seattle Seahawks (12-3) lose to the visiting St. Louis Rams (7-8).

The 49ers could emerge today with the No. 1, 2, 5 or 6 seed. Next weekend, they'll be in one of five places: home (with a first-round bye), Chicago, Dallas, Green Bay or Philadelphia. (More on those scenarios later.)

Regardless of what Sunday brings, they at least want to extend their five-game win streak for momentum's sake.

“You want to go into the playoffs with some hard, tough wins under your belt, on the road, and you want to peak at the right time,” safety Donte Whitner said.

“I feel like we're doing that.”

Coach Jim Harbaugh's team didn't look fazed the past week by its uncertain playoff path, not after assuring at least a wild-card berth Monday night by beating the Atlanta Falcons 34-24.

Harbaugh said Friday that his team seemed “very focused” on the task at hand: The Cardinals, who can make the playoffs only by beating the 49ers and having the New Orleans Saints (10-5) lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11).

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