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'Home-Field Advantage Crucial For 49ers,' Says Inside The NFL's Brandon Marshall

(CBS San Francisco) -- The San Francisco 49ers lead the NFC West and hold the first seed in the NFC Playoffs. But they find themselves in a precarious position going into Sunday's Week 17 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks. If the 49ers win, they'll take the division and stay the top seed. If they lose, they'll drop all the way to the fifth seed.

Let's have a closer look at the NFC playoff picture. The 49ers, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints all sit at 12-3 and lead their respective divisions. The 49ers demolished the Packers, 37-8, in Week 12 and edged out the Saints, 48-46, in Week 14. That gives them the tiebreaker over both teams and the inside track to the top seed in the NFC.

They just have to beat the Seahawks on Sunday, in what is essentially an NFC West championship game. Seattle is coming off an ugly loss to the Arizona Cardinals, which dropped them to a game behind in the NFC West. But the Seahawks hold the tiebreaker over the 49ers thanks to their Week 10 overtime win. So a second win over San Francisco in the last game of the season would earn them the division and drop the 49ers into the fifth seed.

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Needless to say, the difference between a first-round bye followed by home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and a Wild Card road game followed by one or two more road games, is huge.

Given the current state of the NFC, a 49ers win would give them a bye next weekend. A loss would set up a road game against whatever team wins the NFC East, either the Philadelphia Eagles or Dallas Cowboys. Both teams are beatable, even at home, though neither Philadelphia nor Dallas is all that hospitable to visiting teams. Lincoln Financial Field in Philly can be a particularly nasty place to play in the January elements.

So why does home-field advantage matter for the 49ers?

According to Inside The NFL analyst Brandon Marshall, "Home-field advantage is important for any team. It's not just the crowd but the travel time. Being able, on game day, to just wake up in your own backyard matters a lot for the players' mindset, even the coaches. So I think home-field advantage is crucial for the 49ers."

A 49ers Super Bowl run from a Wild Card spot could involve three trips across the country. Marshall thinks "this is a team that can travel well in the playoffs. But that extra edge, when so much is at stake, is crucial. Going into this last game of the season against the Seattle Seahawks, it's important for them to get this win that they want to have an easier road to the Super Bowl."

You can catch Brandon Marshall along with Phil Simms, Ray Lewis, Michael Irvin, and host James Brown on Inside The NFL every Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.

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