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Who has more to lose this week: The Steelers, or the 49ers?

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It might seem silly to even suggest that the 49ers, who have already clinched a playoff spot, have more to lose than the Steelers, who need a win and some help. But as the two teams prepare for their final regular season games, it might not be so black and white.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at San Francisco 49ers Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

I know what you might be saying: what a silly question.

Of course, the Steelers, who, at 8-7, head into Week 17 in-need of a win and a Titans loss in-order to make the playoffs as the AFC’s final seed, have much more to lose than do the 49ers, who, at 12-3, have already punched a ticket to the postseason dance.

It might seem that way on the surface, but if you peel the onion just a tad, you may gain a whole new perspective.

The Steelers are a team that has been without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger since he suffered a season-ending elbow injury midway through a Week 2 loss to the Seahawks at Heinz Field.

Pittsburgh started 0-3 and 1-4, and despite the incredible resurgence of a defense that was able to pick up and carry a horrid offense all the way to eight wins, many have never wavered in their belief that the team has been playing with house money this whole time.

There are also those who feel that, hey, what’s the point of the Steelers making the playoffs, if they’re just going to go and get embarrassed in the first round?

Therefore, as the Steelers gear up for their final regular season game against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium this Sunday at 4:25, there are many fans who are hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

The 49ers, on the other hand, have been in the pole position in the NFC pretty much the entire season. They didn’t lose their first game until November 11 and have never ceased control of the number one seed and homefield advantage.

That could all change this Sunday, as San Francisco travels to Seattle to take on the Seahawks with the NFC West title on the line.

If the 49ers defeat Seattle, not only do they clinch the NFC West, they clinch the number one seed and homefield advantage all throughout the postseason. But if they lose, they will drop all the way down to the fifth seed; if you’re a football aficionado, you know how hard it is to reach the Super Bowl from the wild card round—12 wins or not.

If you’re a die-hard fan of any football team, you know how high those expectations get when a top seed and homefield advantage are real possibilities. 49ers fans have likely had Super Bowl fantasies dancing in their heads since their team started 8-0.

To drop from the top seed, and being two home victories away from reaching the Super Bowl, to the fifth seed, and likely needing to win three road games, that would be quite the fall—particularly on the eve of the playoffs.

You might be wondering why the Seahawks aren’t a part of this "Who has more to lose?" article. It’s because they’ve been in the wild card spot for the entire year. They’ve been prepared for the possibility of playing three postseason road games. Sure, it will be a disappointment if they lose this Sunday, but even with a win, they would need some help to get anything higher than the third seed.

The Seahawks might not exactly be playing with house money, but I’d give them a much better chance of going on the road to play the mediocre NFC East Champions than I would San Francisco.

Therefore, if the Steelers advance to the playoffs as the sixth seed, it will feel like gravy—a nice little bonus to what should have been a disastrous 2019 campaign. But if the 49ers fall to the fifth seed after spending most of the regular season looking like a legit Super Bowl contender, they might head into the postseason a truly defeated team.

Interesting topic to ponder.