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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

49ers' Brandon Jacobs goes from seldom seen to out of sight

Team suspends the disgruntled running back, who has played in only two games, for the last three regular-season games. Coach Jim Harbaugh won't say whether Jacobs is still part of the team.

Sam Farmer

9:58 PM CST, December 10, 2012

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In a roundabout way, Brandon Jacobs told the San Francisco 49ers how he really felt.

And Monday, in a direct way, the 49ers told Jacobs to take a hike.

The team suspended the disgruntled running back for the final three games of the regular season, thereby docking him three $55,000 game checks, a punishment he will probably appeal.

Jacobs, once a prominent player for the New York Giants, has played in two games for the NFC West-leading 49ers, and has five carries for seven yards.

In an Instagram post Saturday, he wrote: "I am on this team rotting away so why would I wanna put any pics up of anything that say niners. This is by far the worst year I ever had, I'll tell you like I told plenty others."

San Francisco Coach Jim Harbaugh, whose team is preparing to play at New England on Sunday night, dodged questions about Jacobs in his news conference Monday before the team announced the suspension.

Asked whether Jacobs was still a part of the team, Harbaugh said: "I'm going to quote the 5th Amendment. No comment about that."

At 9-3-1, the 49ers have a 11/2 -game lead over Seattle in the division and beating the Patriots is crucial for the 49ers. A loss would allow the Seahawks to trim that lead to half a game heading into a division showdown in Seattle the next Sunday. This weekend, the Seahawks play at Buffalo.

On Monday, the NFL announced the San Francisco-Seattle game Dec. 23 has been flexed into the Sunday night slot, bumping San Diego's game at the New York Jets out of that coveted position.

Something has to give: The 49ers are undefeated in their four prime-time games this season, including a 13-6 defeat of Seattle in October, and the Seahawks are 6-0 at home.

Falcons look to soar again

Atlanta, coming off an upset loss at Carolina, returns home to face the Giants, who throttled New Orleans, 52-27.

Even though the Falcons have clinched the NFC South — whereas the Giants are clinging to a one-game lead in the NFC East — the game is important to both teams. It's key for Atlanta to gather some momentum down the stretch.

Unfriendly neighbors

Since their 7-1 start, the Chicago Bears have lost four of five games. They're still only a game behind Green Bay (9-4) in the NFC North, but it's an especially challenging time to play host to the surging Packers.

The Packers are 4-0 against division opponents, and have won their last five games against the Bears. Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler left Sunday's loss at Minnesota because of a sore neck but said on WMVP-AM radio Monday that he expects to be ready to go against Green Bay.

Ray of hope

Baltimore's Ray Lewis could be back for Sunday's home game against Denver. That would be an amazingly quick return from a torn triceps he suffered in Week 6. He was back at practice last week and reportedly was able to use both arms when hitting the blocking sled.

The Ravens, who are thin at linebacker anyway, are 4-3 without Lewis. They have a two-game lead over Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the AFC North, whereas Peyton Manning and the Broncos have clinched the AFC West.

On the other side of the ball, Baltimore replaced offensive coordinator Cam Cameron with Jim Caldwell.

sam.farmer@latimes.com