By Jerrell Richardson
Despite their 7-6 record, 2 game losing streak, complete lack of offensive presence the past two weeks, and 3rd place standing within the NFC West, the 49ers shouldn’t call it a season just yet. While most have written them off, there is still plenty for San Francisco to play for this season. Not only can they still sneak in the playoffs, but as one of the teams on the outside looking in this postseason, they have plenty to play for and prove before seasons end. The 49ers have hit rock bottom and need to start digging themselves out, which has to start this week and not next year.
While it seems highly unlikely, if San Francisco can beat Seattle this week, they are still alive in the playoff hunt. If they’re unable to pull off the upset, they will then need some help and luck, but the 49ers remaining schedule as tough as it is, works in their favor if they hope to pull off the unlikely comeback and secure a spot in the playoffs.
Arizona Trending Down
The Cardinals sit atop of the NFC West, but have to play the division to close out the season, and could easily lose to the Rams and Seahawks before the regular season finale with the 49ers. Arizona has lost some of their early season momentum, while Seattle is starting to look like the team that won it all a year ago, and St Louis has gotten better all year and have outscored their past two opponents 76-0.
Seattle Not Out Of the Woods Yet
The Seahawks are not in the clear either. They too have their remaining 3 games within the division and will have to play their absolute best to win out. If San Francisco can knock them off this week, than it would only take Seattle losing one of their remaining games to the Cardinals or Rams for the 49ers to draw even with them. In this case San Francisco would actually get the playoff nod over Seattle due to identical division and conference records and the 49ers with the better record against common opponents.
Detroit Will Lose Finale
Then there are the Detroit Lions. To take their wildcard spot, the 49ers need them to lose 2 of their final 3. The Lions have to play the Vikings, Bears and Packers to close the season, which is not a good thing for them. Minnesota beat Detroit earlier this season, the Bears are dangerous when Cutler is on and the Packers are the Packers. It’s not at all a stretch for the Lions to drop 2 out of 3 or even lose out. Green Bay is in a race for the best record in the league so they won’t take it easy in the regular season finale, so the Lions have to lose just one before then.
9 And 4
The Eagles and Cowboys are both 9-4 teams within the 49ers sights. The two NFC East foes play each other this week and then would need to lose just another game to lose their potential spot to San Francisco. The 49ers have beaten both teams this season and would hold the tiebreaker over either if they finished with the same records. The Cowboys will play the Colts and Redskins too close the season so will have to deal with a very talented Colt team and a division rival that will look to play the role of spoiler.
Philly has the easier remaining schedule of the two with the Giants and Redskins. The Eagles are playing with a backup quarterback so while they might have the easier schedule, neither they nor Dallas are completely confident that they can win out, especially against division rivals who will want nothing more than to drag the Eagles and Cowboys out of the playoffs with them.
Playoff Push Starts In Seattle
Of course all of this is contingent on the 49ers going to Seattle and beating the Seahawks. If unable to pull off the upset, than this all becomes a moot point, but the bottom line is that it’s not time yet for the 49ers to call it a season. They are still alive in the playoff hunt and need to play like it. Even if unable to make the playoffs, the team still has to prove to the rest of the division where things stand.
It’s important that San Francisco shows Seattle they are no pushovers, and Arizona needs to know that it’s the Cardinals that are the 3rd best team in the NFC West. A loss to the Seahawks and the Cardinals will completely change the dynamics of the NFC West as the 49ers will have gone from arguably the best to arguably the worst. The Rams have played well this entire season without a quarterback and depending on how they close it out, could make the point that they too are better than the 49ers when full strength.
So with or without the playoffs in their future, the 49ers need to play better and reestablish themselves as the legitimate NFC threat as they have been the past two seasons. Otherwise, if they lose out, they will all but force drastic changes.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.