Since the beginning of the season – and definitely during the 49ers’ four-game losing streak – my opinion was that the 49ers’ only route to the playoffs was to overtake the Arizona Cardinals and win the NFC West.
But after perusing the NFC standings, I’ve arrived at a different conclusion: There is no question the 49ers are right in the middle of the playoff race, and they’re actually looking pretty good.
They might be two full games behind the Cardinals in the division, but they’re only one game back of pulling into a tie with four other teams in the wild-card mix. And the 49ers’ schedule the rest of the way would appear to give them the easiest road to the postseason.
One of the teams in front of the 49ers is this week’s opponent, the Green Bay Packers. This might be a good time for the 49ers to put an end to their six-game losing streak in Green Bay. The last time the 49ers won at Lambeau Field was 1990. Later in the season, the 49ers face one of the other teams currently ahead of them in the wild-card hunt, the Philadelphia Eagles.
The encouraging thing for the 49ers is that each all of their remaining seven games is winnable. The current division leaders are New Orleans (8-0), Minnesota (8-1), Dallas (6-3) and Arizona (6-3).
Here’s a look at the remaining schedules for the 49ers and their main wild-card competition (two wild-card teams make the playoffs):
49ERS (4-5) – At Green Bay; vs. Jacksonville; at Seattle; vs. Arizona; at Philadelphia, vs. Detroit; at St. Louis. Conference record, 4-2.
EAGLES (5-4) – At Chicago; vs. Washington; at Atlanta; at NY Giants; vs. 49ers; vs. Denver; at Dallas. Conference record, 4-2.
FALCONS (5-4, including win over 49ers) – At NY Giants; vs. Tampa Bay; vs. Philadelphia; vs. New Orleans; at NY Jets; vs. Buffalo; at Tampa Bay. Conference record, 4-3.
PACKERS (5-4) – Vs. 49ers; at Detroit; vs. Baltimore; at Chicago; at Pittsburgh; vs. Seattle; at Arizona. Conference record, 4-3.
NY GIANTS (5-4) – Vs. Atlanta; at Denver; vs. Dallas; vs. Philadelphia; at Washington; vs. Carolina; at Minnesota. Conference record, 3-3.
CAROLINA (4-5) – Vs. Miami; at NY Jets; vs. Tampa Bay; at New England; vs. Minnesota; at NY Giants; vs. New Orleans. Conference record, 4-4.
CHICAGO (4-5, including loss to 49ers) – Vs. Philadelphia; at Minnesota; vs. St. Louis; vs. Green Bay; at Baltimore; vs. Minnesota; at Detroit. Conference record, 2-4.
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If a tie must be broken among two teams, head-to-head result is the first tie-breaking procedure applied. After that and with multiple teams, best win-loss-tied percentage in games played within the conference would likely determine the conference representatives. (If still tied, the next likely tie-breaker would be strength of victory.)
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