By Jerrell Richardson
There is no questioning the legitimacy of numberFire. The privately owned company has been around since 2010, offering analysis of data for sports, mostly for fantasy football purposes. Their partners include ESPN and Sports Illustrated, and numberFire can boast that their system has not only predicted past Super Bowl winners, but has outperformed ESPN, Yahoo and CBS in the fantasy world. However, this time they are wrong. A 36.3 percent chance is what they gave the 49ers to make the playoffs. Really? San Francisco currently sits in the final playoff spot and has a better chance than any of the NFC teams behind them for the wildcard spot.
While the NFC Crown boat has sailed, the playoffs are still right there for the taking. San Francisco’s remaining schedule has one potential loss on it, and that’s at home against the Seahawks. Outside of that they will play the Redskins, Rams, Buccaneers, Falcons and Cardinals, and it’s not far-fetched to imagine them running the table.
The four losses this season have all come at the hands of quality teams, and all were close except for the Seattle game. So it’s hard to imagine the 49ers losing to a team like the Bucs or Falcons who have struggled all year. San Francisco beat the Rams convincingly in St. Louis, so they should have no problem winning at home, and could find themselves in a very important regular season finale when they square off against the Cardinals in Arizona. Even with the much-improved play of Arizona, if the 49ers can’t beat them with San Francisco’s playoff hopes on the line, then they don’t deserve to be in the playoffs.
There is no way the 49ers lose more than two games, which means that the teams looking to take the final spot from them can only afford to lose one game from here on out. Good luck with that.
Chicago Bears (6-4)
According to the same numberFire report referenced by ESPN, it’s the Bears that are the favorites to make the playoffs. Chicago can still win their division and get in, and that’s going to be a better bet than the wild card. The Bears will play the Rams, Vikings, Cowboys, Browns, Eagles and Packers which on the surface alone is a problem considering they can’t afford to lose more than once. Add to that that four out of the six are on the road and it’s hard to see the logic behind them having a better chance than San Francisco. The Bears defense has been average at best this season and the offense is not sure which quarterback they want to run the show. If the 49ers biggest competition is the Bears, than their chances of making the playoffs are promising.
Arizona Cardinals (6-4)
Despite their record, there is no way the Cardinals make it. Not only do they have San Francisco in their final game, but they still have to play at Seattle the week before, the Colts, Eagles, Rams and Titans. Arizona will lose in Seattle, should lose in San Francisco and are going to have their hands full with the Colts, Eagles and Rams. The Titans must be their most favorable matchup and that will even be a problem for Arizona. They are on a winning streak, but have not beaten a playoff-caliber team during that run and could easily end this season .500 or below.
Dallas Cowboys (5-5)
Dallas has gotten in their own way all year, and should continue to do so. Despite the talent on their roster, they are not very good at anything. Their defense is atrocious and their offense can’t run the ball consistently to save their lives. Their schedule is not especially difficult, but they have three division games and will play the playoff-hungry Bears in Chicago. Since they are a game behind the 49ers they almost have to win out, which is impossible to do for this team, playing the Giants, Raiders, Bears, Packers, Redskins and Eagles.
In Control Of Their Fate
The 49ers playoff destiny is in their own hands. They are playing teams inferior to them, and have feasted on these types of teams all season. Not that they really need any more motivation, but after losing two straight, there is no way they overlook anything or anyone moving forward.
The key to a Super Bowl run is playing at a high level as you enter the playoffs and their schedule, along with the return of some key players should allow them to do so. If the 49ers can’t hold off the rest of the NFC and secure a playoff spot, it means that they will have lost games to teams that are not playoff worthy. Don’t let the numbers fool you, as they seem to be a prisoner of the moment like all the critics. The top six teams make it, and there is no way that anyone can look at the NFC and say that the 49ers are not in the top six. While it takes more than just talent, (see Dallas), combine that with a favorable schedule and their backs up against the wall, and there is no reason that San Francisco does not make the playoffs.
For more 49ers news and updates, visit 49ers Central.
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.