By Jerrell Richardson
The NFC playoff picture is a dogfight, but the 49ers still have a firm grasp on their playoff ticket. After the Cowboys defeat at the hands of the Bears on Monday Night, based on ESPN, there are two scenarios that can play out for San Francisco to book their spot in the postseason as soon as soon as this weekend.
First thing’s first, San Francisco needs to win, and they are facing a Buccaneers team that has won four of its last five games. All things considered, the 49ers should be able to take care of business against Tampa Bay, and with them playing the early game, if victorious will sit back and hope one of these two scenarios play out.
Arizona loses to Tennessee and Philadelphia loses to Minnesota
Out of the two, this is the less likely to occur. Arizona is going on the road and to face an inconsistent Titans team that has lost four of its last five games. The Cardinals are on a roll winning six out of their last seven and figure to pass their road test, but this is no walk in the park.
The Titans put up a heck of a fight against the Broncos last week, despite the final score, and if the Tennessee defense shows up this one could come down to the wire. The Cardinals are also reeling from the news that they will be without defensive standout Tyrann Mathieu for the rest of the season, and could have issues on the defensive side of the ball.
The Eagles and Vikings matchup is also unlikely to work out for the 49ers. Philly is riding a five-game winning streak and their explosive offense will get to play in a dome. Not only have the Vikings had an up and down season, but they also figure to be without 99 percent of their entire offense as Adrian Peterson is likely to sit this one out with a foot injury.
A hot Eagles team playing in ideal conditions and no Peterson makes Minnesota’s chances of winning this game a long shot, but it’s not out of the question. The Vikings have playmakers on both sides of the ball and are facing an Eagles defense that is poor defending the pass. If the Vikings can turn it into a high scoring game, they might have a shot.
Arizona loses to Tennessee and Dallas loses to Green Bay
If Arizona loses to Tennessee, that is the best bet for the 49ers clinching, and becomes almost certain if Aaron Rodgers plays. There are rumors that the player many consider the best all-around quarterback in the league will suit up, and if so, for obvious reasons, it completely changes the outlook of the game. The Cowboys defense has been atrocious this season, and after being shredded by Josh McCowan, they must be losing sleep with the prospect of being picked apart by Rodgers. Even if Matt Flynn is under center, the Cowboys defense is playing so badly that they are in danger of losing every game from here on out.
49ers Will Take It, But Don’t Need Help
Out of the three games this week outside of their own that can affect the 49ers playoff chances, the most important appears to be the Cardinals at the Titans. This is the common element in both scenarios and will start the fall of the dominoes.
However, the other games are just as important, if not more, in the grand scheme of things. Arizona is going to play the Seahawks and 49ers in their final two games, and even if they win this week, they will need a miracle to win out as they just aren’t as talented as either team. This is not the case for the Eagles and Cowboys, who can both argue that they are the more talented team then their remaining opponents; both poise a serious threat to win out.
While San Francisco will turn into Titans, Vikings and Packers fans this weekend, the bottom line is that the 49ers need to keep winning to make the playoffs. It will be a boost to get some help from others, but with three weeks left, they are in control of their own destiny, which is exactly where they want to be.
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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.