(KPIX)- The 49ers 34-24 loss to the Buffalo Bills dropped the team to 5-7 on the season and saw them tumble down to 11th in the NFC playoff standings. But, the loss did not by any means end the Niners chances of making the postseason. The projections models from FiveThirtyEight and ESPN saw the team’s chances drop just two percent in each.
That said, with a 26 percent chance in the first and a 28 percent chance in the second, it’s safe to say that the models aren’t overly optimistic on Shanahan and company’s chances. But, there is still an opportunity. The road just got more difficult.
The 49ers have games against Washington (5-7), Dallas (3-8), Arizona (6-6) and Seattle (8-4) left to play this season. According to win probability projections, they are favorites against Washington (61%) and Dallas (69%) as expected. But, the models have now shifted in their favor in both the Cardinals and Seahawks matchups to end the season. The projections see the Cardinals game as a pick’em (50%) and the Niners as slight underdogs against Seattle (48%).
Those changes have a lot to do with the way each team has played recently. The Cardinals have dropped three straight and four out of their last five while Seattle was stymied by the Giants a week after struggling to score against the abysmal Eagles.
Another area that would help the ‘Niners chances would be the return of some key players off of injured reserve. But, there’s not as much good news on that front. Shanahan said after Monday night’s game that the team doesn’t expect either quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo or tight end George Kittle back “anytime soon.”
“Those guys are working their tails off right now,” Shanahan said via the Sacramento Bee. “But they’re still part of the rehab, just trying to get back and be a part of this, but it’s not anytime soon right now.”
So, it doesn’t appear that the cavalry is coming yet. Still, there is opportunity for the team down the stretch. Their remaining four games are all against NFC opponents. Win those and you’re sitting at 9-7 and likely safely in the postseason as long as Minnesota loses games they’re expected to against the Buccaneers and Saints.
Even if the team wins just the next three against Washington, Dallas and Arizona to finish 8-8, they can get into the postseason as we detailed last week. They would need the Cardinals to lose three of their final four to finish 7-9 along with the Vikings finishing 8-8, and Chicago to finish 7-9 or worse in that scenario.
In summation, the loss to the Bills didn’t help the playoff chances certainly, eliminating another potential win and avenue to the playoffs. But, it also hasn’t closed off the opportunity for postseason play yet.
The first step would be to get a win this Sunday against Washington. Kickoff is set for 1:25 p.m. PST.