Margin for Error in Final Four Games is Slim for 49ers
Jose Luis Sanchez III
When the players and coaches of the San Francisco 49ers woke up Monday morning their team was sitting as the No. 2 seed in the playoff standings. When they went to sleep Monday night they dropped down to the Wild Card spot at No. 5 following the Seattle Seahawks victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Seattle has overtaken the top spot in the NFC west and are now sitting in the playoffs with a first-round bye.
Life comes at you fast in this league as the 49ers have just found out. Their current standing is why the margin for error in the final four games is slim.
That seems quite unreal to say that about a team who is 10-2, but that is just the unfortunate circumstance the 49ers are in. The NFC is immensely loaded with elite teams that any slip up could cost a team to drop to a lower seeding. That much was evident when the 49ers suffered only their second loss of the season.
Now they are in the Wild Card position for the first time this season. Luckily for the 49ers there are still four games remaining, so they do control their own destiny. Winning out will assure the 49ers a first-round bye as a top two seed. That is, however, much easier said than done. The 49ers will need to first win against the New Orleans Saints at the SuperDome this Sunday.
It'll be a difficult game to emerge victorious in because it is such a hostile environment at the SuperDome. Not to mention that the Saints have had a few extra days of rest and preparation for the 49ers since they last played on Thanksgiving. The 49ers will have their work cut out for them in this matchup. A loss to the Saints would easily make a first-round bye for the 49ers start to look bleak.
If they can handle the Saints, then the sky is the limit for them. Following their mathcup with New Orleans the 49ers will head home to host the Atlanta Falcons, who have been abysmal this season. Still, overlooking them would be most unwise for the 49ers. The same can be said when the Los Angeles Rams come to town in week 16, which could potentially setup a pivotal week 17 matchup with the Seahawks for the NFC west.
Every game for the 49ers from here on out is a high stakes game. They do not have any breathing room to relax or take a break. Their playoff run starts on Sunday against the Saints, a team who should be fired up to play another playoff team. A season full of dominating football for the 49ers could be for naught if they lose one of these next four games. To have such a phenomenal season as they have to just end up as a Wild Card would be a massive underachievement.
Of course, the Seahawks could drop a game as well to give the 49ers new life. However, San Francisco must have the mindset of controlling their own destiny. That the margin for error is slim. They cannot count on other teams to help them out and make their path to a first-round bye easy. Hopefully they realized that when the Vikings fell short to the Seahawks on Monday night.
It all starts Sunday when the 49ers head to New Orleans. It'll be yet another uphill battle for them, but this team has been through and conquered adversity all season long. This game will be no different to them and if they can manage to pull out a win, then they will be back on track to achieving a first-round bye.