Monday, December 14, 2009

Beat the Eagles and 49ers Make the Playoffs

The 49ers victory over the Arizona Cardinals was huge this evening. Combined with the Giants loss to the Eagles last night, the 49ers hopes of making the playoffs are much brighter than they appear at first glance. In the NFL, the cards don't often fall the way they are supposed to, but if the 49ers can pull of an upset against Philly, and favorites win out in the Giants, Cowboys and Falcons games the Niners nab the last wildcard slot into the playoffs. Here is how...

Cardinals (Remaining schedule: Lions, Rams & Packers)
The 49ers NFC West hopes are finished. The head-to-head sweep gives the Cardinals the tie-breaker, which means they have to go 0-3 for the 49ers to have a chance at catching them and there's no way Arizona loses to both the Lions and the Rams.
Projected Finish: 10-6

49ers (Remaining schedule: Eagles, Lions & Rams)
The 49ers need to win their remaining 3 games. If they don't, its game over. That said, of their 3 games, with the Rams and Lions a combined 3-23, the Eagles are the only difficult opponent left. If the 49ers beat the Eagles they should beat the Lions and Rams too.
Projected Finish: 9-7

Cowboys (Remaining schedule: Saints, Redskins, & Eagles)
If the season ended today, the Cowboys 8 wins would claim the final NFC wild card spot, however, they are notoriously bad in December and their schedule is probably the most difficult of any of the teams in the playoff hunt. The Cowboys should be favored against the Redskins but they will be big underdogs against the Saints and the Eagles. The Saints and Eagles are both pretty much in the playoffs so they may begin to ease off the gas pedal, but luckily for the 49ers, the Saints, who still need a win to lock-up home field advantage, play the Cowboys next week. While the Eagles will likely have locked up the NFC East by the last week in the season, when they face the Cowboys, they may still have seeding on the line. The difference between 3 vs. 4 seeding in the playoffs only has home-field advantage implications if the 3 and 4 seeds meet in the NFC Championship game but on the other hand the Cowboys just don't ever seem to win the games they need to in the Tony Romo era.
Projected Finish: 9-7

Giants (Remaining schedule: Redskins, Panthers & Vikings)
At 7-6, the Giants currently sit one game ahead of the 49ers, but their 5-0 start masks their 2-6 performance since. For 49ers fans, the Vikings game at the end of the season is scary. Its really hard to see the Vikings playing the aging Brett Farve much if they have nothing on the line and being 2 games behind the Saints and 2 games ahead of the Eagles, they are virtually assured of the 2nd seed. But since this all predicated on a little luck and the favorites winning out...
Projected Finish: 9-7

Falcons (Remaining schedule: Jets, Bills & Bucs)
At 6-6, the Falcons are effectively 1 game ahead of the 49ers because they won the head-to-head game. The Falcons have 3 winnable games left, but with Matt Ryan's turf toe injury status uncertain, its difficult to predict how they'll do. With the Jets still firmly in the AFC playoff hunt and Matt Ryan's injury its easy to see how New York could be favored. That said, the Falcons will likely be favored against the 5-8 Bills and the 1-12 Bucs regardless of Ryan's status.
Projected Finish: 8-8

Final Wild Card Standings
  1. 49ers (9-7)
  2. Giants (9-7)
  3. Cowboys (9-7)
  4. Falcons (8-8)
How the 49ers Win the Tie-Breakers
According the NFL playoff tie-breaking procedures, a 49ers, Giants & Cowboys 3-way tie would be determined in the following order:
  1. Giants eliminate Cowboys through the first divisional tie-breaker of having won both head-to-head match-ups.
  2. The 49ers eliminate the Giants by having a higher in conference winning percentage. The 49ers 8-4 NFC record barely squeaks by the Giants at 7-4.

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