Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


Here is How the 49ers Will Make the Playoffs

Gilbert Brink
Oct 20, 2020 at 9:22 AM


Heading into the 2020 season, the 49ers didn't think they would have to be fighting tooth and nail to become a wild-card team. After nearly capturing a Super Bowl title, the main goal for this team was to make it back, and finish the job. While that may still be the ultimate goal, the 49ers have to downshift into much more realistic ambitions due to a rash of injuries to key players.

The 49ers' 2020 motto has shifted from "Legendary Revenge Tour" to "Staying Alive 2020". Suffering a few terrible early season loses have put the 49ers behind the 8 ball, but a big upset win over the LA Rams on Sunday has them sitting even at 3-3. Not the most desirable position to be in, but in the face of adversity the 49ers must look forward, not backwards. There are 10 games remaining. 10 opportunities for the 49ers to defend their NFC championship. 10 chances to show the world that, at their best, they can still take down anyone in the National Football Conference. What they do over these next 10 games will write a pivotal chapter in the legacies of head coach Kyle Shanahan and QB Jimmy Garoppolo.

If the playoffs began today, the 49ers would be out of the mix. The top 7 teams in the NFC would be:
1. Seahawks, 2. Bears, 3. Buccaneers, 4. Cowboys,
5. Packers, 6. Rams, 7. Cardinals. The 49ers are currently tied for the 9th best record in the NFC with the Carolina Panthers. There is plenty of football to be played, and 6 of the final 10 games on the 49ers' schedule come against teams ranked ahead of them in the playoff hunt (Seahawks twice, Rams, Cardinals, Packers, Saints) so they will have the ability to strengthen their case while weakening their competitors.

The Next 4


The 49ers travel to New England to face Jimmy G's old team, the Patriots, in Week 7. It is the beginning of the most important 4 -game stretch of the 49ers' season. After these 4 games, the 49ers will have their bye week. By then, their record will let the fans know how serious their playoff hopes are. It will be a tough slog, consisting of one game against the best coach of all-time paired with a mobile QB (Bill Belichik & Cam Newton), 2 against familiar foes with Hall of Fame QBs (Packers & Saints) and one game against the 49ers' most bitter rival, the currently undefeated Seahawks.

All 4 games will be incredibly difficult, but the least difficult game should come Sunday at New England. It is a game featuring an opponent with a record that is currently worse than the 49ers' record. San Francisco enters this game at 3-3 after a big win vs. the 4-2 LA Rams, while New England is fresh off a disappointing loss to Denver that dropped them to 2-3. If the 49ers defense had one clear Achilles heel, it would facing a mobile QB. Bill Belichik has that for the first time in his career, but what he doesn't have is a particularly talented roster. The 49ers have to enjoy the fact that they're facing a team that actually has a pass-rush worse than theirs, for once. This is a must-win game for the 49ers, as it would put them over .500 and get some real momentum behind the defending NFC champs.

Following the Patriots, the 49ers have another road game scheduled. In this one, the 49ers head to revisit the site of the "clinch by an inch" to continue their heated rivalry with the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle is one of the remaining undefeated teams, but it has been far from perfect. This Seahawks team is drastically different from the usual Pete Carroll Seahawks. No longer are they driven by their defense. In fact, they are ranked dead last in defensive yards allowed per game (471). One thing that is familiar, though, is they're still winning close games and Russell Wilson is still phenomenal. It's incredibly hard to see the 49ers stealing this one. Even if they play their best game, we all know by now somehow the Seahawks will pull something out of their rear-ends. This game, without question, will be the toughest game of the next 4.

Green Bay comes into town on a short week following the Seahawks game. On Thursday November 5th, the 49ers will host the Green Bay Packers. This is the only home game of the 4-game stretch. The Packers looked like an elite team, and then Week 6 happened. Just embarrassed by the Buccaneers, these Packers won't intimidate the San Francisco 49ers. In 2 matchups vs. Matt LaFluer's Packers, the 49ers have outscored them 74-28. At no point in either game did the Packers seem to be anywhere near the 49ers' league. Certainly this is a new season, but sometimes a coach just has another coach's number. This game is winnable, especially considering the history between the coaches and the 49ers' advantage of playing at home coming off of a short week.

The final game of this 4-game stretch comes against the perennial powerhouse New Orleans Saints. These Saints aren't playing like some of Sean Payton's previous iterations, but having to travel to New Orleans tilts the scales slightly in the Saints' favor. Quarterback Drew Brees has exhibited a significant decline in his ability to play the position in 2020. The Saints are currently 3-2, with losses to the Las Vegas Raiders and the Green Bay Packers. The 3 wins haven't been that impressive, struggling with a Justin Herbert-led LA Chargers, besting a Week 1 Brady Buccaneers, and squeaking by the Detroit Lions. The 49ers haven't been able to get after the QB, but Brees' limited ability and non-existent mobility will be a favorable matchup for Robert Saleh's defense. Another winnable game.

Best Possible Outcome: 3-1
Worst Possible Outcome: 0-4
Most Likely Outcome: 2-2

The 49ers could win 3 of these 4 games, but they also could lose all 4. They will probably split the 4. The most likely wins come from the Patriots and Saints games. Emerging from this run 5-5 should put smiles on the faces of 49ers fans.

The Home Stretch


If the 49ers can head into their bye at 5-5, they will have placed themselves in good position to make a run towards the playoffs. The final 6 games will not be easy, but 2 games come against legitimately bad teams (Washington and Dallas). If the 49ers can just win those 2 games, they would have to just split the other 4 (at Rams, Bills, at Cardinals, Seahawks) to have a shot at the playoffs. If they could pull this off, the 49ers would finish at 9-7 on the season and almost certainly earn either the 6th or 7th seed in the playoffs.

Quite frankly, this team isn't a Super Bowl team. That could have been said about plenty of teams in the past that actually went on to win the Super Bowl. If the 49ers can follow this road map, and just get into the dance, maybe they could put together some magic. No matter the case, as fans, embrace the journey of these 2020 49ers. It may not have been exactly what you had hoped for, but it might be a damn fun ride.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


1 Comment

  • Paul
    With the extra playoff team 9-7 or 8-8 will likely get you in the playoffs. The Cowboys at the beginning of the season looked tough with a good offense and a solid defense, but now they look horrible. The Bills defense is just not as good as last year, they can't run, and yesterday could barely pass. The 49ers need to stop a pretty weak Patriots offense If they can stop Newton running I think they got a good shot. Seattle is so clutch that will be extremely tough game, but they should try what Minnesota did for most of the game to stop the long pass. The plus about the Packers is they have to travel here on a short week (Thursday), but they want revenge for getting destroyed twice. The Saints want revenge too. If they can go 3-1 or 2-2 and worst the playoffs are in play. Trying to see the bright side of this season. This season should weed out the quiters (hopefully there aren't any), the players that can rise up with adversity, and can Jimmy G pass the team to some wins with all the injuries to the running backs.
    Oct 20, 2020 at 10:39 AM
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