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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


49ers now favored over Bills and positioned for a surprise playoff run

Chris Wilson
Dec 5, 2020 at 8:59 PM0



After a four-point swing this week, Vegas expects the San Francisco 49ers to push for a postseason berth as the NFC's final wild-card team.


Two weeks ago, the San Francisco 49ers were a hopelessly-injured, four-win team, reduced to licking their wounds after three straight blowout losses to NFC rivals. But after a bye week of rest for key injured starters, combined with a must-win victory over the NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams, the Niners' playoff hopes are now surprisingly very much alive. Partially due to the struggles of their new "stadium-mates," the 6-5 Arizona Cardinals, the 5-6 49ers are now in a three-way tie -- just one game from the NFL's new third wild-card spot.

Perhaps "The Legendary Revenge Tour of 2020" isn't over quite yet.

The Cardinals had the advantage of a very easy schedule -- aside from a challenging Week 1 matchup against San Francisco -- over the first six games of the 2020 NFL regular season. Despite their opponents' collective record of 20-47, Arizona managed to win just four games over that stretch, including an unanticipated and unfortunate victory over the Niners.

However, the Cardinals' following five opponents are now a collective 36-19. Over the tougher five-game stretch, Arizona managed just two victories -- an overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks, and an improbable victory over the Buffalo Bills thanks to a last-second hail-mary pass to triple-covered wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

Whether the current wild-card team can right the ship in Week 13 will play a key role in the NFC playoff picture. Unfortunately for the Cards, they face the Rams, who are favored by three points for Sunday's matchup. Being the underdog is nothing new for flashy head coach Cliff Kingsbury, who has provided his teams with more hyped offenses and overall flair than actual victories during his coaching career in college and in the NFL.

Not only has Vegas taken note of the turmoil in Arizona, but the sportsbooks, the betting public, and the sharps have also recognized a newfound swagger in the San Francisco 49ers, which has resulted in significant line movement in the Niners' direction in Week 13 -- as well as a substantial opening line in the 49ers' favor for their Week 14 "home game" against the Washington Football Team. If Vegas is correct, San Francisco could be in the playoff driver's seat in just two short weeks.

Playoffs? Did someone say "Playoffs?!"



Barring a collapse by the Rams or aging quarterback Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the wild-card race appears to be four teams vying for one final playoff spot. Here are the teams, their next 2 opponents, and the current spread for each game at the time of publishing:

Team Week 13 Spread Week 14 Spread
Arizona Cardinals (6-5) Rams (7-4) Rams -3 Giants (4-7) Cardinals -3
San Francisco 49ers (5-6) Bills (8-3) 49ers -1 Washington (4-7) 49ers -4.5
Minnesota Vikings (5-6) Jaguars (1-10) Vikings -10 Bucs (7-5) Bucs -6.5
Chicago Bears (5-6) Lions (4-7) Bears -3 Texans (4-7) Texans -1.5

If Vegas' predictions for the next two weeks are accurate, the 49ers will be tied with the Cardinals, likely leaving their Week 16 showdown -- and the two teams' respective NFC West matchups in Week 17 -- to determine the NFC's final playoff team.

San Francisco 49ers (7-6)
Arizona Cardinals (7-6)
Minnesota Vikings (6-7)
Chicago Bears (6-7)

But first thing's first, as a 49ers victory over the Bills on Monday Night Football is key for the Niners' hopeful playoff run, as is a Cardinals loss to the Rams on Sunday. So, while you enjoy another Sunday of NFL football, be sure to root for the Rams, Jags, and Lions. And, of course, don't forget the Giants vs. the Seahawks -- just because.
  • Chris Wilson
  • Written by:
    You may have seen Chris Wilson's work on NFL game theory, statistical analysis, and film breakdowns at FanSided, Niner Noise, Insidethe49, LockedonSports, ClutchPoints, and others. Follow Chris on Twitter @cgawilson.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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