The 49ers finish out their season at St. Louis and at home versus the Washington Redskins. The Rams sit at 2-12 just about ready to lock up that #2 overall pick. The Redskins sit at 7-7. People weren't expecting huge things from them, but when you start the season 6-2, people expect a little more in the second half of the season.
In his weekly matchup preview post, MM made an interesting point:
This is it for the 49ers. This is really the final chance for the 49ers to leave a real impression. Although the club has three games remaining, this is probably the only one in which the opposition will be motivated to bring its "A" game. The 49ers face the Dolphins, who are in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC East.
On the one hand that's very true. The Rams long ago quit on this season and even though Haslett would love to get a head coaching job, I think that whole organization wants to get this disaster of a season behind them. The Redskins were gunning for the playoffs, but discord in the organization, particularly between Clinton Portis and Jim Zorn has led to them apparently not giving a crap.
So as is always the case, time to look out for #1. What can the 49ers get out of two final games against opponents who might very well not be bringing their A game? And more importantly, what can we as fans take away about this team from the next two games?
First and foremost, this will be just as big a test of Mike Singletary's motivational skills as most any situation. A problem with the Mike Nolan teams was their insane ability to often play to the level of their opponent. This Sunday against the Rams, I'd really like to see them open up the proverbial can of whup-ass. The Rams are a beaten team and the 49ers need to go for the throat right away. If you let the Rams hang around, they might actually start to think they can win the game and that's just not necessary.
The Redskins, on the other hand, are actually a talented team that is better than the team that lost to the Bengals on Sunday. They have a variety of offensive weapons, as well as a playmaking defense. As poorly as they've performed, if they get eliminated from playoff contention this week, no pressure might be the antidote to providing a quality effort. It's a matter of not underestimating the opponent.
Looking at the Rams game in particular, it would appear initially to be a mostly-lose situation. If the 49ers lose to them, well that's just awful, even on the road. If the 49ers win but don't blow them out, some might consider that a bad thing. As far as I'm concerned, a win is a win, and anytime you travel to another NFL team, you can't expect them to hand you anything...even a team as awful as the Rams. However, given the Rams' performances to date, a big win would really make me feel better.
Two wins would leave the 49ers at 7-9 to end the season, a mere 2 games back of my 9-7 prediction in April. Way back when, a lot of people thought 7-9 was a realistic prediction. I'd imagine they/you didn't see 7-9 happening the way it did of course....or maybe they/you did.
We already had the statistical discussion about strong finishes under Nolan. Winning these last two games would be a strong finish, but against less than stellar opponents. So, again I ask, what of value can be taken from such wins, even if it means a 7-9 record to end the season?