The NFL playoff picture managed to get a bit more fuzzy for a lot of teams Sunday afternoon as a slew of upsets opened the door for a variety of outcomes over the final two weeks of the season. The 49ers path to postseason glory remains quite simply. Win their final three games and they clinch the two seed, with a miniscule, but mathematical chance at the one seed.
The 49ers got no help from the New Orleans Saints who blasted the Minnesota Vikings. Whatever you might think of the Saints defense, that offense is filthy when they play inside. It is solid no matter what, but put them on turf and few teams stand a chance. Playing at Lambeau Field is no picnic, but you could make an argument that facing the Saints in the Superdome might be just as difficult, if not more so. They were playing at Minnesota yesterday, but turf is turf for them. Consider them your 21st century Greatest Show On Turf to some extent.
The Green Bay Packers were stunned by the Kansas City Chiefs, leaving the number one seed door wedged open ever so slightly for the 49ers. The 49ers would need to win out the Packers would need to lose out. "So you're telling me there's a chance?!" Unlikely, but insane things do happen from time to time.
Although the 49ers biggest concern remains the number two seed, the potential opponents if they fall to the three seed remains fairly wide open. The Detroit Lions received a bit of a reprieve thanks to the Oakland Raiders yacking up a 13-point lead late in the fourth quarter. The Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals both won on Sunday and had a chance to cut Detroit's wild card lead to one game. Instead, the Raiders blew it and the Lions improved to 9-5.
Seattle and Arizona remain alive in part because Detroit has a fairly brutal schedule the rest of the way. They host a red hot San Diego Chargers squad and then travel to Green Bay to face the Packers. The Packers loss makes that game all the more interesting. If the Packers defeat Chicago next week and lock up the number one seed, it would not be surprising to see them go to their backups fairly quickly. The Packers have been dealt numerous injuries the last two weeks and have to be looking forward to a little rest before the second round of the playoffs.
For now, if Detroit loses out and Seattle or Arizona wins out, one of the two could win the final wild card spot depending on how the also 7-7 Giants and Bears finish. If the 49ers drop out of the two spot, the worst they can finish is the three seed, which means they could face the Lions, Seahawks, Cardinals, Bears or Giants (and maybe the Falcons as well, but unlikely).
How about the 49ers just make things easier by winning their final three regular season games?