For the fourth time in five weeks, the 49ers will not be playing on Sunday, as they prepare for their Monday Night Football matchup with the Chicago Bears. Instead, the 49ers get to wait and see what Sunday's action means for the playoff picture. Of course, the 49ers are really only concerned about beating the Bears since that game dictates part of what the rest of the season could mean. A win gives the 49ers a 1/2 game lead on the Bear for the No. 2 seed, a loss drops them 1 1/2 games back and puts them that much closer to the Seahawks in the NFC West standings.
Here is how the NFC playoff picture currently stands heading into Week 11:
1. Atlanta Falcons: 8-1
2. Chicago Bears: 7-2
3. San Francisco 49ers: 6-2-1
4. New York Giants: 6-4
5. Green Bay Packers: 6-3
6. Seattle Seahawks: 6-4
The Giants and Seahawks both are on bye this week, so the 49ers can pick up a half game on each team with a win over the Bears on Monday.
Here is the NFC schedule for Week 10:
Cardinals (4-5) @ Falcons (8-1)
Browns @ Cowboys (4-5)
Packers (6-3) @ Lions (4-5)
Jets @ Rams (3-5-1)
Eagles (3-6) @ Redskins (3-6)
Buccaneers (5-4) @ Panthers (2-7)
Saints (4-5) @ Raiders
The 49ers-Bears game is of course the biggest game of the weekend, but there are still some pertinent playoff picture matchups throughout Sunday. Arizona vs. Atlanta raises questions about divisional opponents vs. potential playoff opponents. I would prefer the Falcons drop another game and give the 49ers a chance to climb closer to the No. 1 seed in the conference. Arizona could potentially climb a little bit closer to the 49ers, but I am less concerned about them than the Seahawks.
The Packers and Lions are in a game that is huge for both teams. The Packers are a game back of the Bears and could climb into a tie if they win and the Bears lose. The Lions could climb to within a game of the sixth-seeded Seahawks if they can spring what would be a pretty big upset. As long as the 49ers beat the Bears I'm not too concerned about how this one plays out, but I'd probably still root for the Lions to keep the NFC North a big compressed.
The sneaky big game in my mind is Bucs-Panthers. The Bucs are currently a half game back of the Seahawks and have to go on the road to Carolina. Although the Panthers are struggling, divisional games are always tough, and Cam Newton is always dangerous. The Bucs are quietly looking like a tough out if they can make the playoffs. They are not a great team, but they do a lot of things well and are making strong progress this season.
Other than that, the rest of Sunday involves teams on the outside looking in, just trying to maintain pace. The Rams are in a must-win situation if they want to hang around even a little bit in the NFC West. The Redskins and Eagles are playing what is more or less an elimination game in the NFC East. And then the Saints are playing in Oakland trying to build on their current win streak.