Marshall Faulk (@marshallfaulk) November 13, 2014
Marshall Faulk is back with his latest question of SB Nation, and the timing is kind of perfect for 49ers fans. The 49ers went into New Orleans sitting at 4-4, and pulled off a huge overtime win to keep their playoffs hope alive. You could look at the remaining seven games, and point to a variety of big ones. The home Seattle game is huge, and the home Arizona game to wrap up the season could prove to be a big deal. If I were to pick one of those two, it would probably be the Cardinals game since it will be the final regular season game, and a playoff berth very well could be on the line.
And yet, this week, the 49ers have made it clear that the most important game on the schedule is the next one. That has always been Jim Harbaugh's mantra, but after stumbling to a 4-4 start, it became all the more important. Anquan Boldin apparently spoke to the team during practice, and emphasized the need to treat each week like a one-week season.
"Everybody knows where we are," Boldin said. "It's not a secret. And we're the ones who put ourselves there. If it's going to get done, we're going to have to do it. We're not looking for anyone on the outside to come help us. We know we're good enough to make things happen.
"It would be a great story for us to be 4-4 and win the Super Bowl. That's how we're looking at it. We feel like every week is ‘Win or go home.' And that's how we're approaching it. We approach it the same way this week. We're looking at keeping our head down for the last part of the season, work our butts off, compete our butts off, and when it's over, we'll look up and see where we are."
While the team could conceivably make the playoffs with a couple more losses, they cannot afford to put their playoff chances in the hands of other teams. The 49ers cannot guarantee other teams will lose games. The 49ers can only win the games that are in front of them.
That means the remaining game that matters the most to this team is Sunday's game against the New York Giants. The folks at FiveThirtyEight.com came up with a helpful graphic to show the importance of each win. The graphic shows the percentage increase and decrease in playoff chances for each win and loss. It shows just how important Sunday's win was over the Saints. If the 49ers had lost, they would have fallen to 4-5. Since 1990, 12 percent of 4-5 teams make the playoffs. In that same period, 52 percent of 5-4 teams make the playoffs. None of this guarantees a playoff spot, but in a conference that is tightening up at the top, it shows how important that win was.
A win on Sunday against the Giants would improve the 49ers to 6-4, of which 62 percent of teams have made the playoffs since 1990. A loss would drop them to 5-5, of which 29 percent of teams have made the playoffs. Sure, the 49ers could be one of those teams to buck the trend, but I think we'd all prefer just seeing them win again and keep boosting those odds. All that matters is winning that next game.