On October 25, the 49ers' odds of making the playoffs were 20% per ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI), 27% per Football Outsiders, and only 16% on 538. As we’ve seen, a lot can change in two months.
The Niners have found their groove, won some ugly games, won some blowouts, but, more importantly, regained their health. Since Halloween, San Francisco has won five of its past seven games and will likely be favored in three of its final four games. What seemed impossible two months ago will now be a lock with a win over the Falcons Sunday and likely one more win over the Texans.
538 gives the 49ers a 75% chance to make the playoffs. Football Outsiders has the Niners at 85%, which is up 3.8% from last week. Finally, ESPN’s FPI has Kyle Shanahan’s crew with a 77% chance to make the tournament:
The 49ers’ playoff chances got a significant boost with Sunday’s overtime victory in Cincinnati. Most importantly, it allowed them to put a game’s worth of distance between them and the five NFC teams with 6-7 records, and the FPI has their playoff odds at 77.3%. Had the Bengals completed their comeback, the 49ers’ odds would have been 53%.
The 49ers could put away one of those teams next week if they defeat the Falcons, but it won’t be easy sledding. The Niners still have games remaining at the Titans and Rams, with a presumably gimme matchup against the Texans in between.
Winning on the road against the Bengals, albeit a typical heart attack game, is a good win no matter how you slice it. Cincy is a playoff-caliber team with the type of weapons the 49ers would see in the playoffs.
My wish is coming true. If the playoffs started today, the 49ers would play the Cardinals. I can’t think of a better matchup in the first round. Yes, it’s on the road. But the familiarity and playing a team for the third time plays into the Niners' hands. There will be plenty of flip-flopping during the next month, seeding-wise, but here’s to hoping Arizona stays at No. 3 and San Francisco ends the season as the 6-seed.