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49ers fall one spot to the 7-seed in the NFC playoff race

Jimmy Garoppolo said, this train ain’t stopping. You just got to be ready for it”

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

49ers linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair had a salient quote after the game: “Seattle could be literally 0-16 heading into Week 17, and it would be like this. Every time we play Seattle, every time they play us, we know it’s going to come down to those last plays.”

The Niners had every opportunity to beat the Seahawks on Sunday, and they didn’t. When you lose a fumble, have a safety, throw two interceptions, go 3-for-10 on third down, and have four special teams blunders on offense, your probability of becoming victorious goes down the drain.

After all of that, the 49ers still had a shot from a few yards out to win the game on the final play. But, as George Kittle said postgame, “you can’t use penalties as an excuse. You just got to play better.” Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, which is why the 49ers are back to .500 and sit at 6-6.

That brings us to the NFC playoff picture. Here’s how things stand after 13 weeks:

1) Arizona 10-2
2) Green Bay 9-3
3) Tampa Bay 9-3
4) Dallas 8-4
5) Los Angeles Rams 8-4 — Remaining schedule: @ Arizona, Seattle, @ Minnesota, @ Baltimore, San Francisco
6) Washington 6-6 — Remaining schedule: Dallas, @ Philadelphia, @ Dallas, vs. Philadelphia, @ Giants
7) San Francisco 6-6 — Remaining schedule: @ Cincinnatti, Atlanta, @ Tennesee, Houston, @ Los Angeles

The 5-seed is where the playoffs begin if we assume the top four teams win their respective divisions. So, as frustrating as the loss was, the Niners would remain in the playoffs if they started today.

I’d say the biggest gripe after losing on the road to a three-win Seattle team is that, with a win, San Francisco cruises to a playoff berth. Now, the margin for error isn’t nearly as great.

When you know you’re facing pressure to win, teams tend to play tighter, and that’s how more mistakes happen. That’s what we saw on Sunday. San Francisco wasn’t playing as loose as we’ve seen in the previous three weeks.

Catching the Rams just became more challenging with a loss. Now, escaping the first-round matchup against Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady just became more difficult. That is, of course, unless the Rams slip up. As you can see from their schedule, Sean McVay will have his hands full for the rest of the season.

The same is true for Washington, who doesn’t have any easy outs during the season's final month. I’d imagine the 49ers are the team neither of the top seeds wants to play in the playoffs. Health matters. Here’s to hoping Fred Warner and Deebo Samuel don’t miss any more games.

Here’s a look at the teams on the outside looking in:

8. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
9. New Orleans Saints (5-7)
10. Minnesota Vikings (5-7)
11. Carolina Panthers (5-7)
12. Atlanta Falcons (5-7)

Minnesota had a horrific loss to the Lions Sunday. New Orleans doesn’t have a quarterback. Carolina doesn’t have an offensive coordinator. Atlanta doesn’t have a defensive line. So that leaves Philly, who has to beat Washington twice and still has another date with Dallas.

The 49ers remain in good shape, though they went from driving on a smoothly paved highway in the city to a bumpy off-road street in the country. We have a big one next week as San Francisco travels to a playoff team in the Cincinnati Bengals.