Ranking Wildcard Playoff Opponents

With the final week of the regular season approaching, the playoff bound San Francisco 49ers still have much to play for. A victory over the Arizona Cardinals coupled with a Philadelphia Eagles loss will give the 49ers the top seed in the NFC and a 1st round bye . However, if the Eagles manage to win this Sunday, then things become a bit more complicated. In this scenario, the 49ers will host either the Green Bay Packers, the Seattle Seahawks, the New York Giants, or the Detroit Lions on wildcard weekend. Below, I have ranked these potential opponents in order of who I believe to be the least difficult to most difficult.

4. New York Giants

The Giants are first up and I think it’s fairly obvious why. The Giants do not scare me. New York is scoring just over 21 ppg, which is good for 15th in the league, and they’re giving up just as many points to opponents. They have the 27th ranked passing offense with just about 204 yards per game…nothing too special there. What they lack in passing, however, they make up for with the running game - the Giants have the leagues 4th best rushing attack behind Saquon Barkley.

Their defense isn’t anything special, and I figure Shanahan would have them figured out by halftime. This one is pretty simple to me…you stop Barkley, you stop the Giants.

3. Green Bay Packers

I have said a lot about the Packers this season. I was extremely critical of them starting way back in the spring when they were being called super bowl contenders. But Green Bay is now knocking on the door of a playoff berth, so here we. While Aaron Rodgers has the ability to take over a game at any time, he has not been his usual self this season. Rodgers has thrown 11 INT’s in 2022, and while that could have more to do with the talent surrounding him than Rodgers himself, it’s worth noting.

As far as the rest of the Packers go, they aren’t bad but they aren’t great. Green Bay is 14th in points scored per game, and 17th in points allowed. They’re 16th in yards per game and 19th in passing yards. Again, not what we’ve come to expect from an Aaron Rodgers-led offense. They do have the 13th ranked rushing offense in the league, with just south of 126 rushing yards per game. Aaron Jones does most of the work but AJ Dillon is putting together quite a season on the ground as well.

Two stats that jumped out at me were Green Bay’s 4th ranked time of possession, and a whopping 17 INT’s, good for 3rd best in the league. For a defense that was heralded as one of the better groups in the NFL, they’ve fallen a little short of that, but the interception numbers are impressive.

Bottom line, Rodgers is Rodgers and he’s completely capable of taking over a game and winning it. Should the 49ers have to play Green Bay, Rodgers will likely be incredibly motivated to finally beat the team that has eliminated him so many times. I’m not super thrilled with the run they’ve been on to end the season, but it doesn’t feel like this is their year. They couldn’t beat us in the icy confines of Lambeau last year, and that was when Rodgers still had Devante Adams. I don’t think they beat us now.

2. Seattle Seahawks

Yes, this does mean I put the Detroit Lions, of all teams, first. We’ll get to that in a minute. The Seahawks were not supposed to be in this situation. They were supposed to be bottom dwellers in the NFC basement, gearing up to draft their next franchise QB. But to absolutely everyone’s surprise, they started of the season white hot. They’ve since come back down to earth quite rapidly. So why, you may ask, am I putting them as the second hardest team for the Niners? Quite simply, it’s extremely difficult to beat a team 3 times in one season. We saw that against the Rams last year. I’m not saying the 2022 Seahawks are the same as the 2021 Super Bowl Champion Rams, but the point remains. They are a divisional rival, they know us very well, and you can bet your last dollar that if they manage to squeak into the playoffs, they are not going to want to lose at the hands of a hated rival.

As far as the stats go, Seattle is 9th in points scored per game, and just inside the top 10 in passing yards per game. They do have the 13th ranked running game behind rookie, Kenneth Walker III. The defense is not very good, ranking 24th, with just over 24 points allowed per game.

The Seahawks have two very good wide receivers in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, so if the pass rush were to be neutralized (much like in the Raiders game) Seattle could tee off on what is suddenly a vulnerable looking secondary for San Francisco. Geno Smith is having the best season of his career, but I just don’t see them getting passed the 49ers. I think a potential matchup could be much closer than the first 2 meetings, but the 49ers would ultimately pull it out.

1. Detroit lions

I can’t even believe I’m typing this. Who’d have thought that after years of mediocrity that the Detroit Lions could finally put it all together and make a run, behind Jared Goff no less?! This team is extremely talented and they’ve been on a roll. At one point this season, Detroit was the number 1 scoring offense in the league. They currently own the 5th ranked scoring offense, at about 27 points per game. They are 4th in yards at just over 393 yards per game. Detroit is 8th in passing yards, and 11th in rushing yards. Jared Goff is has been playing at a very high level, throwing for 4,214 yards, 29 TD’s, 7 INT’s, with a 100.1 QB rating. Helluva year..

Defensively, Detroit ranks near the bottom of the league in points allowed at 29th. They are 17th in sacks and 19th in INT’s. Rookie pass rusher, Aiden Hutchinson is having a good year with 7.5 sacks and 3 INT’s.

This Detroit Lions team is young and hungry. They’ve got a good running game behind Jamaal Williams and Deandre Swift, and a tremendous downfield passing attack, capable of stretching the 49ers secondary in ways a lot of teams can’t. I think this Detroit Lions team could be a thorn in the side of a lot of teams if they manage to get into the post season. I do believe the 49ers could beat them, but I think it would be a fight.

So there you have it. With any luck, the Eagles lose, the Niners win, and none of this matters. But it’s gonna be fascinating to see how it all plays out.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.