Well, that was...surprising.
If you’ve followed the program here, you’d know this recap has said over and over again that the only way the San Francisco 49ers were going to get a shot at that coveted No. 1 seed in the NFC was going to be winning out. Well, the 49ers are doing their part, but that “winning out” part might not be necessary.
For starters, the 49ers locked up the NFC West with their 45-29 score over the Arizona Cardinals. That gets them one home playoff game at least. We’ll get to that in a moment, because that’s only the start of what was a wonderful weekend of football if you’re a 49ers fan.
The other part is the Philadelphia Eagles, who had the lead in the NFC through Week 13, have now dropped their third straight. This time to a Drew Lock-led Seahawks squad. The loss now puts them at 10-4, a game behind the 49ers. It’s no longer a tie, this gives cushioning, much-needed cushioning.
It also gives a wonderful feeling to be wrong. So darn wrong.
The 49ers are now firmly in the driver’s seat of the No. 1 seed. The Detroit Lions are a game back, but their conference record is not in the neighborhood of the 49ers, so the 49ers would own that tiebreaker as well. There are some hypotheticals, but the 49ers simply need to win two of their last three games to keep their paws on that coveted No. 1 seed and first round bye. Yes, there are scenarios that can get them the whole thing in Week 16, but that’s unlikely to happen. So two wins. Given a divisional opponent in the Los Angeles Rams waits for them at the end of the season, it might be best for them to beat the Baltimore Ravens (Week 16) and the Washington Commanders (Week 17) to put a stop to this. Either way, the Ravens game is not near as crucial as it was before Seattle performed the upset.
In all this madness is the very topic of this recap: The NFC West, the 49ers have secured the West for the second year in a row. Just keep in mind, we’ll keep doing NFC West recaps to see how the rest of the division does for drafting purposes and the final spots in the playoffs, but there is only one winner and it’s the 49ers.
Los Angeles Rams (7-7)
The Rams have an issue with ball security. Well with just Kyren Williams who coughed it up twice in the first half. That wasn’t an issue since the Washington Commanders were the Washington Commanders and couldn’t do much with those fumbles. The Rams defense did so well that Commanders head coach Ron Rivera pulled quarterback Sam Howell in the fourth quarter to protect him.
Then again this is the Commanders so that shouldn’t surprise you. Their defensive pieces have been traded away so the 28-20 final score should come as no surprise.
The Rams are the team no one wants to run into in the playoffs. They had a slow start but they are turning things around and might go on a run with their wildcard spot.
Seattle Seahawks (7-7)
If you’re a San Francisco 49ers fan, you might be checking X this morning feeling nauseous about all the praise you heaped on the division rival Seattle Seahawks the night before. Their wild 20-17 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the final minutes might have helped the 49ers more than it helped the Seahawks. Drew Lock started again and managed the offense, and it looked like Philadelphia might narrowly take this thing. Then the second half happened.
Things started slowly unraveling until Jalen Hurts threw a costly pick. Seattle didn’t do much with it, but once they managed a stop with with just over two minutes, Lock took the offense the length of the field with some (nice) deep throws and managed to punch it in.
Jalen Hurts threw another pick to seal the game with time left.
As we said here, Seattle was going to scratch and claw in this game and they certainly did that. The win now keeps them in third place, but they are now in the 7-7 club and if they can win out, they most likely can get a wild card spot. There are still scenarios where even if they win out, they could be out of the postseason, but that win tonight has kept their playoff hopes alive.
Arizona Cardinals (3-11)
The Cardinals are eliminated from the postseason. The 49ers did them an extra by not just winning the division in their house but putting them out of their misery. Many might point to the 45-29 score and think positive things about the Cardinals offense and negative things on the 49ers defense. It’s definitely a bit of both since both Arik Armstead and Javon Hargrave were out due to injury. The 49ers missed a plethora of tackles, worse than previous games and if they want any chance of clutching that Lombardi, it’s going to need cleaned up.
The Cardinals were in a tough spot to start the season with Kyler Murray injured. The moment they ran off DeAndre Hopkins, it was obvious they would struggle. They have done a lot of good things and Murray may yet have a fit in this new offense that’s not the air raid. Time will tell, but there were a lot of good things to take from Jonathan Gannon’s first season as head coach. Perhaps they’ll be a bit more of a thorn in 2024.
Into Week 16
We’re hitting the closing stretch of the regular season. Thankfully the 49ers won’t have to go win the No. 1 seed in the last game of the season against the Seattle Seahawks like in 2019. As we said in the opener, we’ll continue doing these recaps to see how the rest of the division does.
The 49ers will be hosting the Baltimore Ravens. This is the last big challenge they would have on the schedule (unless you count the Rams game in the season finale...which may not matter). This very well could be a Super Bowl preview and seeing how the 49ers defense can do against Lamar Jackson (even if injured) would be invaluable. Since the Seahawks beat the Eagles, this game is not near as much of a “must-win”, but facing a division rival in the Los Angeles Rams in the final game of the season doesn’t seem like it’d be so smooth.
The Rams will be taking on the New Orleans Saints in what should be a fun game. Well, on paper. The game is a Thursday Night Football game so those are always iffy. Like the Rams, the Saints are 7-7. Unlike the Rams, the Saints are on the outside looking on the playoff picture. A New Orleans win could spell disaster for the Rams are a team better off not in the postseason. Go Saints.
The Seahawks will be on the road to face the Tennessee Titans. It’s hard to see what the Titans are lately. They’ve beaten the Miami Dolphins, but then lost to the Houston Texans the next week in overtime in one of the stranger offensive games. It should be another Backup Bowl as the Titans may be without starter Will Levis who went down on the last offensive play of the game. As of this writing, nothing is confirmed but it’s speculated as ankle sprain.
The Cardinals will be playing the Chicago Bears. The game is the late-afternoon game and it hasn’t been flexed into the morning, so there it is for all three of you who want to see that.
1st [Clinched]: San Francisco 49ers; Next: vs. Baltimore Ravens
2nd: Los Angeles Rams; Next: Next: vs. New Orleans Saints
3rd: Seattle Seahawks; Next: At Tennessee Titans
4th [Eliminated from Postseason]: Arizona Cardinals; Next: at Chicago Bears