After his team was crushed on Thanksgiving night by the Seattle Seahawks, head coach Jim Harbaugh said the fate of his team now depends on “how we respond.”
At 7-5, with only four games left, the Niners’ playoff chances took a huge hit.
“We need to come back and win them all,” Harbaugh said.
That four-game schedule of desperation begins this Sunday when the 49ers travel across the bay to face the 1-11 Raiders at Oakland’s O.co Coliseum.
It seems a foregone conclusion that the 49ers will win that matchup against a team that was just pounded 52-0, has no running game and was torn apart on defense by a Rams team that was 4-7. Oddsmakers have made the 49ers 9-point favorites.
After the Raiders game, however, things get much tougher. First the 49ers have to travel to Seattle, where the Seahawks have been nearly unbeatable. Then comes a game against the hot, 8-4 Chargers at Levi’s Stadium and the season finale at home vs. the NFC West-leading 9-3 Cardinals.
Currently, the 49ers are out of the playoffs, with the 8-4 Seahawks and Lions as the wild cards and the Cardinals headed toward the NFC West title.
There are still scenarios in which the 49ers could win the NFC West, by going 4-0 and finishing 11-5. And, as Harbaugh said, if they win all their remaining games, they should earn a wild-card berth.
But should San Francisco go 3-1 – with a loss in Seattle – and finish 10-6, the 49ers can still get into the postseason for a fourth straight season under Harbaugh, but they’ll need some help.
As Tyler Emerick of 49ers.com outlined scenarios this week, a 10-6 record would put San Francisco in as a wild-card team if Seattle, Arizona, Detroit or Green Bay lose over the last month. The 49ers have head-to-head victories over Dallas and Philadelphia that will give them a tiebreaker edge over those teams.
Over the next two weeks, the Philadelphia Eagles can give the 49ers a huge help if they can knock off the Seahawks in Philly and then top the visiting Cowboys. The 49ers could also benefit from the Lions stumbling, too, but that may be unlikely considering Detroit only has one game remaining against a team with a winning record, 9-3 Green Bay on the final day of the season.
The most important thing for the 49ers over the next month is to take care of their own business. The offense needs to erupt and support a defense that has been largely effective despite key injuries.
San Francisco cornerback Perrish Cox believes the 49ers still have time and says he and his teammates will “regroup.”
“We’ve just got to stay together,” he said. “Not point any fingers or anything like that.”