Here we are, in the midst of our mini-bye week, preparing for what would be a playoff clinching win for the San Francisco 49ers. A situation the 49ers haven’t been in since the Jeff Garcia/Steve Mariucci days of 2002. Pretty much the last gasp of the Eddie DeBartolo era. Hard to believe that the Niners can clinch this early. I certainly thought the Niners could win the division this year, just not so dramatically. As I said before the season started, 8-8 was a legit shot to win the NFC West. As it is now, the Niners could crash and burn, yet still win handily.
The first and foremost task at hand is to beat the St Louis Rams. The team who was touted as the division winners has staggered through a disaster of a season around a tough schedule, myriad injuries, and a coaching staff that is struggling for any kind of consistency. Sam Bradford, the up-and-coming QB of their future, is getting beaten and battered behind a makeshift line, and fans there are worried about his state of mind. He’s coming off a lingering ankle injury, but it looks like he’ll play. Josh McDaniels seems hell-bent on not utilizing Bradford’s skill-set, and is laying to waste a program that was supposedly poised for great things. The Rams are now the lowest scoring team in the league, and McDaniels is catching most of the heat for it. After last week’s 24-7 loss to Seattle, and their measly 185 yards of offense, Bradford sat alone at his locker for 20 minutes, in full uni, collecting his thoughts on what was another dismal offensive performance.
Well, tough shit, guys. There’s a game to play and a division to clinch. The season marches on, and you guys were waylaid outof the gate much like last year’s 49ers. What a difference a year makes. The hope is the Niners can beat their shakey line like a drum and shut down their anemic offense one more time. Let’s get this division sewn up, get the regulars out, and healthy up for the playoffs.
Except for the Pittsburgh game, all we have left are division games, and these games all mean something to ensure a bye week to open the playoffs. NO is a game behind San Francisco, so we need to keep them there. Winning conference games is the way to keep NO behind the 49ers should they end up tied in the standings.
I see 3-2 as our worst-case scenario. This would put us at 12-4. NO would have to win out their string (to get to 13-3) to get the bye. Frankly, this is good news for SF. It’s better to be playing games that have some sort of meaning instead of coasting into the playoffs starting now. Granted, by the time the last game vs the Rams comes up, guys like Gore, Edwards, and even Alex should get, if not the day off, then get some rest.