49ers' Playoff Hopes Not Dead Yet

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Frank Gore and Vernon Davis may have the last laugh by making the playoffs.

    "Only a nutball would resume discussion of the playoffs for the 49ers now," Scott Ostler declared in the Chronicle, the morning after San Francisco's 24-9 win over the Cardinals.

    And that perfectly describes my kind of 49ers fan.

    The 49ers can actually still make the playoffs not only as the division winner, but could also sneak in as a wild card.  Matt Barrows lays out a long litany of possible ways these 49ers can still make the NFC playoffs on his blog in the Sacramento Bee.

    And with apologies to Mike Singletary, we do too care about the Cardinals.

    The least mathematically confounding route for the 49ers to make the playoffs is to win the NFC West outright, ergo, to finish with a better record than the Cardinals. The 6-7 Niners don't even have to win out, nor do they need for the 8-5 Cardinals to lose out. They just need to win two of their last three if the Cardinals lose all three, or to win out and hope for the Cardinals to lose at least two of three.

    If the two finish with the same record, the 49ers win the division outright based on beating Arizona twice.

    Yes, the Niners can still win the division with an 8-8 record. But they cannot win the division if the Cardinals win all three remaining games. The trouble, as you may be aware, is that the Cardinals' remaining schedule consists of the dregs-of-the-NFC Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams, before they end at home against Green Bay.

    If you'd rather consider wild card scenarios, then the 49ers are in a five-way dogfight for two wild card spots with the Packers (9-4), the Cowboys (8-5), the Giants (7-6), and the Falcons (6-7). They need to finish in the top two of those five to qualify for a wild card spot. They cannot finish first, as Green Bay has already won nine games and owns the tiebreaker by having beat the 49ers.

    That means the 49ers need for the Cowboys, Giants, and Falcons to do poorly for the next few weeks to get that wild card. But if you're trying to hex and curse other teams into playing badly, save most of your voodoo needles for the Arizona Cardinals.

    Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who tips his hat to Monty Python for coming up with the sentiment used in the headline.