Despite the pain and anguish of a 2-6 season, coach Mike Singletary has continued to insist that the goal of the San Francisco 49ers is the playoffs. That may sound unrealistic, but the 49ers have two things working in their favor: They have five games remaining against NFC West opponents and they're only 2½ games behind the first-place Seattle Seahawks.
Still, for the 49ers to finish 8-8 – hard to believe, but it's possible that a .500 record will be enough to win the division – they would have to reverse their record at the midway point in the regular season and go 6-2.
Possible? Yes. Probable? Not really. But OK, let's take a look at their remaining schedule and see if Singletary is clinging to a pipe dream or is just crossing his fingers.
St. Louis Rams (4-4): Nov. 14 at home, Dec. 26 on the road.
Prognosis: The Rams aren't doormats any longer, but even though quarterback Sam Branford has them headed in the right direction, they're still 0-3 on the road. The rookie is 4-1 at home, though, so the best the 49ers can hope for is a split.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-2): Nov. 21 at home.
Prognosis: The Bucs are another team that has turned around its fortunes, going from 3-13 last season to their current record. They're probably not the best team in the NFC, as coach Raheem Morris recently proclaimed, but they're 3-0 on the road, which could mean trouble for the Niners. This one looks like a loss.
Arizona Cardinals (3-4): Nov. 29 on the road, Jan. 2 at home.
Prognosis: The Cardinals are drowning in quarterback problems, ranking 30th in the league in passing yards per game and 31st in total offense. QB Derek Anderson lost his starting job to Max Hall, who lost it back to Anderson with a horrendous game against the Bucs on Sunday. No reason the 49ers can't win both games given the difficulties the Cardinals are facing.
Green Bay Packers (5-3): Dec. 5 on the road.
Prognosis: The Packers were considered by many to be Super Bowl contenders, but even though they've looked very un-Super at times (losses to the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins and a 9-0 win over the New York Jets), they're formidable on any level. Not much chance to win this one.
Seattle Seahawks (4-3): Dec. 12 at home.
Prognosis: The 49ers' 31-6 season-opening loss at Seattle was the first indication this might be a tough year for San Francisco. The Seahawks are struggling on offense, ranking 28th in points and 30th in average yards per game. They're also 1-3 on the road. Looks like a win and sweet revenge.
San Diego Chargers (3-5): Dec. 16 on the road.
Prognosis: Forget the Chargers' horrible 2-5 start; they always seem to put on a playoff push in December. Since the 2006 season, San Diego is 19-0 in December and January. QB Philip Rivers has thrown for 300-plus yards five times this season and 400-plus yards twice. Tough matchup for the 49ers' secondary. A sure loss.
Final result: If the 49ers go 4-4 as we've predicted, it would leave them with a 6-10 record. Even in the NFC West, that's not good enough to finish first.
We advise Singletary to stop dreaming.