The winner of the NFC West is going to finish no better than 8-8 and could be 7-9, which is sweet music to the ears of the San Francisco 49ers.
Sunday could have been a day for elimination; instead, the 49ers are still contenders thanks to losses by the St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks. But it will take a strong finish by the Niners to get into the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
All the 49ers have to do now is beat the Rams on Dec. 26 in St. Louis and the Arizona Cardinals at home on Jan. 2. Then they need the Seahawks to lose one of their two remaining games, either against the Tampa Bay Bucs on Dec. 26 or the Rams on Jan. 2.
If all that happens, the three teams would finish the season 7-9. The 49ers would eliminate the Rams on the first tie-breaker (head to head) by virtue of two wins and would eliminate the Seahawks on division record. The Niners have a 3-1 division record and would finish 5-1 if they win their last two. Seattle is 3-2; even if the Seahawks beat the Rams, they would be 4-2.
Of course, it could all end Sunday if the 49ers lose to the Rams. That would give them 10 losses and knock them out of the race.
The Niners were a glum group last Thursday night after losing to the San Diego Chargers 34-7. Now, their fate is back in their hands, sort of.
But that's better than nothing.
LABOY ON IR: The 49ers made a couple of roster moves this weekend, putting linebacker Travis LaBoy and kicker Joe Nedney on injured reserve and promoting tight end Colin Cloherty and defensive tackle Will Tukuafu from the practice squad. LaBoy, who had five sacks, sustained a knee injury in last Thursday's loss to the Chargers. Nedney hasn't kicked since he suffered an injury to his plant leg on Nov. 14 against the Rams.