SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The numbers say the 49ers (4-4) are a long shot to return to the postseason for the fourth-straight season after Sunday's stunning loss to the Rams.
How much of a long shot?
According to Football Outsiders, who do 50,000 season simulations based on their advanced metrics, San Francisco has a 14 percent shot to make the playoffs. Bloomberg Sports is a bit more bullish, saying it has a 29.9 percent chance. ESPN Stats and Info, nearly splitting the difference, says the likelihood is 23.3 percent.
As it turns out, the difference between 5-3 and 4-4 is enormous. The Seahawks, who are 5-3, have a 70.7 percent (68.2 percent, per Bloomberg) shot at the playoffs, according to Football Outsiders. The Packers (5-3) have a 77 percent shot (57.6 percent, per Bloomberg).
A lot could happen Sunday to change those numbers. A 49ers win over New Orleans would be the obvious start. Upset losses by the Packers to the Bears, or the Seahawks to the Giants, however unlikely, could swing those numbers significantly.
When playing their best, San Francisco can still hang with the best in the conference, evident by their wins over Dallas and Philadelphia earlier this year.
Last year, the 49ers had winning streaks of five and eight games, including the playoffs, under Jim Harbaugh, who seems to thrive when the odds are stacked against him.
The 49ers' remaining schedule:
At New Orleans (4-4)
At New York Giants (3-5)
vs. Washington (3-6)
vs. Seattle (5-3)
At Oakland (0-8)
At Seattle (5-3)
vs. San Diego (5-4)
vs. Arizona (7-1)
The 49ers, at minimum, will likely need to split their next two road games. They will have four of their final six games at home. Splitting with Seattle seems like a real possibility, and they will likely have to win their final two games of the year against Arizona and San Diego.
A 6-2 finish puts the 49ers at 10-6, which would will likely be the minimum requirement to make it back to the postseason. However, the Cardinals missed the playoffs at 10-6 a year ago. A 7-1 stretch to end the year would increase San Francisco's chances significantly.
Crazier things have happened in the NFL.
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