At 6-2-1, the 49ers are still one-and-a-half games ahead in the NFC West heading into their showdown with the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football.
A win would vault San Francisco into sole possession of second place in the NFC. A loss would put the 49ers on the brink of falling out of a top-six spot in the conference.
So it goes in the ultra-competitive NFC.
In the following slides, I project San Francisco's chances of securing every playoff seed.
Even if Alex Smith misses significant time with concussion-like symptoms, the 49ers missing the playoffs seems very unlikely.
They will be heavy favorites at home against the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals. If they can take care of business in those two games, they would more than likely clinch a berth with just two more wins (maybe even 9-6-1 would do the trick).
Sure, the schedule isn't a walk in the park, but San Francisco will only be an obvious underdog when it travels to Foxboro, Ma. to take on the New England Patriots.
If the 49ers were to miss the playoffs, they'd probably drop two of their next three games, along with the road games in New England and Seattle, and finish 9-6-1.
Most likely, teams without at least 10 wins in the NFC will miss out on postseason action.
Odds: 10 percent
I hate to admit it, but Pete Carroll and the Seahawks have a great chance at winning the NFC West.
The Seahawks are already 5-0 at home this year, and assuming they beat San Francisco in Week 16, they would only need to make up one other game on the 49ers to win the division.
Of its five other remaining games, Seattle will likely be favored in four. The 'Hawks will assuredly be road underdogs against the Chicago Bears.
It wouldn't surprise me at all to see the Seahawks finish 11-5, one-half game ahead of the 49ers for the division crown.
Still, as well as the Seahawks have played at home this year, San Francisco has beat them four times in a row dating back to 2010. Expect the Week 16 rematch to come down to the wire, just like the last time the 49ers played in Seattle (via sportsillustrated.com).
Odds: 30 percent
The New York Giants (6-4) appear to be in November-swoon mode, so to expect the 49ers to lose their one-and-a-half game lead over Big Blue seems farfetched.
Plus, New York's remaining opponents are a combined 31-23 (a 57.4 percent winning percentage). It's more likely that New York will lose its spot to Dallas than surpass the 49ers in the standings.
Odds: Five percent
If the 49ers lose to the Bears on Monday, they would be unlikely to make up enough ground to clinch a top-two seed in the NFC.
With a win, the Bears would have a one-and-a-half game lead on San Francisco. Both Chicago (7-2) and the Green Bay Packers (6-3) are good enough to win out. (They play each other in Week 15 at Soldier Field.)
I suspect the winner of the NFC North will end up 12-4. A 6-1 finish for San Francisco is not impossible, but it seems unlikely given the team's tough remaining slate.
Odds: 35 percent
Although unlikely, several division upsets would be the easiest way for the 49ers to secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.
Another way, as mentioned on the previous slide, would be to win at least six of their last seven games, a tall task considering the combined record of the 49ers' remaining opponents is 34-29-1.
Odds: 15 percent
To secure the top spot, the 49ers would need the Atlanta Falcons (8-1) to suffer a minor collapse.
Losing three or four games to that remaining schedule isn't a major stretch, but it's more likely that Atlanta—led by an incredible aerial attack featuring quarterback Matt Ryan—will finish 13-3 or better.
And even if the Falcons finished with fewer than 13 wins, the 49ers would still have to finish the season on a torrid winning streak.
Seems like a pipe dream to me.
Odds: Five percent