49ers' Rooting Guide for NFL Playoff Implications of Week 13

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2020

49ers' Rooting Guide for NFL Playoff Implications of Week 13

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    The San Francisco 49ers' slim playoff chance got a shot in the arm in the form of the team's 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams.

    The win was an encouraging sign from a team that took a three-game losing streak into its bye week. With Raheem Mostert, Richard Sherman and Deebo Samuel all making returns from injuries, the NFC champions looked closer to their 2019 selves.

    Those fans hoping to draft a quarterback in the first round of the draft in 2021 might be disappointed, but the team has a chance to get back into the playoff picture.

    According to the New York Times' playoff forecast tool, the Niners have a 28 percent chance to make the postseason. A win over the 8-3 Bills on Monday Night Football, and those odds shoot up to 35 percent. With two more games against NFC East opponents on the docket, there's even more hope.

    Kyle Shanahan and Co. obviously have to continue winning games, but there's a possibility they could chase a wild-card spot over the final stretch. It's enough reason for 49ers fans to do some scoreboard watching Sunday.

    Here's a rundown of the games that could affect their chances and whom fans should be rooting for.

Lions at Bears

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The Bears' free fall has been the Niners' gain. Chicago—who started the season 5-1—are 5-6 with five straight losses and a devastatingly bad 41-25 loss to Green Bay in prime time last time out.

    Now the Bears are locked in a battle for the last wild-card spot that includes San Francisco (5-6), the Minnesota Vikings (5-6) and Arizona Cardinals (6-5).

    The Niners are the 10th seed in the NFC but could easily leapfrog the Bears should they lose to the Lions. Matt Nagy has announced that Mitchell Trubisky will start his second consecutive game after getting benched earlier in the season in favor of Nick Foles.

    The Lions, meanwhile, fired head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn after an embarrassing 41-25 loss to the Houston Texans. Whether interim head coach Darrell Bevell's appointment gives the team a temporary jolt will be one of the more interesting aspects of this game.

    Neither of these teams is trending in the right direction, so it's anyone's guess who comes out on top.

    Rooting interest: Lions

Jaguars at Vikings

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    Gary McCullough/Associated Press

    The Vikings are another team locked in the battle for the final wild-card spot at 5-6. Their performance has best been described as erratic this season. After a 1-5 start they are 4-1 after the bye week, but the loss came against the floundering Dallas Cowboys.

    In Week 12, they needed a touchdown with 46 seconds left to beat the 4-8 Carolina Panthers.

    The Vikes would have to be especially bad to drop this one, though. At 1-10, the Jacksonville Jaguars are firmly locked in a battle with the winless New York Jets to procure the No. 1 pick.

    Still, the Jags were competitive against the 8-3 Cleveland Browns in a two-point loss last time out. The Jaguars will once again start Mike Glennon at quarterback even though Garnder Minshew II has fully recovered from the thumb injury that was keeping him out of the lineup.

    To recap, this is a matchup of a team that may not be all that interested in winning against a team fighting for their playoff lives. This will be a tough one to go the Niners' way.

    Rooting interest: Jaguars

Rams at Cardinals

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    As expected, the NFC West has been a rugged row to hoe in 2020. All four teams are in the playoff hunt, and each divisional game will be important to the playoff picture down the stretch.

    That includes Sunday's clash between the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals. This will be the first time the two face off, with the second matchup coming in Week 17.

    A win for the Rams would make it more difficult for the 49ers to catch them, but that's not likely to happen anyway. L.A. has a two-game lead on them even though it is 0-2 in the head-to-head. The coming schedule includes two games against the Cardinals and games against the New York Jets and New England Patriots.

    If they do somehow catch the Rams over the final stretch of the season, San Francisco would own a tiebreaker over them by virtue of their regular-season sweep.

    The Cardinals should be the focus for Niners fans. They are a Hail Mary grab from DeAndre Hopkins away from being 0-4 in their past four games. They will still have one more chance to hand them a loss of their own as they look to avenge their Week 1 defeat when they meet in Week 16.

    Rooting interest: Rams

Giants at Seahawks

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    The 49ers trail the Seattle Seahawks by three games for the NFC West lead. The Seahawks' remaining schedule includes the New York Giants, New York Jets and the Washington Football Team over the next three weeks, so there's virtually no chance they can catch their divisional rival.

    Still, that doesn't mean you shouldn't root for their total collapse.

    Rooting interest: Giants