The San Francisco 49ers don’t have the best record in the NFC, but they are the team to beat in the conference. They proved that much against the Philadelphia Eagles, the team with the highest ranking in the PFN consensus power rankings last week.
What needs to happen for them to win the NFC? And is there anybody in the conference who legitimately matches up against a healthy 49ers team in the playoffs?
San Francisco 49ers Stand on Business Against Philadelphia Eagles
The 49ers talk publicly on social media more than any other team in the NFL. There have been times, like last postseason before the Eagles game in the Conference Championship, where that bit them in the backside.
But when they’re healthy, nobody in the NFL is better. They lost three consecutive games without Trent Williams and Deebo Samuel. But when everybody is on the field, there is simply too much that can beat opposing defenses. Paired with Kyle Shanahan’s outstanding play design and play calling, he thoroughly dissected the Eagles defense.
Then, there is Samuel, who can take a seemingly innocuous pass that might be a short gain and make it a touchdown.
Many were surprised when the 49ers were favorites in this game on the road despite having a worse record. But anybody who looked at this matchup analytically understood why Las Vegas felt the way they did.
The 49ers entered the matchup first in offensive EPA and fourth in defensive EPA. The Eagles were fifth in offense but only 22nd in defense.
Philadelphia has won some ugly games this season, but they’ve also beaten the Cowboys, Chiefs, and Bills. That’s an impressive stretch of wins, but with the Cowboys coming up next, they were bound to stumble at some point.
And if you’re not locked in, the 49ers will bludgeon you. In fact, San Francisco’s only win this season that was a one-score game came in Week 2 against the Rams. They beat the Cowboys by 32, the Jaguars by 31, the Seahawks by 18, and now the Eagles by 23. Only the Cowboys had a higher margin of victory heading into Week 13.
The 49ers are the best team in the NFL. But can they steal the top seed and a bye in the NFC?
49ers Playoff Scenarios
Unfortunately, it won’t be easy for the 49ers to get the top seed in the NFC. They might need to win all of their remaining games to have a legitimate shot at it. The Eagles remain a game ahead of them in the standings, and their respective schedules are similarly lightweight.
49ers remaining schedule: Seahawks, Cardinals, Ravens, Commanders, Rams
Eagles remaining schedule: Cowboys, Seahawks, Giants, Cardinals, Giants
To steal the top seed, the 49ers need the Cowboys to beat the Eagles, but that also complicates the situation. San Francisco needs to tie or best the records of Philadelphia and Dallas.
If Dallas beats Philadelphia, all three teams would be 10-3, assuming the 49ers take care of business against the Seahawks. But the 49ers still have to play the Ravens, and Lamar Jackson is almost perfect against the NFC in his career.
They’ll definitely be rooting for a Dallas win, but they might need help from the Seahawks, their bitter intra-division rival, to steal the top seed if they add a fourth loss to their record. The Cowboys’ road to the top seed is muddier.
Cowboys remaining schedule: Eagles, Bills, Dolphins, Lions, Commanders
It’s hard to envision Dallas making it out of that run unscathed, which makes San Francisco’s decision to openly root for Dallas next week a much easier decision.
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