Monday Night’s game in the Superdome just about guaranteed that the 49ers will not be letting up in the month of December. Nobody, even the Packers, wants to end up in New Orleans during the playoffs.
If the 49ers can avoid coughing away two games down the stretch, it’s likely they will be facing the Saints in Round Two of the playoffs. At home. The Saints are only 3-3 on the road this year, so they are beatable at Candlestick. Maybe.
The Packers, Saints, and 49ers are clearly the top three teams in the NFC, and none of them look like they will stumble in the coming month. After them, Detroit has been exposed, the Bears have no QB, the Eagles are toast, and the Giants are fading. That leaves Dallas and Atlanta as the only teams capable of catching fire this month and getting into the elite mix.
Over in the AFC, it also appears to be a three team race for dominance among the Patriots, Ravens, and Steelers. All the other contenders are a definite notch below these three.
The NFC Wild Card round looks like one game will be held in Dallas, probably against the Falcons. And the other game in New Orleans, probably against either the Bears or Lions. The AFC Wild Card round is too muddled at the moment to hazard a guess. The AFC West is going down to the wire between Oakland and Denver, and it’s unsure whether Houston can hold off the Titans in the AFC South. The Jets could get into the picture, but they look more likely to implode than explode at the moment.
Injuries can definitely alter the picture. In the past few weeks, Houston has gone from a serious SB contender to a squeak into the playoffs and call it a season team. They’ve lost their starting QB and now their backup, too. Ditto for the Bears in the NFC North.
At this time of year, every significant injury is a done for the season deal. There’s nothing available on the street, either. You better stay healthy or have some seriously good backups ready to step in and play.
The 49ers have been fortunate with injuries so far this year, with only the Josh Morgan season ender on their resume. Braylon Edwards has been dinged all year, but the team has won without him. They might not fare so well in the playoffs. It would be a big plus to the passing attack if he finally got healthy and contributed in December. At the moment, only Michael Crabtree is carrying his weight as a WR. Maybe Kyle Williams will see more and more action.
One of the great stories of this season has got to be Adam Snyder. Here’s a guy who has been knocking around the fringes of the team since he was drafted late in the third round of the 2005 draft, making himself valuable by learning all five O-line positions, and failing miserably every chance he had as a starter. His play at RT two years ago was so bad it looked like his career was going to peter out soon. This year, out of the blue, he steps into Chilo Rachal’s spot at RG and coincidentally the entire O-line suddenly jells into a formidable crew. It could be argued he’s been the MVP of the season. Without him, Chilo would be in there, sacks would be soaring, and we’d be down to our third or fourth string QB by now.
And without Adam, there’s no way we would be sitting here at 9-2 talking about a first round bye in the playoffs. Cheers to Snyder.