The sportsbooks already believe the San Francisco 49ers will win their ninth game of the season next Sunday, January 2, even though Week 16 in the NFL hasn’t been completed yet.
And the 49ers have been listed as the early overwhelming double-digit favorite against a team that disrupted someone else’s wildcard playoff pursuit on Sunday, December 26, plus beat another aspiring playoff team.
At 8-7, plus fresh off their last second 20-17 road loss to the Tennessee Titans on Thursday, December 23, there’s already the belief that the 49ers will roll past their next AFC South opponent the Houston Texans. The Athletic’s David Lombardi on Sunday posted where the oddsmakers already have the 49ers: A 13.5 favorite.
Sure, on paper and in observing online, a team pursuing a playoff spot should bash a four-win team with ease. But again, the 49ers’ next opponent at Levi’s Stadium did shake up the postseason picture in their own conference on Sunday. And this team, despite their record, also knows a thing or two about disrupting someone else’s playoff pursuit.
Texans Rolled Through Aspiring AFC Wildcard Contender
The Texans stand at 4-11 overall and sits next to last in their division.
However, Houston — behind 149 rushing yards from Rex Burhead, a highly efficient afternoon from rookie quarterback Davis Mills and snatching two interceptions of Justin Herbert — smacked the Los Angeles Chargers 41-29.
That’s right, the lowly Texans manhandled a Chargers team that took AFC West champion Kansas City to overtime before getting ran out of Houston. And after the game, L.A. got blasted with this question by the Twitter account for NBC’s Pro Football Talk.
And got this question from Sports Illustrated’s account:
That’s not all. Houston may have the look of a team that’s playing for a top 10 pick in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, but they also pulled one other upset of an AFC playoff contender: The Titans on November 21.
All the more reason there are people sending the reminder that the 49ers may not have it easy when they return to Santa Clara on the first Sunday of 2022. Writer for 49ers Web Zone Marco Martinez is one of those people.
Marc Adams, also with 49ers Web Zone, is another one who thinks others should hold off on calling the next 49ers game a rout for the home team.
“For those fans saying next week’s game against the Texans is an automatic win for the 49ers, Houston destroyed the Chargers today,” Adams tweeted. “S.F. should win, but it’s far from guaranteed. And it will be a must-win if the Niners are to make the playoffs.”
Speaking of the playoffs…
Insider Reveals ‘Nightmare Scenario’ for 49ers
The path to the playoffs did get clearer for the ‘Niners in Week 16, by virtue of the Los Angeles Rams beating the Minnesota Vikings 30-23 on the road.
The Rams, in the process, helped the 49ers maintain their lead on the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoffs. It additionally sets up this scenario for the sixth and seventh wildcard spots:
However, there’s one other scenario mentioned by Lombardi.
“Nightmare scenario for 49ers, even if they win out: PHI/NO also winning out,” Lombardi tweeted. “That would create a 3-way tie for two open spots.”
Why is it given the “nightmare” label for the 49ers?
“Eagles would win the 3-way tiebreaker with a better conference record (8-4) than S.F. or New Orleans. S.F. would lose tiebreaker to N.O. due to worse record versus common opponents,” Lombardi posted.
With the Saints now trailing the 49ers for the sixth spot, common opponents come into play only if both teams hold the same record at season’s end. And both teams have played the Eagles, Packers, Seahawks and Falcons. While the ‘Niners hold the tiebreaker edge over the Eagles off their Week 2 road win and defeated the Falcons, unfortunately the 49ers are 2-4 versus the Saints’ common foes. The sweep from the now 5-10 Seahawks is most damaging for the 49ers. The Saints, meanwhile, are 2-3 versus this group and closes the regular season against Atlanta.
Long story short, as Lombardi mentioned, the 49ers would want the Saints to lose to the Falcons if it comes down to the tiebreaker angle.
Things would be easiest for the 49ers if they win out against Houston and the Rams to finish the regular season. But even with being an early two-touchdown favorite, former 49er Donte Whitner sent out this message to the team following the Titans loss: