The 49ers did what they had to do. Now comes the hard part.
When San Francisco's 2019 season schedule was revealed, it was readily apparent that it was particularly backloaded. If the 49ers were going to give themselves a chance to contend for a playoff spot, they would have to take advantage of the string of easier opponents in the first half.
They did just that. The 49ers won their first eight games of the season, and if not for an overtime loss to the Seahawks in Week 10, they might still be undefeated heading into a home matchup with the Packers in Week 12.
It's a good thing, too, because Green Bay is right behind San Francisco in second place in the NFC and is one of four teams in the conference with just one fewer win than the Niners. Even if they manage to beat Aaron Rodgers and the Packers on Sunday, the path forward doesn't get any easier.
In Weeks 13 and 14, San Francisco will head out on the road for consecutive games in Baltimore and New Orleans. Just like the Packers, the Ravens and Saints currently sit at 8-2 on the season and are on the shortlist of realistic Super Bowl contenders.
Assuming neither the Ravens nor Saints lose or tie before facing San Francisco, that would establish the 49ers' next three games as the toughest three-game stretch this late in a season in NFL history. As ESPN's Nick Wagoner noted Tuesday, no team has ever played three consecutive games against opponents with winning percentages of .800-or-greater this late in the season in the Super Bowl era.
What's more, only four teams -- the 2007 Lions, 1999 Browns, 1990 Redskins and 1990 Vikings -- in the Super Bowl era have played three such games (not consecutively) in their 11th game or later.— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) November 19, 2019
Now, if either Baltimore or New Orleans loses or ties before facing San Francisco, you can throw that winning percentage stat out the window. Regardless, though, they're going to be very tough games for the 49ers, particularly on the road.
After that brutal stretch, San Francisco will close out the regular season with back-to-back home games against the Falcons and Rams, followed by a road game in Seattle. Given Atlanta's recent resurgence, there don't appear to be any pushovers remaining on the 49ers' schedule.
They did what they had to do, but for the 49ers, now comes the hard part.