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49ers overreactions: Will Niners need upset to make playoffs?

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Trey Lance, George Kittle

After nearly a full season of reactions and overreactions, we have come to the end.

Or have we?

The mathematical odds still place the 49ers with a better-than-even shot at making the playoffs. But it sure does not seem that way.

Here's our latest edition of 49ers Overreactions:

Overreaction? No, but ...

There are four possible scenarios that impact the 49ers on Sunday, and three of them would amount to the 49ers advancing to the NFC playoffs.

However, the one that hurts the 49ers is the one that is most likely to occur, according to the oddsmakers.

If the 49ers beat or tie the Los Angeles Rams, it does not matter if the New Orleans Saints win, lose or tie against the Atlanta Falcons. The 49ers are in the playoffs.

Likewise, if the Saints lose or tie the Falcons, the 49ers’ outcome is irrelevant. The 49ers will make the playoffs.

The 49ers enter the week with a 62-percent chance to make the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight. That seems a little -- or a lot -- high.

At last glance, the 49ers are 6.5-point underdogs against the Rams, and the Saints are 3.5-point favorites against Atlanta. So if those lines end up being on the mark, the 49ers will not make the playoffs.

The New Orleans Saints' upset victory in Week 15 over Tampa Bay changed everything for them and the 49ers.

If the 49ers, Saints and Philadelphia Eagles finish with records of 9-8, the head-to-head tiebreaker is not applicable because all three teams did not play each other. The 49ers beat the Eagles. The Eagles beat the Saints. But the 49ers and Saints did not play each other.


In a three-way tiebreaker, the Eagles advance based on a better record in NFC games. Then, it becomes a two-way tiebreaker between the 49ers and Saints. The Saints would win that tiebreaker because of a better conference record.

Now, if the 49ers and the Eagles both make the playoffs with the same record, the 49ers would get the No. 6 seed because, then, their head-to-head victory would be relevant to break the tie. The Eagles already have clinched a playoff spot.

Got it?

Overreaction? No.

Yes, the 49ers most certainly found themselves a quarterback. They did that with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Trey Lance was chosen to take over for Jimmy Garoppolo at some point in the future. More than likely, that change will officially take place in the offseason.

The organization is counting on Lance to be the quarterback for a long, long time. And he will be given every chance to develop into that player. And, it should be noted, coach Kyle Shanahan will be given every chance to fully develop him.

What Lance showed Sunday against the Houston Texans was certainly encouraging for the 49ers. Before Shanahan came to the 49ers, he was known as an aggressive play-caller who liked to attack down the field. Lance appears to fit Shanahan's style with his ability to throw the deep ball off play action.

But, as Lance also showed on Sunday running a basic form of Shanahan's offense, he still has a lot of room to grow and improve.

Overreaction? Yes, but ...

When compiling what went wrong during the first 16 games, Garoppolo’s play is far down the list.

Garoppolo had a good season. He proved he should be a starting NFL quarterback for some team next season. I do not believe Lance, as a rookie, would have given the 49ers a better chance of winning this season.

But it is also fair to point out that Garoppolo’s health was a contributing factor in four of the losses.

He did not play in the second half of Week 4 against the Seahawks due to a calf injury. The 49ers lost that game after being tied at halftime.

He did not play the following game against the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers lost that game.

He was not all the way healthy for the 49ers’ game two weeks later against Indianapolis. The 49ers lost that game.

And he sustained a thumb injury late in the first half of the game against Tennessee. The 49ers blew a 10-point second-half lead and lost that game.

Overreaction? Yes.

We get it. Obviously, you do not really think Lance would have dropped that far in the draft. But we’ll still discuss.


If the 49ers did not trade up to No. 3 for Lance, another team might have done it. Doubtful. But you never know.

There was speculation the Falcons would have taken Lance at No. 4. Nobody outside of the Falcons knows the answer to that.

The 49ers figured Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson would be the first two quarterbacks selected. Shanahan and general manager John Lynch wanted to make sure that the 49ers landed a QB ranked no lower than No. 3 on their draft board.

At the moment they decided on Lance, they went all-in that he would take care of the most important position in sports for a decade or more. Patience is required. This will play out over a matter of years.

Overreaction? No.

Timing is everything.

The 49ers hope to have free safety Jimmie Ward and nickel back K’Waun Williams available for Sunday’s game. Because they entered the reserve/COVID-19 list on a Monday, it gives both of them — as well as cornerback Dontae Johnson — realistic opportunities to be cleared in plenty of time to play against the Rams.

Williams and Ward are the 49ers’ two most-important defensive backs ... especially in a game against the Rams.

Rams slot receiver Cooper Kupp is having a season for the ages. In 16 games, he has 138 receptions for 1,829 yards and 15 touchdowns. Williams will have a difficult assignment. Any other player the 49ers would place at nickelback would have an impossible challenge.

Ward is equally important. With all the issues at cornerback, the 49ers have counted on Ward to do so much more that does not get seen. He gets guys lined up, double-checks that they know their assignments, and then is responsible for covering up for their mistakes and inadequacies.

So, yes, it could be a long day for the 49ers’ defense if Ward and Williams are not available.

Overreaction? No.

No disrespect to Robert Saleh, but it is truly amazing what DeMeco Ryans has accomplished in his first season as defensive coordinator. 

The 49ers rank fourth in total defense (312.8 yards allowed per game). Surprisingly, they are fifth in pass defense (206.8). They rank ninth against the run (106.0), and on defense have allowed just 3.2 yards per rushing attempt over the past seven games (if we agree to omit the 73-yard run on a fake punt against Seattle).

Ryans and his staff have done a remarkable job of covering up for the obvious shortcomings at cornerback, where their two best players never played a snap together.

Overreaction? Only a slight exaggeration.

The 49ers own California. That becomes obvious any time the team travels to Southern California.

Ever since 49ers fans took over Dallas to open the 2014, it seems the fan base’s representation at road venues has been off the charts. It is getting more and more impressive every season.

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So, yes, I’d expect 49ers fans to account for a large percentage of the 70,000 attendees at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.


And all those red-clad fans can do their team a major service by remaining quiet when the 49ers have the ball and creating a lot of noise when the Rams offense is on the field.

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