The 49ers got the help they needed this week in their playoff push.
They couldn't take advantage Monday night.
The Buffalo Bills beat the 49ers 34-24 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., and the 49ers dropped to 5-7 on the season thanks to Monday's loss. The 49ers fell to 11th in the NFC standings, a game back of the Minnesota Vikings (6-6) for the conference's seventh and final playoff spot.
The Arizona Cardinals (6-6), the 49ers' current co-tenants at State Farm Stadium, also are a game ahead of the Niners in the No. 8 spot. Arizona currently holds the head-to-head tiebreaker, but the 49ers can leapfrog the Cardinals with a win over the NFC West rivals in Week 16 because the 49ers would have a better winning percentage in the division than the Cardinals. The Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions (both 5-7) are ninth and 10th, respectively, in the conference.
Moving forward, the stakes are fairly clear for the 49ers. The reigning NFC champions need to win out against the Washington Football Team (5-7), Dallas Cowboys (3-8), Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks (8-4), and then they have to hope they get some help.
The former might prove more difficult than the 49ers initially envisioned. Washington just beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, while the 49ers are winless this season against the Cardinals and Seahawks.
The teams the 49ers are chasing arguably have tougher schedules, however. Minnesota plays the New Orleans Saints (10-2) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5) over the final four weeks of the season, while Arizona faces the NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams (8-4) in addition to the 49ers.
The 49ers' playoff destiny isn't fully in their own control. They can win out, and they still might miss out on the postseason. Injured quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and tight end George Kittle conceivably could return and give the 49ers a boost, but a long-shot playoff push might not be worth the risk.
A win over the Bills on Monday would've made the decision much easier for the 49ers.