It might be only a slight chance that the 49ers make it to the postseason, but it’s a chance nevertheless.
The NFL has passed the halfway point of the 2020 season and nothing has gone according to plan for the reigning NFC champions. Injuries have plagued the 49ers since Week 1. The list of starters on injured reserve is as long as the list of players that are available to travel to New Orleans for their Week 10 contest with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
Still, the 49ers' playoff hopes are not dead yet. After Kyle Shanahan's shorthanded team got dominated by the Green Bay Packers on "Thursday Night Football," the remainder of the NFC West went winless over the weekend.
The Arizona Cardinals fell to the Miami Dolphins and the Seattle Seahawks, who remain at top of the division, lost to the Buffalo Bills. The Rams had their bye week.
NFC West standings
Seattle Seahawks (6-2)
Arizona Cardinals (5-3)
Los Angeles Rams (5-3)
San Francisco 49ers (4-5)
While the 49ers remain at the bottom of the division, they are still in the top half of the NFC (8th), barely.
The remaining eight teams in the NFC have losing records, including the entire NFC East. It would be a tough road to the playoffs, but the 49ers still have a chance, especially if the NFL goes forward with an expanded 16-team playoff bracket.
The proposed 8-game playoff scenario could take place if regular-season games are lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as many teams' bye weeks have passed.
The 49ers getting to the postseason won’t be easy, with five of their remaining seven opponents having winning records. But stranger things have happened.
In 2010, the Seattle Seahawks went to the postseason after leading the division with a 7-9 record. Seattle went on to win their wild-card game against the Saints and lost in the divisional round to the Bears.
This season, the NFC East will likely produce a similar division leader with a losing record.
Along with the lowly East, the Carolina Panthers (3-6) and Atlanta Falcons (3-6) from the South would be out of the postseason if the standings remain the same as they are after Week 9. In the North, the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions both have 3-5 records, and the Chicago Bears (5-4) have lost their last three games.
The 49ers would have to win more than just their matchups with their remaining NFC East opponents (vs. Washington in Week 14 and vs. Dallas Cowboys in Week 15). They likely would need to upset at least one of their division foes, and only one of those games will be played at Levi’s Stadium.
Running back Raheem Mostert and wideout Deebo Samuel could return for the 49ers' visit to the Big Easy in Week 10, and an upset against the Saints would raise the odds of a playoff appearance quite a bit.
The 49ers have a much-needed bye in Week 11 before heading to Los Angeles in Week 12 to face the Rams, where they could be even healthier with the addition of Richard Sherman, whose practice window opened on Monday.