It's hard to be cynical when your team flies across the country to play a road game on Monday Night Football fresh off two tough losses...and wins?
The 49ers—Colin Kaepernick in particular—gave fans plenty of reasons to smile in the 27-6 win over Washington on Monday night.
Kaepernick looked sharp, making good decisions and (mostly) accurate throws, including three that ended up in the hands of receivers in the end zone. The defense swarmed Robert Griffin III, sacking him at least 35 times (can someone fact check this?) and forcing the other team into a few costly turnovers. Even Aldon Smith, presumably sober and unarmed, had a monster game. And, miraculously, I'm not looking to tar and feather Greg Roman for his play calling or Jim Harbaugh for his time wasting abilities.
So, searching for something to whine about was difficult.
Until I saw the standings.
The 49ers are tied for second place in the NFC West with the Arizona Cardinals; both stand at 7-4. The Niners hold the tiebreaker right now with their head-to-head win over Arizona.
That 7-4 record is also the fourth-best overall team record in the NFC (the Panthers are 8-3, the Saints are 9-2 and the Seahawks are 10-1—you'll also notice that these are three of the four teams the 49ers have lost to). But there are six playoff spots, and with the silly way the NFL sets up its format, the 49ers are clinging to that sixth spot by their fingertips.
Yet the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions (the Lions just lost at home to the Buccaneers, so can we just boot them out of the playoff race now?) are the three and four seeds at 6-5 because they are in first place in terrible divisions. The NFC East, the division the Cowboys lead, is so bad that Eli Manning and his 4-7 Giants have a legitimate chance of finishing in first place. The last-place Rams would be a very close second place in that division.
So, good job 49ers. You won a game the right way and even did it in a week that old friend Alex Smith lost in Kansas City. That's all good news.
You want some more? Harbaugh said that the team expects Michael Crabtree back for next week's game. Nice.
Just in time to win our last five games and assure a playoff spot. Because right now, one more loss puts the Niners in very dangerous territory. Here's to hoping the NFL's playoff format doesn't screw them too hard.