SF 49ers: Week 13 vs. Bills is most important game of the year

Running back Fred Jackson #22 of the Buffalo Bills runs against linebacker Eric Bakhtiari #96 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Running back Fred Jackson #22 of the Buffalo Bills runs against linebacker Eric Bakhtiari #96 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) /

Bills -1.5. 8-3. ESPN. Monday, Dec. 7. 5-6. 42. 16. 8:15 p.m. ET

The SF 49ers don’t have much room for error in the grander playoff picture, meaning Week 13 against the Bills is vital.

As was the case for the SF 49ers in Week 12 against the LA Rams, San Francisco’s playoff hopes this season are essentially hanging by a thread.

At 5-6 and currently sitting in the No. 10 seed in the NFC playoff picture, head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad doesn’t exactly have a ton of room to cough up yet another loss. Had the Niners lost their Week 12 bout against the Rams, thereby pushing San Francisco’s record to 4-7, the entire focus for the rest of the regular season would be on the 49ers being spoilers.

Nothing more.

Currently, the NFC’s playoff representatives are as follows:

  1. New Orleans Saints (9-2)
  2. Green Bay Packers (8-3)
  3. Seattle Seahawks (8-3)
  4. NY Giants (4-7)
  5. LA Rams (7-4)
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5)
  7. Arizona Cardinals (6-5)

Between the Cardinals and Niners, the Minnesota Vikings (5-6) and Chicago Bears (5-6) sit on the bubble and have higher seeds than San Francisco because of better conference records.

An SF 49ers win versus the Bills wouldn’t change the conference record, of course. But the Vikings get to face off against the one-win Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 13, meaning there’s a strong chance Minnesota keeps pace above the Niners anyway. A San Francisco win, paired with an unlikely Vikings loss, would be the only means for these two teams to swap places in the playoff hunt.

Meanwhile, the Bears visit the 4-7 Detroit Lions, so SF 49ers fans will be pulling for Detroit in that one. But a Niners loss paired with a Lions win would drop San Francisco below Detroit in the overall standings.

Makes sense why a Week 13 win over Buffalo is so crucial for the SF 49ers’ chances.

At 8-3, the Bills present a tough challenge for the Niners in a number of areas. But allowing an average of 4.7 rush yards against also affords San Francisco to utilize its best offensive weapon: the ground game. Maintaining control of the ball helps negate what Buffalo’s seventh-best passing offense can do while removing pressure from quarterback Nick Mullens to engineer the SF 49ers’ own offensive attack through the air.

Yet the Niners have their own challenges to overcome on Monday Night Football, mainly moving home venues from Levi’s Stadium to State Farm Stadium in Arizona.

That won’t be easy. But neither will be the looming task of getting back into the playoff hunt.

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And if San Francisco is unable to pull off the win on Monday night against Buffalo, any postseason dreams will likely come to an end.