SF 49ers: Week 4 loss vs. Eagles will haunt Niners playoff hopes

Philadelphia Eagles players celebrate an incomplete pass by the San Francisco 49ers Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia Eagles players celebrate an incomplete pass by the San Francisco 49ers Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The SF 49ers are still in the NFC playoff hunt after 12 weeks, but that Week 4 loss to the lowly Eagles looms large late in the season.

“What if?” scenarios are rather silly because they’re not reality. But for the SF 49ers, playing the what-if game and looking back to the early points of the season shed light on just how dire their situation is in terms of the greater postseason picture.

Right now, the 5-6 Niners are on the outside, looking in on the 2020 playoff race. While trailing the seventh-seeded Arizona Cardinals by just one game in the NFC West standings, San Francisco still has to leapfrog over both the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears — two teams with identical records as the SF 49ers but a better conference record.

One of those conference losses that haunt and will continue to haunt the Niners is the 25-20 Week 4 loss to the lowly Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football.

If San Francisco misses the postseason, that’ll be the game head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co. highlight as the dagger. Not the Week 1 home loss to the Cardinals, who are turning out to be a pretty decent team entering the final stretch of the regular season.

Remember, the Eagles entered that contest with a 0-2-1 record while the SF 49ers were riding a two-game East Coast winning streak. True, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 2, leading to No. 2 quarterback Nick Mullens having to duel it out with Philly’s quarterback Carson Wentz, who was leading the league in interceptions at the time.

Only Wentz looked far more comfortable, while Mullens threw two interceptions during the game.

What made it worse was the fact The Action Network tabbed the Niners as 7.5-point favorites. Not covering was bad enough, but losing the straight-up bet made things worse over a still-lowly Eagles team that’s won only two games since.

What if the SF 49ers won Week 4 vs. Eagles?

Let’s play a little bit of revisionist history here for a second and assume Mullens and the SF 49ers managed to pull off a win over Philly way back in Week 4.

All other things being equal, the NY Giants would be happy with the Eagles buried deeper in the awful NFC East. But for the Niners, the obvious: they’d boast a 6-5 record and would be sitting in the No. 8 seed in the NFC playoff hunt, not currently at No. 10. While still tied with the Cardinals for the same record, Arizona’s Week 1 win would hold the tiebreaker with one game (Week 16) remaining.

That could still loom large.

But the bigger kicker would be the conference record. Instead of a 3-5 record against NFC teams, San Francisco would be at 4-4, which would tie them with both the Vikings and sixth-seeded Tampa Bay Buccaneers in that department, while also putting the SF 49ers only a game behind Tampa Bay in the regular standings.

The Niners would also be only a half conference game behind Arizona, too, meaning Week 16 could essentially be a postseason clincher for San Francisco if it won over the Cardinals

Not to be, though.

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It’s unfortunate because many could point out the Week 4 loss as the moment where the 2020 season started to unfold for the SF 49ers. And while there’s still a chance for a playoff push, that Week 4 loss looms largest of all in terms of their postseason prospects.