by Scott Benson
scott@patriotsdaily.com

Another week closer to the end of the season, and another week with the San Francisco 49’ers holding position as the second worst team in football.

Just three games left. Can San Francisco maintain? The Niners, now 3-10 after being pounded by the surprising Vikings, will host the 5-8 Bengals on Saturday night. Over the final two weeks they’ll entertain Tampa Bay (8-5) before finishing on the road with the 8-5 Browns.

First thought: hell, they could lose all three of those games. What is best case scenario? One of three? The Bengals have won three of their last five, and the Bucs and Browns are each knuckle-deep in playoff fights. I’m really starting to think this could happen: the Patriots sitting on the 2nd pick in the draft.

Then I realize that the Bengals mini-run has mostly come at home, and they’re actually 1-5 on the road. Conceivably, both Tampa and Cleveland could have already clinched playoff spots before they even flip the coin with the Niners.

Given this information, I’m pondering the dreaded two-of-three ‘doomsday’ scenario. Five wins by San Francisco would almost certainly drive the Pats to the back end of the Top Ten (which is still a pretty good haul for a #28, but we’ve gotten our hopes up already).  

Our ace in the hole, as you know, is the vaunted Strength of Schedule (SOS) tiebreaker. The Niners .481 SOS easily gives them the edge over the Rams, Falcons and Jets, the other 3-10 teams that are now filling slots 2-5. It gives them the same advantage over the 4-9 cluster of Kansas City, Oakland and Baltimore, meaning the Niners can drop no lower than fifth this weekend, should they inadvertantly beat the Bengals. 

So we’ll see. Here’s this week’s chart.

http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=p-vlTwwovyEZm-YeWgj49KA&output=html&gid=0&single=true&widget=true

GAMES OF THE WEAK

Cincinnati at San Francisco – The first round pick quarterback says the head coach is undermining him with the team, and then goes on IR – God, it just gets better. Then the third-string guy comes off the bench and turns out to be the best quarterback they’ve had yet. Watch it, Shaun Hill. Don’t screw this up.

Green Bay at St. Louis – I don’t trust Brett Favre. Another guy that could screw it up. I suppose the Packers can lock down a first round bye with a win and a Seattle loss, so we got that going for us.

Atlanta at Tampa Bay – I don’t buy that the Patriots were once the laughingstock of the NFL. I think its always been the Falcons. Tampa can take their division with a win. Let’s pencil that in, shall we?

New York Jets at New England – Keep that pencil going. And while you’ve got it out, write down this weekend’s tailgate menu, as prepared by the PD Kitchen Staff.

Baltimore at Miami – Am I being foolish, or is this the perfect spot for the Dolphins to dodge the 0-16 bullet? I really ought to be rooting for the Ravens to go to 5 wins, but come on. Where’s the romance in that?

Elsewhere, you have to believe that Tennessee and Indy will beat Kansas City and Oakland, respectively. The Titans are trying to worm back into a wild card spot and the Colts can clinch their division with a victory this week. If things stay true to form, the Chiefs and Raiders will stay at five wins.