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San Francisco 49ers emerge as challenge to Green Bay Packers

10:42 AM, Nov. 14, 2011  |  Comments
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While the Packers have attracted plenty of attention for their 8-0 start, the San Francisco 49ers are becoming a rising power in the NFC West.

Under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers have raced to an 8-1 start, with their only loss coming against the Dallas Cowboys 27-24 in Week 2.

The 49ers pose the greatest threat to the Packers claiming homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. The 49ers and Packers don't play each other during the regular season, so if the two teams finished with the same record, the first tiebreaker would be conference record, followed by record against common opponents.

Five of the 49ers' final seven games are against so-called soft NFC West opponents - twice against the Cardinals, twice against the Rams and once against the Seahawks. The 49ers also play challenging games at Baltimore and at home against Pittsburgh.

Here is a look at the top teams in the NFC playoff race. If the playoffs started today, three teams from the NFC North would qualify.

1. Packers 8-0 - Three of the Packers' final eight opponents have losing records: Vikings, Bucs, Chiefs.

2. 49ers 8-1 - San Francisco has a whopping five-game lead in the NFC Worst.

3. Saints 7-3 - Their overtime win at Atlanta gives them a commanding position in the NFC South.

4. Giants 6-3 - After losing at San Francisco on Sunday, they will battle the Cowboys for NFC East supremacy.

5. Bears 6-3 - They blew out the Lions at home and look like the team that advanced to last season's NFC title game.

6. Lions 6-3 - After a 5-0 start, they have lost three of their last four.

7. Cowboys 5-4 - It's hard to figure which Cowboys team will show up each week.

8. Falcons 5-4 - As the losses mount, the desperation in Atlanta increases.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

Retrieving results.
Watching practice is fine.(Your vote)
15%
576 votes
I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
23%
856 votes
I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
27%
1018 votes
It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
34%
1272 votes

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports