The defending NFC champs, the 49ers, are fighting just to get into the playoffs this year at 8-4, having lost to four teams that have a combined record of 37-11 (Seattle, Carolina, New Orleans and Indianapolis).

The 49ers continue to have one of the best defenses in the NFL (ranked No. 5 this week) but have struggled on offense, ranked 28th overall and 31st in passing. The offense has been better in recent weeks with the return of injured WRs Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, however, and the 49ers have won two in a row in fairly convincing fashion.

Bob Condotta