SANTA CLARA, Calif. — All along, the San Francisco 49ers have made it clear they intend to reach the playoffs without depending on anybody else to get there — without watching games late in the season needing one team to beat another.

At this rate, San Francisco shouldn't have a problem. The NFC West-leading Niners (7-1) could lock up their spot in two weeks if they keep winning and Arizona and Seattle both lose their next two.

For Frank Gore and all the other 49ers who have never been to the playoffs, let alone on the cusp of a division title, clinching this month would be a thrill. San Francisco could secure the franchise's first playoff spot since 2002 by beating the Cardinals on Nov. 20 at Candlestick Park.