Last year, the 49ers made an improbable run to the Super Bowl, before falling one play short of reaching the ultimate team goal. They lost to the Baltimore Ravens, a more experienced team that rode momentum all the way to a Championship. This year it’s San Francisco who fits this description and unlike last year, the Niners have everything in place to get past the rest of the NFC.
With 3 weeks left in the season, San Francisco could possibly clinch a playoff spot this Sunday. They will need to beat Tampa Bay first, and after that will be rooting for the Titans, Vikings and Packers.
While a lot can happen before now and the end of the season, the playoffs are still very much in reach for the 49ers. Those who question San Francisco’s post-season chances are hanging their hat on the recent report from numberFire, giving them a 36.3 percent chance of making the playoffs. What is surprising is how anyone can agree with that.
In a game where the momentum switched hands several times, the 49ers were able to make one more play than the Falcons and will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. San Francisco bounced back from a slow start, and in the end, outplayed the home team. The 49ers have earned themselves a trip to New Orleans, where they will look to reach the pinnacle of the sport.
When Billy Cundiff was released this week, the 49ers made it clear that they have confidence in David Akers to makes kicks for the rest of the playoffs. Or it could be that they have less confidence in Cundiff. Either way, the team did the right thing by letting go of Cundiff prior to the team’s flight to Atlanta, letting Akers relax and focus on the game and not about being replaced.
When the Atlanta Falcons beat the Seattle Seahawks, they earned the first playoff win for both Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez. The entire franchise was able to breathe a sigh of relief, but will need to re-focus with San Francisco up next. With the winner heading to the Super Bowl, Atlanta must be careful to not suffer an emotional let down, and will face even more pressure as the stakes have been raised.
When the New York Giants beat San Francisco last year in the NFC Championship Game, it was the 49ers’ inability to make a big play offensively that was a big reason for the loss. The team used the off season to address this problem, and as they find themselves one win away from the Super Bowl, the offense looks nothing like the one that let them down in this very game a year ago.
After dismantling the Green Bay Packers on Saturday, the 49ers find themselves back in the NFC Championship Game. With the Falcons holding serve against the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco will travel to Atlanta with one win standing in the way of both teams of a trip to the Super Bowl. By playing a Falcons team who ended the season as the number 1 seed, in the Georgia Dome, the 49ers will be the underdogs, but have to like their chances of pulling off the upset and moving on to the Super Bowl.
The game was close on the scoreboard for the first half, but in the second half, San Francisco dominated the Packers to set up their return to the NFC Championship Game to face either the Falcons or Seahawkss. It was a complete team effort, but in his first playoff game, Colin Kaepernick again proved that he is up to any challenge and lead the charge in an performance that may be the best ever by a quarterback.
With multiple Pro Bowlers on both sides of the ball, the match-up between the 49ers and Packers will not be lacking talent. Both teams are well coached, disciplined and hungry for a win. The difference in this game will come down to the attention to 3 key areas and some luck.
By beating the Packers in Week 1, in Green Bay no less, San Francisco should have plenty of confidence that they can beat the NFC North Champs again on Saturday. While the early season victory means nothing now, the fact that the game is in San Francisco does. The Packers have struggled outside of Lambeau this year, and can’t be happy to have to go to San Francisco to try and keep their season alive.
Of all the things that resulted from the 49ers’ first round bye, none could be bigger then the week off to rest. Due to the importance of the regular season finale, San Francisco had to play to win, and could not rest their starters, but were able to get some much needed rest while the Wild Card Series were played. The 49ers as a team are as healthy as they can be, and more importantly, the news on Justin Smith is good.