The San Francisco 49ers sit this week out after securing a number two seed and first round bye in the playoffs. They will play next week on January 12th at home in Candlestick Park against the Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, or Washington Redskins. As the number two seed, the 49ers are slotted to play the highest ranked wild card winning seed to advance, while the number one seed Atlanta Falcons are slated to take on the lowest ranked wild card winning seed to advance. As the format works out, the 49ers will not play the Minnesota Vikings or the Atlanta Falcons until the NFC Championship game if they advance in sequence with one another.
This week the number three seed Packers take on the number six seed Vikings and the number four seed Redskins take on the number five seed Seahawks. And while seeding is crucial for the beginning stages of the playoffs, like in the 49ers and Falcons case, there is a first round bye to benefit from. Other than that, the seeding matters very little. Especially in this years field of playoff participants in the NFC division. The only team that even maybe stands out as potentially weaker than the rest is the number one seed Falcons. And that’s only because they had a much softer schedule than the rest of the constituents in the playoffs. But by no means are they a push over. And the 49ers, if they are lucky enough, wont see them till right before the Super Bowl. So what do the 49ers have to look forward to when they meet their next opponent? Unfortunately, it probably won’t be a walk in the park for the 49ers no matter who shows up.
If they welcome the Green Bay Packers, there is one name that comes to mind as the defining threat for the 49ers to overcome. Super Bowl winner and MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He is arguably the best quarterback in the league, and has the talent to make himself the ultimate game changer. Regardless of the score through the first three quarters, his talents alone can produce dramatic come from behind moments late in the ball game. And he has a cavalcade of playmaker weapons that he utilizes with surgeon like precision. At any moment players like Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Randall Cobb, Donald Driver, or Jermichael Finley can explode for historic performances. And if that wasn’t tough enough to overcome, the Packers defense is coming back together at the perfect time. Superstar linebacker Clay Matthews is back to full health and veteran safety Charles Woodson has been cleared to take the field again. The Packers are most certainly gelling at the right time.
And what about the Washington Redskins, the 49ers can’t really look forward to welcoming their high powered offense either. The Redskins are the number one rushing offense in the entire league averaging over 169 yards per game on over five yards per carry. And their being led by two rookies in that department, rookie running back Alfred Morris is averaging over 100 yards per game and rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III is averaging almost 55 rushing yards per game. While Griffins passing numbers are not out of this world, he is still ranked in the top 25 in passing yards in the league. And he only throws the ball 26 times per game on average. He really doesn’t have to be that great at passing when his work on his feet is so lethal. His play action passes just might be the toughest in the league to defend too. And speaking of defense, the Redskins have a quietly become one of the better defensive teams in the league. Even ranking number one in interceptions of all the playoff teams with 21.
It is quite possible that the 49ers are looking forward to playing the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs, if only for the sweet revenge victory at home. However, the 49ers might want to be careful what they wish for. As evident by their last meeting, the Seahawks will play up to the occasion, and can hit you with a lasting blow. They drubbed the 49ers in their last meeting 42-13, and are carrying a ton of momentum into the playoffs. They are quite possibly the scariest team in the playoffs, and if they play their cards right, it’s not out of the question to see them in the Super Bowl. Running back Marshawn Lynch is in full beast mode and is running rough shot over any and all opponents. And with the number one defense in the league, only allowing 15 points per game, they will be a very tough customer if they take the field in Candlestick on January 12.
So it will not be a easy haul for the 49ers to make it back to the NFC title game, and they will more than likely be the underdogs to who ever they play moving forward. But it’s not like they haven’t done this before, they were heavy underdogs last year when they took on the Saints in the playoffs. And they walked away from that shootout with a victory. It’s all or nothing now, playoff football has arrived.
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