Welcome to 2014, fellow Outsiders!
We are now in the sudden death time of year. Each 49er game might be the last we see them until next August. Scary.
It’s also 0-0 time and any team can catch fire, luck, and destiny. Last year it was Joe Flacco and the Ravens. Flacco threw 22 interceptions this year, but during the playoffs last year he didn’t toss even one. Everything he heaved into space came down in the hands of his receivers.
There’s quite a few QBs in this year’s playoffs who could go on a Flacco run. Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton — every team in the hunt has a big time talent that could have the month of his life. Only the Bengals (Andy Dalton), Eagles (Nick Foles), and Chiefs (Alex Smith) have QBs not generally associated with superstar talent, though Foles has certainly had a superstar year (27 tds, 2 ints, 119.2 QBR) — so far.
The 49ers travel to frigid Wisconsin in round one, to face the Packers. Again. They’ll be trying to complete a symmetrical bookend double whipping. They beat the Packers in Green Bay to open the 2012 season and beat them to open the playoffs in San Francisco. This year, they beat them at home to open the season and now go there to hopefully beat them again to open the playoffs. Should they succeed, you could say the 49ers have beaten the Packers every which way you can. With Smith, with Kaepernick, with running, with passing, here, there, and everywhere!
Of course, with a defense that’s given up 755 passing yards in the previous 2 games, perhaps the Niners aren’t exactly a sure bet to win this game. Rodgers has been known to rip apart even good defenses, let alone a porous version. It might not help, either, that the forecast for Sunday’s game calls for a HIGH of 4 degrees and a low of 15 below. That’s not football weather, it’s a cryonics chamber.
Packers star OLB Clay Matthews will be sitting this game out with a broken thumb. Wimp. Most likely he didn’t want to spend a frigid day getting his butt kicked by 49ers LT Joe Staley.
Should the Niners prevail at Lambeau Field, they’ll either spend the following week at Carolina or Seattle, depending on who wins the Philly vs Saints game. If the road challenged Saints win, they go to Seattle and the 49ers go play the Panthers. An Eagles victory sends the Niners to Seattle. The 49ers will know where they go before the game begins, since the Eagles game is on Saturday.
Any way you slice it, if the 49ers go on to win the Super Bowl this year, they will truly have proven to be the best team in the league. It would take road wins in Green Bay, Seattle, Carolina or New Orleans, plus a final victory in frigid New Jersey. If they succeed against these long odds, this team would go down as one of the most heroic 49er teams ever. Heart of Champion would barely begin to describe their achievement.
It all starts this Saturday. Get your popcorn ready. The 2013 NFL playoffs have arrived.