How the West Was Won
Week 1: 09-11-11 — 33-17 win over Seattle (Whew. We HAD to win this one)
Week 2: 09-18-11 — 24-27 loss to Cowboys (Veeerrry disappointing. We blew it. Same old, same old)
Week 3: 09-25-11 — 13-8 win over Bengals (Hey! We won a road game in Eastern Time Zone!)
Week 4: 10-02-11 — 24-23 win over Eagles (WOWWW!! Unbelievable!)
Week 5: 10-09-11 — 48-3 over Bucs (Geez, this team might be good!)
Week 6: 10-16-11 — 25-19 over Lions (WE ARE FOR REAL!!!)
Week 7 was a BYE week, the team was 5-1, with three eastern road wins and a three game lead in the NFC West. With games coming up against Cleveland and Washington, 7-1 was a near certainty and it was clear that the 49ers were going to win the division and go to the playoffs. The rest of the year was a long, sweet ride on the bandwagon. When we whipped the Giants and Arizona to get to 9-1, the sights were raised to the Number Two Seed in the playoffs.
And here we are. 13-3 and closing the season on a three game win streak. Taking a week off from pregame anxiety, basking in success, and planning for a pleasant weekend seeing which four teams will be sent to the scrap pile along with the twenty regular season teams that have already landed there.
Of the eight rooting galleries who will spend this weekend in high anxiety, not all will be devastated by defeat. The Bengals have a super young team that has surprised the entire league and looks ready to compete in the NFC North for years to come. None of their fans expect them to go to the Super Bowl and will walk away satisfied at just making the playoffs. The Lions were expected to be good this year, but their fans will feel okay with just making the playoffs, too.
The Texans expect a little more, but their season was sabotaged by injury and nobody expects them to get more than one victory before exiting stage right and savoring the first playoff appearance in their entire history. The Steelers, Giants, Falcons, and Saints will be crushed by anything less than a SB title.
And then there is Denver. They should be stunned at making the playoffs, but somewhere along the way they got the absurd notion that God was running their team, and will be spiritually confused and disoriented upon learning this is not so. In fact, there could be the overwhelming discovery that he who would be God is actually just Mike Singletary playing QB. Denver honcho John Elway knows this and is in the strange position of secretly hoping his team loses and loses big, so he can remedy the situation without fan hysteria interference.
This might be a week of detached gloating for 49er fans, but that surely isn’t the case for Jim Harbaugh and his coaches. The only smart play here is to prepare to face the Saints. The only other possible opponent next week would be the winner of the Giants/Atlanta game. That bridge is easier to cross than the mine field the Saints represent. An extra week of game planning and prep work might go a long way towards defusing the explosive Saints offense. The O-line needs to re-watch the butt whipping it got in the preseason by the Saints D-line, too. A repeat of that jail break would doom any chance the team has to win.
If there are no upsets in the Wild Card round, each conference should have two great offenses remaining and two great defences, going at it in the Divisional Round. It’s often said that defence wins championships, but this year’s offenses are going to provide a stern test of that old saying. Do the 49ers have any more miracles in their repertoire? We shall see.