For as good as their 9-3-1 record would suggest otherwise, the San Francisco 49ers are a playoff team filled with question marks.
Not earth-shattering questions, but legitimate ones nonetheless.
One need only look to the regular season losses for evidence of what may arise in the postseason.
The 49ers inexplicably fell short against an inferior Vikings team in Week 3 after defeating the Packers and Lions—two reigning playoff squads powered by high-octane offenses. It was an ugly example of playing down to an opponent.
In Week 6, the Giants smashed the 49ers at Candlestick Park when sheer motives for postseason vengeance should have fueled a win. The coaching staff instead abandoned the run and got cute with the play-calling, which both led to losing the battle of the trenches and a rare turnover-filled day by Alex Smith.
The divisional rival St. Louis Rams may have unearthed the greatest concerns of all.
The first matchup resulted in a tie because of the inability of the 49ers D to hold a fourth-quarter lead against a Sam Bradford-led offense. Unnecessary penalties and deficiencies in coverage and run defense characterized this unfortunate outcome.
Just two weeks later against those very Rams, San Francisco’s offense couldn’t score for nearly three whole quarters and David Akers couldn’t make a game-winning field goal.
Throw in the debate of whether second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the right man to lead SF to the promised land and, yes, questions abound for this team.
But this article needs focus.
For our purposes, let’s tailor this evaluation to a few primary questions the 49ers must answer against each NFC team they’ll potentially meet in the playoffs based on the current standings.
Note No. 1: We realize that the team’s focus is rightfully on the regular season finales against the Patriots, Seahawks and Cardinals. That’s why we took the liberty of handling some additional “game-planning” for the coaching staff. Or something.
Note No. 2: Since reaching the Super Bowl would be an improvement over last season, we will omit any potential AFC foe and concentrate solely on obstacles in the form of NFC opponents.