49ers Biggest Concerns Heading into NFL Playoffs

Phil G@FuturePhilGCorrespondent IDecember 18, 2012

49ers Biggest Concerns Heading into NFL Playoffs

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    How could the San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) have any glaring weaknesses after defeating the NFL's darlings in the New England Patriots on prime time? 

    Look, the NFL playoffs are a different animal. Luckily for the 49ers, they have a roster that is built to last the cold January/February months. 

    However, despite the solid record, the 49ers have a few defects that could potentially end up preventing them from once again hoisting the Lombardi trophy. 

    This is a Super Bowl or bust team. These teams get the burnt of most criticisms, but from what we've seen thus far in the season, the Niners have reacted accordingly in the face of adversity. 

    With a phenomenal matchup with the Seahawks on the horizon, its best we discuss some of these issues, no matter the severity. 

David Akers

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    David Akers struggles continue this season. After a gutsy fourth down call on a fake punt to Dashon Goldson for 31 yards, Jim Harbaugh trusted Akers would complete the drive with points on the board. 

    Unfortunately, for both Akers and the 49ers, he missed the kick wide left. Yes, I understand the weather is terrible and that the 49ers were up 14 points, but the miss was inexcusable for a veteran kicker like Akers. 

    Akers has killed the 49ers this season, especially in big moments. The game against St. Louis Rams should ring a bell? 

    Releasing Akers at this point in the season may be tough to swallow, but if his struggles continue in the next two games, the 49ers may need to look at other options. 

Return Game

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    Ted Ginn should have probably stayed in New England. A kick returner that was once feared by opposing special team coaches and players, has now become a shell of his old self. 

    Ginn looks timid and terrified, not to mention his porous ball protection this season. He still has next-level speed, however, I'm not sure that will completely outweigh his lack of production thus far in the season. 

    With the way LaMichael James performed, both as a kick returner and change of pace back, against the New England Patriots, Ginn will likely ride the pine against the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday night. 


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    Justin Smith's absence for parts of the 49ers victory over the New England Patriots was concerning for most fans. 

    Smith is the anchor of this great 49ers defense. His ability to eat up blocks and close gaps play a major role in the 49ers success. 

    In fact, his absence affects practically everyone alongside that front seven, including star linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. 

    Every team must deal with injuries, no matter how severe, but the loss of Smith would seriously hurt the 49ers chances at a Super Bowl appearance. He is that important to the success of this team. 

NFC Gridiron

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    Possible Opponents: Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks (at home), and potentially, the New York Giants

    All four teams, especially the Packers, have a great chance in upsetting the 49ers in the playoffs. However, if Seattle or New York were to be eliminated, it would basically clear a path for the 49ers heading into a potential conference championship appearance. 

    After their fantastic win against the New England Patriots, the 49ers are in the driving seat for a playoff bye. But, a potential matchup with the Packers in the divisional round at this point seems inevitable.

    If the Niners can secure a bye, they would likely face the Packers in the divisional round. I would still give the edge to the Niners at this moment, but when your opponent has Aaron Rodgers, the unexpected could happen. 

    Remember, it was Rodgers who led the Packers in a wild playoff stretch that concluded with a Lombardi Trophy just three seasons ago.