The NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers are enjoying their bye week, taking the extra time to heal and make the proper adjustments as they head into the postseason.
49ers will open playoffs Saturday, Jan. 12, at 5 p.m. (PT) at Candlestick.
— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) December 31, 2012
If the Packers win against the Vikings, San Francisco will host Green Bay at Candlestick. But if the Vikings defeat the Packers for a second consecutive week, the 49ers will host the winner of the Seahawks-Redskins game. The Niners can’t face the Vikings—a team they already lost to in 2012.
Of the three potential teams the 49ers can see in the divisional round, they have faced two of them in three games during the 2012 regular season. San Francisco went 2-1 against Green Bay and Seattle this year, winning the first two games by a relatively close margin of 43-28 before getting blown out by the ‘Hawks.
#49ers will open playoffs Jan 12 vs either Packers, Redskins or Seahawks. It'll be Packers if seedings hold
— Cam Inman (@CamInman) December 31, 2012
Scenario 1: Seahawks
Out of Seattle, Green Bay and Washington, the No. 1 team the 49ers do not want to face is the Seahawks.
There is a great deal of familiarity between these two teams since they face each other twice a season. Not to mention, the connected careers of their head coaches, Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll. While Harbaugh maintains the winning record, Carroll’s Seahawks are hot off a win against the 49ers.
After dropping 42 on the Niners defense in Week 16 and closing the season on a five-game win streak, the Seahawks are carrying a great deal of momentum.
And when it comes to scheme and personnel, the Seahawks have what it takes to lock up the 49ers. They are a balanced team with a challenging defense. They can run the ball and now have an X-factor behind center in Russell Wilson.
And defensively, the 49ers are matched physically by the Seahawks' aggressive style of play. The Niners might like to see RGIII and the Redskins knock off the Seahawks on Wild Card Weekend.
The 49ers have won the NFC West. Seahawks are locked in as the #5 seed in the NFC
— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) December 31, 2012
Even though the majority of teams would not welcome this, the 49ers would probably most like to host Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
This season, the 49ers knocked off the top-three scoring offenses from 2011—teams led by Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. In four games against the Packers, Saints and Patriots, Vic Fangio’s defense has helped San Francisco achieve a 4-0 record.
The Niners have come to play for these games. And with their personnel, they have a strategic advantage. On defense, the 49ers can pressure without blitzing—they can get in the opponent’s backfield by sending combinations of four.
San Fran has done well against one-dimensional, pass-heavy offenses. Another reason for that is because they have great depth in their secondary and play well collectively on the backend.
And against these high-scoring units, the 49ers have put a good number of points themselves, scoring 30-plus in all four contests. They found opposing defenses to be imperfect and exposed them for what they were.
San Francisco already went to Lambeau in Week 1 and won convincingly, frustrated Brees in the Bayou and dropped a bomb on the Patriots in December. The 49ers would have confidence hosting Green Bay, knowing they could get the job done.
Scenario 3: Redskins
The Redskins would probably be the second-favored choice of the 49ers in the divisional round.
But this is not to suggest that they are soft because they are not, and they should be considered as a legitimate threat in the postseason. With Robert Griffin III, this is a brand new football team that is capable of going far.
Griffin III, 22, is not playing like a rookie quarterback. He’s shown that he can lead this team to wins and be electric from the QB position. And with his presence, Washington has had an aura this year; there is something special going on with them.
The RGIII-led Redskins are a wild card in that they can beat anybody on any given day. The diamond in the rough, Alfred Morris, is also a huge factor on this 'Skins team. In a single offseason, Washington found a way to become explosive at the QB and RB positions.
Their secondary can be exposed but with the 49ers hurting at wide receiver, the Niners are a more favorable opponent. On the other hand, San Francisco's physicality would be a challenge for the offensive rookie tandem for Washington.
With the 49ers, Griffin III and Morris would see the toughest defense they've faced at the pro level. And on the playoff stage, on the road, it might be too much for them to handle.
One thing is for certain: No matter who the 49ers play in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, they will have to earn the right to be in the conference title.
— Christian Gin (@CGin49ers) December 31, 2012