San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick
Quarterback was already one of the most vital positions on the field. With the NFL toning down the violence, QBs are finding it almost routine to be able to scientifically pick apart opposition defenses with ease.
As a result, teams are almost at the stage where they absolutely need an elite quarterback to win the Super Bowl.
The 49ers are an exception.
Kaepernick, and Alex Smith before him, weren't among the best quarterbacks in the league, but that didn't stop San Francisco from having one of the better teams in the league.
The team has been able to succeed by relying on its solid running game and great defense. That needs to continue in order to make a run this postseason.
San Francisco's second-year star hasn't not often been asked to air the ball out. Kaepernick's best trait this year has been his knack for avoiding turnovers. He's thrown just three interceptions to 10 touchdowns in his seven starts.
No rookie starting quarterback has ever led his team to the Super Bowl. Although he's no longer in his first season, Kaepernick is in essentially the same situation as this is his first year of starting.
The 49ers can't afford now to lean on Kaepernick in the kind of way in which they haven't all year. With no postseason experience, he cannot be expected to change what he's done during the season and still succeed.
Frank Gore will be the key for San Francisco. For six of the last seven seasons, he's consistently been the workhorse on offense.
If the 49ers can get the running game going, Kaepernick will become more and more comfortable. Then, he'll be able to manage the game and get into the groove he's had all season.
Should the team continuously be forced to punt, the tiniest bit of doubt may begin to grow in his mind.
He's done and said all the right things this season, but until Kaepernick gets that postseason experience, there's no telling how he'll respond to the cauldron that is playoff football.
It's a bit of the same situation as how the Seattle Seahawks offense is run. Marshawn Lynch is the main offensive threat, while Russell Wilson is charged with managing the game.
Lynch's 132 yards in the Wild Card Round win over the Washington Redskins were huge toward taking the pressure off Wilson.
Wilson didn't put up phenomenal numbers, but he was able to avoid doing too much and helped move the Seattle offense.
That should be the blueprint for Jim Harbaugh.