Only three games remaining in the 2013 regular season and it's looking like the San Francisco 49ers are going to enter a third straight postseason under coach Jim Harbaugh.
The last two seasons, the 49ers were portrayed as the take-no-prisoners bad boy of the NFC, locking up first-round byes and playing at their home of Candlestick Park in three of four playoff games (not including the Super Bowl). This year, they've been exposed and will be forced to take the scenic route.
Describing what San Francisco must do, 49ers beat writer Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News sums it up best:
Last 2 playoffs, 49ers were good regular-season team then got upset by teams that got hot late. They have to be the get-hot team this year.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) November 18, 2013
If the 49ers prove that they're that same inconsistent, slow-to-start team they were during the regular season, they're not going to make it too far.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has to become that daring, multidimensional threat he was in his debut a year ago, utilizing not only the full capacity of his skill set, but also the entire arsenal provided to him on offense. If No. 7 gets hot for the 49ers, all bets are off. This team will be capable of anything again.
The defense is elite, the special teams is outstanding and the offense is loaded, just waiting to pop. But even if it finally does, the road traveled will not be an easy one.
For a complete look at the San Francisco 49ers' road to the Super Bowl, including possible playoff scenarios, ways they can luck out and things the team must watch out for, proceed through the following.