This time last season, the San Francisco 49ers were enjoying a well-earned bye week on the way to a sixth Super Bowl appearance. Instead of lounging on the couch to watch the competition, however, the 2014 49ers will have to huddle up through frigid temperatures in Green Bay this Sunday.
On the bright side, the last three Super Bowl champions all played a game in the Wild Card Round, including a team that actually entered the postseason as a Wild Card. Recent seasons have favored the hottest team over the best team, which could bode well for San Francisco.
After coming up five yards short of the Lombardi Trophy last season, the 49ers are motivated to redeem themselves this year. To make it that far, several players will have to provide the heroics through four games away from home.
While some familiar faces will have to shoulder the load, there will also have to be unsung heroes at critical moments.
If the 49ers are going to come out victorious in this winter, the following players will be key to their run. Wherever the road to the Super Bowl takes San Francisco, these X-factors will have to play well for the team to advance.
All statistics and rankings according to Pro Football Reference, unless otherwise noted.