San Francisco 49ers: 5 Teams the 49ers Don't Want to See in the Playoffs
Don't let the 49ers ability to play physical, lights-out defense fool you into thinking there aren't any teams they should be afraid of.
There are a handful of teams who have the ability to knock the first-round bye smiles right off the 49ers' faces. The Cinderella story isn't guaranteed to have a storybook ending.
The 49ers lead the league with 28 takeaways and their 10 giveaways are a league low. They haven't allowed a rushing touchdown all season long and they were the first team to clinch their division.
There is a lot to like about the 49ers, but they aren't invincible. There are matchup nightmares that would bring their newly-found Super Bowl aspirations to a screeching halt.
Here are five teams the 49ers don't want any part of in the playoffs.
Green Bay Packers
No team has held the Packers to less than 24 points thus far. It's easy to argue that the 49ers have the best defense in the game, but you could also argue that Rodgers is having a better season than any quarterback has ever had in the history of football.
The Packers don't have to run the ball to score points. This would turn into an Alex Smith vs. Rodgers shootout. As good as Smith has been at playing within his abilities and protecting the football, this game would require more of him to pull off a victory.
The Packers are the deepest team in football and there is a solid chance the Packers would roll into this game undefeated.
On Thanksgiving, the Ravens beat the 49ers at their own game. The Ravens have a defense littered with future Hall of Famers. Even more impressive was the way they manhandled the 49ers without Ray Lewis on the field.
The 49ers gave up an astonishing nine sacks in the game. Terrell Suggs dropped Alex Smith three times and for the first time all season. The 49ers were completely dominated in the trenches.
The 49ers have an up-and-coming offense with a great scheme, but there is no scheme in the world that would allow them to overpower Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis and Suggs.
Baltimore is a better version of the 49ers. The only time these two teams would meet would be the Super Bowl. Of all the teams the 49ers could possibly meet in the Super Bowl, the Ravens would be the worst team for them to encounter.
Every 49ers fan has nightmares about the way last season's game against the Falcons ended. Nate Clements trying to be a hero and getting an interception stripped away cost the 49ers the game and forced them to an 0-4 start.
This time around, it appears as though the 49ers have the upper hand. A closer look would suggest otherwise.
At their best, the Falcons have the most complete offense in the NFL. The 49ers don't have an answer for Roddy White or Julio Jones. Michael Turner is one of the best running backs in the game, Tony Gonzalez is a top-flight check-down option and Matt Ryan is a franchise QB eager to prove his worth in the postseason.
The Falcons have proven that they are vulnerable on the road, but 49ers fans who think San Fran will skate to a victory are grossly underestimating Atlanta's offense.
They've got the offensive power to beat teams in multiple ways and their underrated defense only allows 20.3 PPG, the third fewest in the league.
The Steelers are a carbon copy of the Ravens defensively. Every superstar has a counterpart. The 49ers have the ability to snuff out the run and win the turnover battle, but just as they would be overpowered up front against the Ravens, they will face the same problem against the Steelers.
We'll get to see on Monday night against the Steelers what alterations the 49ers are going to make to compensate for the physical mismatch they face when they are on offense.
Jim Harbaugh has to know that the same problems they encountered offensively are going to be presented when they take on the Steelers.
Will they leave more players in to block in pass protection? Would spreading out the field and trying to punish the Steelers for blitzing be effective?
The Steelers are on the back end of a dominant reign complete with multiple championships. This is a veteran team that knows what it takes to win a Super Bowl. Again, the only time the 49ers would see this team in the postseason would be in the Super Bowl, but it wouldn't be shocking to see either one of these teams get to that stage.
New Orleans Saints
Brees and the Saints haven't lost at home yet. This game is more likely to take place at Candlestick than in New Orleans, but that doesn't mean victory is inevitable.
The Saints have the No. 1 passing offense in the NFL and they have been thinking of the loss they sustained in the first round of the playoffs all season long. Marshawn Lynch's "beast mode" has been engrained into their minds and the Saints are going to enter this postseason with a vengeance.
The amount of weapons the Saints have is scary. Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Darren Sproles are all matchup nightmares. Brees is a master at finding the open man. Taking away one weapon makes the defense vulnerable somewhere else.
Like the Packers, the Saints don't have to run the ball to win. The aerial assault that would inevitably ensue would be tough for Smith and the 49ers to contend with. San Francisco is built to maintain a lead, not score an onslaught of points in a hurry.
Running the ball well and stopping Mark Ingram from breaking loose wouldn't be bring them a victory.