The 49ers are Super Bowl bound: Best Team Left in the Super Bowl playoffs

San Francisco started the season hot, winning their first eight games, surprising opposing teams and critics alike.  Success for the 49ers should have been predictable. When San Francisco acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots in 2017 via a mid-season trade, the team then went on to win six of their final seven games.  Unfortunately, Jimmy tore his ACL during week three of the following season and the 49ers finished with a dismal 4-12 record.  

Excitement and expectations for the 2019 NFL season were high for 49ers fans. However, critics and bookies didn’t share the same enthusiasm, with many publications predicting them to finish third in the NFC West behind the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams.  ESPN picked them to lose in the divisional round of the playoffs, and even this prediction for mediocre success was ridiculed. 

Flash forward to conference championship week of the 2019 NFL playoffs, and the 49ers are +165 in the odds, just slightly behind Kansas City who are currently sitting at +135 in the lines – something that fans who are interested in legally betting on the Super Bowl are paying close attention to. There are a few reasons why the 49ers should be considered the best team remaining in the playoffs and should be viewed as a Super Bowl favorite.

NFC Championship

Before they can advance to the Super Bowl, they must defeat the Green Bay Packers in the NFC conference championship game this Sunday in San Francisco.  The Packers are riding high on a six-game win streak and are marching to San Francisco with confidence after ousting the Seattle Seahawks, arguably the most dominant team of the NFC over the last decade. 

Green Bay, led by future Hall of Fame QB, Aaron Rodgers, has traditionally been a pass-first offense.  In 2019 they became much more balanced behind the efforts of running back Aaron Jones, who ran for 1,084 yards and a stout 16 touchdowns.  The Packers’ defense is also ranked in the top ten in points allowed per game.  

The 49ers’ defense outranks them in points allowed and rank second in the league in total yards allowed per game.  Then there’s the Week 12 matchup where the 49ers delivered Green Bay their worst loss of the season. A 37-8 romp where the Packers had no answer for San Francisco’s defense. Rodgers was held to a season-low 104 yards passing, and Aaron Jones only managed to gain 38 yards rushing on 13 carries.  The Packers are poised for a better offensive performance this time around, but the 49ers have gotten healthier on defense since then. Linebacker Kwon Alexander and defensive end Dee Ford returned to the lineup last week against the Vikings, and their impact was evident. The 49ers front seven now have their full complement of pass rushers to rotate in and keep fresh throughout the game.

Super Bowl

Assuming, based on the odds, that Kansas City will advance to the Super Bowl and face off against the 49ers, the Chiefs will face the biggest defensive hurdle they’ve had to clear all season.  Aside from the outstanding pass rush that Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes will have to face, he will also have 33% of passing lanes unavailable him due to the exceptional play of 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman. Last week, the Vikings entered the game with a strategy of not throwing Sherman’s way. Until they did. That didn’t work out for them as Sherman intercepted an errant Kirk Cousins’ pass, reminding everyone that he is likely the most dominant cornerback of the past decade.

Playing on the opposite side of the field of Sherman at cornerback for the 49ers is Emmanuel Mosely. Mosley recently attained the starting role after the previous starter, Ahkello Witherspoon, allowed a few big plays against Seattle in the final game of the regular season, as well as allowing a 43-yard touchdown to Stephan Diggs early on in the Vikings game last week. Mosley’s strong play quickly shored up that side of the defense, making it more difficult for opposing quarterbacks to find open receivers.  

Despite the stinginess of San Francisco’s defense, Kansas City’s explosive offense will be difficult to contain and will undoubtedly put up a decent amount of points on the board.  The Chiefs average over 28 points per game and demonstrated one of the most impressive offensive bursts in recent memory last week against the Houston Texans, scoring 28 points in the second quarter alone, and 51 points total.

The key matchup will be the 49ers rushing attack versus the Kansas City defense. The Chiefs rank 26th in the NFL versus the run, allowing 128.2 yards per game. The 49ers rank 2nd in the league in rushing, gaining an average of 144.1 yards per game and featuring a three-deep backfield of Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Matt Breida, all of whom have carried the load at one time or another during the 2019 season.  

Combining the reliable play of Jimmy Garoppolo, the emergence of rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel, the veteran leadership of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, the current best tight end in the game George Kittle, and the previously mentioned running back committee, creates a potent offensive mix that will be difficult to defend.   

Top-quality, hard-nosed starters and proven depth across the board. That is the reason that the 49ers are the best team remaining in the playoffs.  They’ve proven time and time again throughout the season that they can maintain a high level of success and can rely upon their entire roster.

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