That’s the end of the regular season in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers eked out a win over the Arizona Cardinals, in no small part due to the excellent play of Anquan Boldin (9 receptions for 149 yards and a touchdown). (Speaking of receivers, what a catch by Quinton Patton! Did the 49ers just accidentally discover the other receiving option they’ve been desperately needing?) The 49ers should have won much more easily after jumping out to a 17-0 start. Hopefully this is just a sign that they took their foot off the pedal and nothing more. Unfortunately, the St. Louis Rams decided it would be fun to try and match their offensive yardage with penalty yardage, giving the Seattle Seahawks an easy win, despite not playing their best. The 49ers should have won much more easily after jumping out to a 17-0 start. Hopefully this is just a sign that they took their foot off the pedal and nothing more.
Their victory means that the 49ers will get to visit the Green Bay Packers in freezing Lambeau Field. With Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb playing quite well in the first game back for each of them, this team will be difficult, even with Clay Matthews out injured. I think the 49ers can and will pull off a seventh straight victory, but it will not be easy. Let’s hope Colin Kaepernick once again plays well enough to slay his childhood team.
A couple of weeks ago I predicted that the team the 49ers would not want to face in the playoffs was the Packers. After watching the last couple of weeks, I believe that the Philadelphia Eagles would be even more difficult to defeat than a Rodgers-led Packers squad. The Eagles have been playing excellent ball, and I would much rather leave it to the Drew Brees to match that team score-for-score.
(Of course, the Dallas Cowboys still may win the NFC East, but without Tony Romo, I highly doubt it.)
Speaking of the New Orleans Saints, another benefit of the 49ers earning the 5 seed is that, with a win and a Saints win, the 49ers would get to visit the Carolina Panthers instead of having to go up north to raucous Seattle. I would expect Brees to play better at CenturyLink Field than he did last time.
The 49ers have a difficult but manageable road in the playoffs. I believe they can beat Green Bay in Green Bay. I believe they can beat any team in any stadium right now — and yes, that includes Seattle. Last season they won 3 games in a row one time — Weeks 17 through the NFC Championship Game. This season they already have a five game winning streak and a six game winning streak. It will be hard, but I think that the 49ers can take the next step after going further in each of the past two seasons.