For the last four seasons, this time was when we would really start ramping up our NFL Draft coverage. The 49ers would have certain expectations coming into the season and 17 weeks later they would leave us with broken hearts. Finally, they have managed to exceed everybody's expectations and we get to enjoy some playoff football. The 49ers had one of the longest active playoff droughts, dating back to 2002. The only longer droughts were the Detroit Lions (back to 1999) and the Houston Texans (never in nine year existence).
Now, the 49ers find themselves in a fairly comfortable position of having a first round bye and getting a chance to rest up before facing their first opponent. Yesterday's victory got a little hairy at the end, but the 49ers held on. I'm not surprised they lost some of their focus. The team was mixing and matching some of the starting lineup because of rest of injuries. The offense put up their second highest point total, and the defense basically had one bad play and another BS pass interference call. It wasn't perfect, but it's not the end of the world.
The 49ers bye now leaves them awaiting their division championship round opponent. If the Saints beat the Lions this Saturday evening, New Orleans will travel to Candlestick Park next week. If the Saints lose, the winner of Sunday's Giants-Falcons game will travel to Candlestick next week. Either way, the 49ers have two weeks to rest up and prepare for those opponents.
It is a whole new season of one and done at this point. That might be a cliche, but given that the 49ers have not been in the playoffs in nine years and we haven't been able to enjoy playoff action ever at NN, I can live with a few cliches. After all, they might be played out to a lot of people, but when it's been a long time since the last playoff appearance, it's not really a cliche yet. Maybe next year!
The 49ers have their share of questions to answer between now and January 14. If they don't shore up some areas, this playoff trip could be short-lived. That's all well and good, but for this week, I'm going to enjoy the experience of the 49ers being a playoff team once again. Nobody will take that high away from me. There is a ton of work left to do, but for now, congratulations to the San Francisco 49ers on a fantastic regular season. Now let's hope they can build on it with an even more successful postseason.
Head after the jump to view the entire playoff schedule (all times pacific).
Saturday, January 7
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans, 1:30 p.m., NBC
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints, 5 p.m., NBC
Sunday, January 8
Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants, 10 a.m., FOX
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos, 1:30 p.m., CBS
Saturday, January 14
Sunday, January 15
Sunday, January 22
AFC Championship game, 12:00 p.m., CBS
NFC Championship game, 3:30 p.m., FOX
Sunday, February 5
Super Bowl XLVI, 3:30 p.m., NBC