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49ers look to end one of the longer playoff droughts

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Can they meet the growing expectations?

The San Francisco 49ers have had a rough go of it for much of the past four years, but I was surprised to find out this has turned into the sixth longest playoff drought in the NFL. The league has pushed for parity, and it really has found it, with 26 different teams earning a playoff berth since the 49ers last made “the tournament” (as Frank Gore refers to the playoffs).

NFL.com writer Adam Rank took a look at the six teams with the longest playoff droughts. Along with the 49ers (2013), the group includes the Cleveland Browns (2002), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2007), Chicago Bears (2010), New York Jets (2010), Los Angeles Chargers (2013), and 49ers (2013).

Rank ranked out the teams, and the 49ers ranked fourth. The top three were the Chargers, Bears, and Bucs. The Chargers make sense in an AFC West that has had a lot of turnover, and where the other three teams all have pretty huge questions. He included the Bears as this year’s version of the Rams with a young quarterback who gets a new head coach viewed as a dazzling young offensive mind. The Bucs are included based on their defensive talent infusion.

He dropped the 49ers to fourth because of the high expectations placed on the team. The “obvious playoff dark horse” often misses out, and he suggests they’ll succumb to that pressure. It’s not entirely unreasonable given some recent history, but none of those other teams had Jimmy Garoppolo!

You know how this works, right? Any team that gets the famed “can’t-miss” label almost always succumbs to the pressure. I mean, it’s cool for the 49ers to put together a bunch of December wins after entering the month at 1-10. Let’s see what happens when San Francisco begins the season under the spotlight.

I’m afraid the 2018 Niners are “Suicide Squad” -- you know, the movie that has an amazing trailer but fizzles at the box office. It might not be terrible, just not as good as people anticipated -- or wanted it to be. Everyone thinks this is Jimmy G’s breakout role, but what if the supporting cast just isn’t ready yet?

Don’t fret, though, 49er Faithful. This team is clearly trending up under Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch. Maybe set your sights on eight wins and making the playoffs in 2019.