Every year, there’s a team that gets hot at the end of the season, and every year that group gets dubbed “The Team Nobody Wants to Play.”
After some early struggles, the 49ers hit the gas and never looked back. Since Week 8, they have the best record in the league at 8-3. They have weapons everywhere on offense in Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, and Elijah Mitchell. They have stars at every level of the defense in Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, and Jimmie Ward. Based simply on personnel alone, the 49ers have a strong argument as the most feared road playoff team.
Beyond that, however, there are other things in San Francisco’s favor. They have coaches in Kyle Shanahan and DeMeco Ryans capable of concocting game plans that defeat opponents from the neck up and players capable of destroying opponents from the neck down. In addition, they have a roster chock full of playoff experience. There are 12 returning starters from Super Bowl LIV and many other key contributors (like K’Waun Williams and Jeff Wilson) that also played in that game. They also had a better record on the road (6-3) than they did at Levi’s Stadium (4-4) and a fan base that knows how to travel.
Of course, there are other contenders, but they all have some pretty obvious flaws. The Cardinals have a better record than the 49ers (not to mention the season sweep), but they sputter into the playoffs, losers of four of their last five games. The Steelers have a great coach and a great defense, but Ben Roethlisberger is a shell of himself. The Patriots will always deserve respect as long as Bill Belichick coaches them, but they also have a rookie quarterback and a roster that isn’t nearly as talented as San Francisco.
It’s not exactly surprising that 49ers podcasters think the 49ers are the most feared road playoff team. There is an argument to be made, however, that Kyle Shanahan’s team is better suited for the playoffs than the regular season. Fortunately for all of us, they’ll have the opportunity to prove it, starting with this Sunday in Dallas.
Other topics in today’s episode
- Why 20 may be the magic number against the Cowboys this week
- The two words that best describe the 2021 regular season