The San Francisco 49ers are in the NFL's final four for the second time in three years. Despite the quarterback questions and the 3-5 start to the season, San Francisco is peaking at the right moment and has a legitimate shot to win Super Bowl LVI.
The 49ers didn't clinch a playoff berth until the very final week of the regular season, but it didn't matter what seed they grabbed. The 49ers have now made the NFC Championship each of the last five times they made the postseason, and we could be in line for a Super Bowl LIV rematch should the Kansas City Chiefs emerge victorious from the AFC.
If your team has been bounced from the playoffs or if you're an unfortunate fan that has gotten used to mock draft research by the month of January, you're probably wondering which team you can piggy-back on in the NFL playoffs. Here's why you should choose the 49ers:
1. The underdog with experience
The Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams are the two teams favored to win on Championship Sunday and advance to Super Bowl LVI. That makes the Cincinnati Bengals and 49ers underdogs, which is always appealing to fans looking for someone to root for. The 49ers are the lowest seed remaining in the playoffs, but they have been in this position before. This is an underdog with experience, which is something the Bengals can't say.
Just two years ago, Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers were the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They made it all the way to the Super Bowl, but eventually fell to the Chiefs, 31-20. It was especially brutal since San Francisco held a 20-10 lead heading into the final quarter before the defense surrendered 21 unanswered points. The Chiefs are a powerhouse who could advance to the Super Bowl for the third straight year. If they defeat the Bengals in the AFC bracket, you should be on the 49ers to get some revenge as the underdog.
2. Jimmy Garoppolo
Oh, Jimmy G. The 49ers say they are confident in their starting quarterback, but at the same time they gave up a king's ransom to select Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick in last year's draft. The 2021 season felt a bit like the 49ers were in no man's land with their quarterback situation, but I expect Lance takes over in 2022 -- even though the 49ers are one win away from playing in the Super Bowl!
Garoppolo likely understands he could be playing his final game as a 49er this weekend, but wouldn't it be amazing if he led San Francisco to a Super Bowl victory? For a player who has been doubted for years now to finally get it done after the organization went out of its way to find his replacement, that would certainly be something.
Even if you aren't really a Garoppolo fan per se, there's still reason to root for him. The awkwardness of the quarterback situation would be fun to follow from afar. Would the 49ers trade Jimmy G even if he led them to a Super Bowl victory? Could there be a chance he does enough in the final two games of the year to save his job? With just one more year remaining on his contract and him being due $24.2 million in base salary, it should be interesting to see how it plays out -- win or loss.
3. Kyle Shanahan's redemption
Shanahan has had a hand in blowing two double-digit Super Bowl leads. Not only did he get outscored 21-0 in the final seven minutes of the Super Bowl two years ago, but he was also the offensive coordinator on the wrong end of the infamous 28-3 blown lead to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. Some see him as a young offensive-minded star while others think he's overrated. While he's 39-42 in the regular season, the 4-1 postseason record is impressive.
A Super Bowl win is something that would help solidify a legacy he's continuing to build. The son of Mike Shanahan, they became the first father-son duo to lead teams to the Super Bowl as head coaches. Now, he could join his father in winning one.
4. Defense wins championships and so does 'traditional' play
I may sound like an old man that's behind on the times here, but some may appreciate it. When we think about the NFL nowadays, we envision that Bills-Chiefs divisional round matchup where touchdowns were scored left and right. It's sexy, but wouldn't it be fun to see a more physical group dominate a team that relies on flashy finesse? That's who the 49ers are.
The 49ers are like the new edition of old-school football. They get creative in the run game, but they are still using their offensive line to physically dominate you. San Francisco also has a strong defense that finished the regular season third in the league, and a special teams unit that played a significant role in upsetting the No. 1 seed Green Bay Packers last weekend. The 49ers blocked a field goal at the end of the first half to keep the score 7-0 and then blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. And to top it all off, Robbie Gould kicked the game-winning field goal!
Making the Super Bowl with a questionable quarterback is unfathomable for most teams. Not for the 49ers. They are built right, coached well and fundamentally sound. I want to see a team like that win.
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5. It's been a minute
It's true that the 49ers are tied for having the third-most Super Bowl victories of any NFL franchise, but they haven't won one since the 1994 season. The city of St. Louis has won a Super Bowl more recently than the 49ers, and they don't even have an NFL team anymore. Wouldn't it be great for a legendary franchise to get back on track?
The last Super Bowl victory came in Super Bowl XXIX, when Steve Young threw six touchdowns to fly past the San Diego Chargers, 49-26. That's 27 years ago from this Saturday. The 49ers tying Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers for most Super Bowls won by any franchise would be fun.