Facing the arduous challenge of back-to-back playoff road games in freezing Green Bay and chippy Charlotte, the San Francisco 49ers turned in inspiring efforts and delivered victories over the Packers and Carolina Panthers, respectively, which earned them another road trip, this one the most daunting of all – returning north to sound-barrier-busting Seattle.
In recent years, wild card teams have braved the harrowing playoff road all the way to claiming the NFL title and the 49ers are making a most serious bid to be, sorry Seahawks, the next wild-card to complete the rough journey that puts them back into the Super Bowl, where San Francisco can, this year, be triumphant.
As for Seattle, it will be, as it should, favored to win this Sunday’s, Jan. 19, NFC title game (3:30 p.m.), since it is the NFC West champion, the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, and holding the most dominant home-field advantage, with the loudest venue, in the NFL, where it has lost only once in a couple of seasons.
But that loss was delivered recently by the Arizona Cardinals, who fell twice to the 49ers, who split their two division games with the Seahawks – getting hammered in Seattle and earning some pay back in San Francisco.
Even though the Seahawks beat New Orleans on their home field in Saturday’s NFC playoff game, the Saints regrouped in the second half and came close to doing a little more tarnishing of Seattle’s home domination.
Despite the Saints nipping San Francisco earlier in the year, the 49ers are peaking at the most important time of the year, and closing in on taking the toughest ever three-road-game playoff path to the Super Bowl.
When sizing up both teams, you could say they’re equally matched, but I feel the Niners make up the better team.
The two “not-too-friendly” rivals from the West have, despite some statistics, the two best defenses in the NFL, period, with both teams making it a wash – equal on the front lines, as San Francisco has the best linebackers and Seattle has the best defensive backs.
But when it comes to offense, the Seahawks are struggling in the scoring department, especially through the air, while the 49ers, on a solid offensive roll, are putting more points on the board than their adversaries, and, with the way their defense is shutting down opponents, I’m sorry to say there won’t be a wizard around to save the “Emerald City” this time.
Speaking of unbelievably tough road trips, the 49ers are in sync with their Bay Area basketball neighbors, the Golden State Warriors, who recently duplicated their dramatic 6-1 road trip last year that catapulted them into the playoffs with a 6-1 harrowing journey that came a few questionable calls short in Brooklyn of being an NBA record-breaking 7-0 trip.
On their recent triumphant road trip, which also completed a 10-game winning streak, the Warriors earned impressive victories over the Los Angeles Clippers, who they trail, at presstime, by just one game for the top-spot in the Pacific Division and the defending world champion Miami Heat and MVP Lebron James.
Golden State currently has the fifth-best record in the Western Conference at 25-14 and are well on course for more than a 50-win season, with an unbelievable, but possible, 60-win season in the discussion.
There’s a long way to go to playoff time, but the Warriors are more than on course, and with their strong road play added to their home-court success, they’ll be making a championship run just like their fellow 49ers.