As the regular season came to a close, the San Francisco 49ers not only clinched the NFC West crown but also locked up the coveted number two playoff seed, as the Green Bay Packers lost to the Minnesota Vikings 34-31. It was a dream scenario for San Francisco and all the pieces fell into place perfectly.
The 49ers desperately needing a break, were fortunate enough to get one, with a first-round bye. A first-round bye may not seem like much, but it gives the Niners a free pass, and a huge confidence booster heading into their divisional game.
First, it allows San Francisco to heal up their wounds. Many players are nursing injuries on both sides of the ball, from defensive end Justin Smith to tight-end Vernon Davis, all players need to be healthy and ready to go, if the 49ers hope to be representing the NFC in New Orleans.
Secondly, it gives the 49ers coaching staff an extra week to prepare for their opponent. Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is all about attention to detail, and you can bet he will take full advantage, of every second he has, into developing the best game-plan available, when heading into their home Divisional game.
And lastly, the extra week prepares the 49ers players mentally, to handle the added pressure to perform in post-season play. Last year, the 49ers were extremely inexperienced when it came to the playoffs. The majority of the players, had little to no experience and therefore found themselves learning on the spot. Not this year. As many of the players now have an idea of what to expect, and how to react, when the chips are down. The only difference between last year and this year, is playoff experience. And that should be a deciding factor as the games get tougher whether at home or on the road.
Whoever the 49ers play, in their home divisional match-up, they will be physically rested and mentally prepared.