SANTA CLARA — Kind of a big game this Sunday.
If the 49ers win in Seattle, they will get the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, a first-round bye week, home-field advantage and a fantastic chance to make the Super Bowl.
But if the 49ers lose in Seattle, they will get the No. 5 seed, no first-round bye, no home-field advantage and almost no chance to make the Super Bowl. They would have to win three straight on the road just to make the big game, a feat no West Coast team has ever pulled off.
The travel is simply too much to bear.
“I’ve seen people have to win three in a row the hard way, and they rallied together and did it,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan argued.
True. But in the history of the NFL, only four teams have won three straight road playoff games to make the Super Bowl: the 1985 New England Patriots, the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, the 2007 New York Giants and the 2010 Green Bay Packers. All four of those teams are east of the Mississippi River, where cities and franchises are bunched together. Three of those four teams — the Steelers, Giants and Packers — went on to win the Super Bowl.
No team west of the Mississippi River ever has won three straight road playoff games. Teams west of the Mississippi have farther to travel because they’re spread out.
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