Niners are a threat to Seattle

Why San Francisco is the most dangerous team in the NFC playoff hunt

Updated: December 19, 2013, 1:07 PM ET
By KC Joyner | ESPN Insider

Jim HarbaughAP Photo/Matt DunhamWith Colin Kaepernick at the helm, Jim Harbaugh fields one of the NFL's top teams.

If there is a common denominator among most of the NFC playoff contenders, it is that each has at least one significant weakness. The New Orleans Saints struggle when playing tough opponents on the road, the Chicago Bears are dead last in the NFL in rush defense, the Carolina Panthers cannot hit the vertical pass and the Dallas Cowboys are going through a December collapse that is epic even by their own recent standards.

The one team that is generally considered an exception to that rule is the Seattle Seahawks, who are the favorite in the NFC right now. But the team that has the fewest weaknesses outside of the Seahawks is the San Francisco 49ers. In fact, the 49ers also have tremendous strengths in every area of the game. If they indeed make the playoffs, they are the team best suited to beat Seattle.


Passing offense

Colin Kaepernick has experienced some negative moments during his second starting season with the 49ers, yet his 67.9 Total QBR -- a mark that ranks seventh in the league -- illustrates just how strong his overall level of play has been this year.

Kaepernick has also shown an improved ability to protect the football. His 1.9 percent bad decision rate (BDR, a measure of how often a quarterback makes a mental error that leads to a turnover opportunity for the opposing team), is three-tenths of a percentage point lower than his solid 2.2 percent BDR last year (a BDR of 2 percent is quite good) that ranked tied for 18th among qualifying quarterbacks. Even more important is that Kaepernick is trending in the right BDR direction, as he has posted a 0.6 percent BDR since Week 11.


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