Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers Tough Team to Count Out in NFC Championship

Jim HarbaughJim Harbaugh and company have yet to find their holy grail in the postseason and looked mortal at times throughout the 2013 regular season. However, even though this San Francisco team is a three-point underdog at Bovada, the 49ers are worth a second look by bettors.

Ever since Harbaugh burst onto the public radar with a coach of the year performance in 2011-12, the 49ers have been seen as a legitimate title contender. With a defensive scheme that’s emerged as one of the best in football, San Francisco managed to work its way up from playoff hopeful to a perennial postseason threat.

Then the 49ers’ world came crashing down at the hands of Joe Flacco.

Having seemingly peaked and come away empty-handed was not an easy spot for a club like San Francisco to bounce back from. The 49ers were a mainstay on the Super Bowl futures throughout the year, but the loss to the Ravens had many people seriously questioning whether a similar scenario would unfold in 2013-14.

According to San Francisco’s +300 NFL future odds, third of the four teams remaining in contention, it’s not unreasonable to say that the oddsmakers think there’s better out there. New England is the only team with worse odds at +425.

Not helping San Francisco’s image as a relatively toothless Super Bowl threat was the 49ers’ weak start to the 2013 campaign. By Week 3, the club had been pounded by both the AFC playoff hopeful Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco’s division rivals, the Seattle Seahawks.

At that point, the Niners returned to their winning ways — finishing this season with more victories (12-4) than last (11-3) and winning 13 of their next 15 matchups. Still, it’s hard to erase that embarrassing 29-3 Week 3 defeat at CenturyLink Field heading into an NFC Championship Game at the exact same venue.

That said, not just any team gets within three points of the vaunted Seahawks on the spread, suggesting that even Vegas knows what the 49ers might be capable of.

This weekend, when the 49ers make the trip north, the majority of eyes will be on the battle of young game-changing quarterbacks vying to take the next step toward superstardom. Others will be on Marshawn Lynch and Seattle’s fourth-best running game, lined up against San Francisco’s fourth-best rush defense.

At the end of the day, the San Francisco 49ers are three-point underdogs against the Seattle Seahawks because they’ll be the visiting team charged with the daunting task of sneaking out of CenturyLink Field with a victory. Most think that, despite the lessons learned over the previous playoff runs and this season, the Niners don’t have what it takes.

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