49ers' Super Bowl path clears as Cowboys, Eagles falter

49ers' Super Bowl path clears as Cowboys, Eagles falter originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

It would have been preposterous a month ago to envision a scenario in which the 49ers could avoid the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL playoffs.

That would have seemed like the dream situation for the 49ers during a time, not long ago, when it looked as if those three teams were the best in the NFC.

But it has happened, and maybe the 49ers are not so lucky, after all.

The best four teams remain in the NFC, and the first round of the playoffs made it clear that neither the Eagles nor the Cowboys belong in that group.

The 49ers will not have an opportunity to end the Cowboys’ season for a third consecutive season. The Green Bay Packers took care of that Sunday with a beatdown of Jerry Jones’ beleaguered team.

On Monday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dispatched the Eagles, 32-9, from the postseason.

When the 49ers traveled to Philadelphia on Dec. 3, the Eagles were 10-1 and the 49ers were two games behind in the race for the NFC's No. 1 playoff seed. Philadelphia was widely considered the best team in the NFL at that point.

But the Eagles lost that game, 42-19, and might have lost their spirit, too. They looked like a completely broken team in December and January.

Philadelphia lost six of their final seven games of the season, including a Week 17 home loss to the Arizona Cardinals that the 49ers celebrated because it clinched the No. 1 seed with one game remaining in the regular season.

It was not long ago the idea of the Eagles and Cowboys watching the rest of the playoffs from home could have been interpreted as the 49ers receiving a fast pass to the Super Bowl.

And while the 49ers are the decisive favorites to represent the NFC in Las Vegas, the three remaining teams — Green Bay, Detroit and Tampa Bay — should not be taken lightly.

Each of those teams looked as if they were peaking with their playoff victories. The Lions will host the Buccaneers in one conference semifinal after an emotional victory over Matthew Stafford and the hot Los Angeles Rams.

On the other side of the bracket, the Packers looked explosive while tossing the Cowboys aside. Dynamic quarterback Jordan Love is getting better and better and better every time he takes the field.

The 49ers did not finish the regular season strong, but they are hoping the bye week will allow them to come out fresh and fast on Saturday evening at Levi’s Stadium in their divisional-round matchup against the Packers.

A while back, this would have been exactly what the 49ers wanted as they prepare to take the playoff stage.

No Philadelphia. No Dallas. No worries. Right?

Now, you have to wonder if those who preferred the 49ers avoid the Eagles and Cowboys should've been careful what they wished for.

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