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Top Secret Fyles: 49ers appear poised for long playoff run

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From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

They fell five yards short in completing a stunning, second-half comeback against the Ravens in last season’s Super Bowl XLVII at New Orleans.

But the San Francisco 49ers appear focused in getting back to the Super Bowl in East Rutherford, N.J., on Feb. 2. They are built for any type of weather and any type of matchup.

Sunday’s 23-20 NFC wild-card win over the Packers moved the fifth-seeded 49ers into this weekend’s divisional round against No. 2 seed Carolina in Charlotte, N.C. It’s a revenge game for the Niners, who lost 10-9 to the Panthers at Candlestick Park on Nov. 10.

It should be clear to any NFL fan that San Francisco is the league’s hottest team. The 49ers lost back-to-back-games — a 23-20 setback at the Saints the week following the Panthers’ game was the other — and since that point, San Francisco has won seven straight games, including the wild-card game.

Going one step farther, if the Niners had just managed a combined six points against the Panthers and Saints, they would be on a 14-game winning streak while in the playoffs.

Granted, the competition is tougher in the NFC. San Francisco has to win at Carolina on Sunday, and if it does, the top-seeded Seahawks or the sixth-seeded Saints await. The Seattle game would be played in the Northwest, or San Francisco would host New Orleans, if the Saints pull off a big upset.

Since the NFL went to its current 12-team playoff system in 1990, only three teams have qualified for the Super Bowl as either a fifth or sixth seed. They are Pittsburgh in 2005 as a sixth, the New York Giants in 2007 as a fifth and Green Bay in 2010 as a sixth. All three teams became champions.

If it wasn’t for a miraculous rally by the Colts against the Chiefs in Saturday’s AFC wild-card game, all four road teams would have prevailed.

Well-coached teams now go on the road, win and enjoy long playoff runs. That wasn’t the case for the first 15 seasons in this current playoff format.

The last time both top seeds made it to the Super Bowl was in the 2009 season — Indianapolis and New Orleans.

nFarewell to the BCS: Monday’s title game between Florida State and Auburn marked the end of the 16-year BCS era, with some highs and lows. A new playoff system goes into effect next season.

Though the BCS wasn’t perfect, there were great moments and more rights than wrongs, and for the most part, the proper two schools played for the title each season.

Heading into Monday’s final, the SEC had won seven straight titles and nine overall (more than all other conference combined). The only split title in the BCS era occurred in 2003 between USC and LSU.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 in College Basketball: 1. Arizona; 2. Syracuse; 3. Ohio State; 4. Wisconsin; 5. Michigan State; 6. Wichita State; 7. Iowa State; 8. Louisville; 9. Baylor; 10. Duke.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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