Momentum. And recent NFL history.
"I think they're on a winning streak," Niners linebacker Patrick Willis said. "So, I don't think too much has worked in other teams' favor."
You know what else hasn't worked in other teams' favor? Having a high seed and a first-round playoff bye.
Of the last six Super Bowl champions, only the 2009 New Orleans Saints and 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers had first-round byes. Three of those teams won it all after just squeaking into the postseason. It was as if the near-death experience of the regular season, having come back to life, sent each on a fearless tear that ended only when they hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
The NFL, as it approaches crowning their champion, becomes a series of battles on a high-wire act — a place where a hundred moving parts must operate in nearly perfect synchrony under dire stress and against grueling adversaries. A single mistake can cost a team a championship. And a truly unified body — a team really in sync — can best an adversary that dominated the regular season if they suddenly find themselves just a sliver off their game.