I am normally a cold calculating, numbers-driven, rational person, but I am having all sorts of trouble doing that with the upcoming 49ers playoff game against the Saints.
I can’t remember being this nervous in the days leading up to a sporting event in my entire life.
While I am typing this up I have a bottle of Pepto-Bismol within arm’s reach to calm the butterflies having a dance party in my stomach. The closet thing that comes to my mind is the Giants NLDS game 3 against the Braves but that nervousness didn’t come until the late innings of the game.
I think it is something about the finality of the NFL Playoffs, the win or go home, winner-take-all aspect. The stakes are so high and there is no margin for error.
I tried to find solace in the numbers but there wasn’t much comfort there, neither team has the upper hand statistically and, let’s face, it the Saints are one of the hottest teams in football right now which is enough to make even the best teams nervous.
So I’ve decided to take a break from being the Bay Area “Stat” Guy and instead going with the Bay Area “Irrational Hope” Guy for a the remainder of the 49ers playoff run.
So if you want to take a ride on the “hope like hell” train, here are the reasons my Magic Eight Ball told me the 49ers will win against the Saints on Saturday.
Pseudoscientific reasons that the team will win (because I can’t quit stats cold turkey):
Home teams with a bye in the divisional round have won 72.6 percent of games since 1990. Extra rest and home field advantage sure are nice.
The Saints have never won a playoff game on the road.
The 49ers have a 16-4 record at home in the playoffs since 1981, a winning percentage of 72.7 percent.
These don’t mean anything specific to these two teams, but they confirm what I want to happen so that means they are excellent stats for this purpose!
The “no one believes in us” factor:
Between the hype surrounding Tim Tebow against the mighty Patriots late that night and the awesomeness of Drew Brees’ record-breaking season, talking about the 49ers is more of an afterthought in the national media.
On top of that, the 49ers are 4-point underdogs at home.
Everyone has their reasons why they know the Saints are a good team and aren’t sure about this year’s 49ers: they don’t trust Alex Smith in a big game; they don’t think that Brees and Co. can be stopped; they discount the 49ers’ season because they came out of the weak NFC West; they just haven’t paid attention.
It really doesn’t matter. The 49ers have fought an uphill battle to gain respect all season, so why should it be different in the playoffs?
Not that they need motivation for a playoff game, but with an extra chip on their shoulders this team should be dangerous.
Fate is on the 49ers side:
If there is such thing as fate (and for the purposes of this week I do believe) there is no way that near mirror image of the 1981 Super Bowl Championship team can lose. Seriously, the stories are too perfect to be just a coincidence.
Both teams were coming off of 6-10 seasons led by former Stanford football coaches. Both teams are led by a ball-hawking defense that lead the league in takeaway/giveaway ratio while allowing the second-fewest points in the league. Both teams have above average but not spectacular offenses (the 2011 49ers actually managed to score 23 more points than the 1981 team) that score enough to complement a dominant defense. Finally, both teams came out of nowhere to go 13-3 and get a first round bye.
I am sorry, but fate wouldn’t be so cruel as to re-create a team in the mirror image of the 1981 team exactly 30 years after only to have it end in failure.
The only question left for me is which shirt will bring better luck?
So help me out guys, I don’t want to be the one that pisses off the football gods with an improper offering.