SANTA CLARA -- Anywhere. Any time. Anyone.
This has been, and will continue to be, the 49ers’ slogan as they head into the playoffs, and it’s the brash, take-all-comers attitude a team must have for a successful Super Bowl run.
But if you were to draw up their ideal road map through the playoffs, it might avoid a couple of destinations.
The first is Philadelphia.
The Eagles are an oddball team. They run the wide-open style of offense coach Chip Kelly brought from the University of Oregon. They run a lot of plays, they score a lot of points – they’re second to Denver in points scored and yards gained – and they have the potential to exhaust an opponent.
The 49ers could win a game in Philadelphia, but would it hurt them the following week?
That’s what happened late last season when the 49ers played New England. They beat the Patriots in a high-scoring, offense-driven game. But they also were on the field for 92 plays on defense and crashed 42-13 the following week in Seattle.
The Eagles also are on the opposite side of the country – 2,523 miles away, to be exact, the longest possible trip the 49ers could make in the NFC playoffs.
The 49ers already have been to London. They’ve been to Washington, D.C. They’re recently back from Tampa, Fla. By the time Sunday’s game in Arizona wraps up, they will have traveled 32,948 miles, 8,000 more than the circumference of Earth and 6,000 more than the second-most traveled team this season, the Chargers.
Barring the unlikely event the 49ers win the NFC West this weekend and earn a first-round bye, they are looking at a scenario for the Super Bowl in which they probably would have to win three consecutive road games before taking a 2,571-mile trip to New York for the big game.
Factor in the last three weeks of the regular season and the 49ers would be on the road in six of their final seven games. Shaving off a couple of thousand miles from that itinerary only can help.
The other city to avoid? Seattle, of course.
It seems inevitable the NFC West rivals will play at some point in the City of Brotherly Loud. The 49ers certainly think so. If Seattle wins at home Sunday against the Rams, they will wrap up the division and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The smartest tack for the 49ers is putting off a trip to Seattle for as long as possible – until the NFC Championship Game.
That may be contingent on the 49ers beating the Cardinals on Sunday. If they win, they will have at least the No. 5 seed. If the Eagles, who have won six of seven, beat the Cowboys in Dallas on Sunday, as expected, they would be the No. 3 seed, meaning the No. 5 seed 49ers would play the winner of Sunday’s Chicago-Green Bay game in the opening round.
Landing the No. 5 seed also could mean holding off a trip to Seattle.
If the above scenario holds and the Saints also win their finale against the Buccaneers, they would head to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles in the first round. The Saints likely would be favored, and if they and the 49ers won opening-round games, New Orleans would head to Seattle to try to avenge a humbling 34-7 loss on Dec. 2.
Could the Saints pull off the upset? Probably not. They’ve lost their last two games in Seattle, including in the 2010 playoffs.
But if they did? And if the 49ers won their second-round game?
It would mean one final game at Candlestick Park between the teams that played perhaps the best game there in the last decade – the 49ers’ 36-32 victory over the Saints in the 2011 divisional playoffs.
The old park may have one more classic left in it.
Read Matthew Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers and listen for his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320.