49ers

Emmanuel Sanders is valuable resource for 49ers' young receiver group

Emmanuel Sanders is valuable resource for 49ers' young receiver group

BRADENTON, Fla. – When the 49ers acquired Emmanuel Sanders in an October trade from the Denver Broncos, they picked up more than just a reliable veteran wide receiver.

The 49ers added a voice of experience and reason to a group of receivers that includes no others who have played in the NFL postseason.

“I was telling guys, it’s time to cut out all the extra-curricular activities and just hone in on the season for the next, hopefully, two-and-a-half months and see if we can do something special around here,” Sanders, a 10-year NFL vet, said. 

“I try to be here to be the voice of letting them understand why they feel the way they feel. Because when you get into those games and it’s like, ‘Man, this doesn’t feel like Week 4.’ Every single play matters, and you got to think that.”

The 49ers are 10-2 entering their Week 14 matchup against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The 49ers currently are in a battle with the Saints and Seattle Seahawks, both also 10-2, for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

The 49ers’ game Sunday marks the third consecutive game in which the 49ers faced a team with a winning percentage of .800 or better. The 49ers defeated the Green Bay Packers, 37-8, in Week 12, before falling to the Baltimore Ravens, 20-17, last week.

“The past couple games there have been a lot of great experiences for guys who’ve never been to the playoffs, and guys who never really been in this type of situation,” Sanders said.

Sanders has appeared in eight playoff games, including two Super Bowls. While with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he was on the losing side against the Green Bay Packers as a rookie. He had six catches for 83 yards in the Broncos’ 24-10 victory over Carolina in Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium.

Coach Kyle Shanahan pointed out that the only other 49ers starter at a skill position – quarterback, running back, tight end or receiver -- who has started with another team is fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Therefore, Sanders serves an important role, similar to Richard Sherman on defense.

“To have a guy who’s been a starter at other places and also won a Super Bowl, that’s huge for us,” Shanahan said. “It’s very similar to what we say about Sherm. We have a bunch of young guys in the secondary who have played a lot of games, but when you have a guy who’s been through the postseason run, has been in championship games and played at a high level year after year, it always helps the guys.”

Sanders knows what it’s supposed to look like, and he believes the 49ers have a great opportunity in front of them with four games remaining in the regular season.

“I think we have a great chance,” he said. “We got players who definitely understand. We got players who know how to have fun. We have players who know how to lock in, as well. I think as each game goes on, we gain more and more experience of exactly how we want it to look and how Kyle wants it to look, going out and not taking any plays off, not only from a physical standpoint but from a mental standpoint.”

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In six games since joining the 49ers, Sanders has 21 receptions (on 30 targets) for 250 yards and two touchdowns. He has battled through a ribs fracture sustained in his third game but is feeling much better now.

Sanders, Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne have separated themselves from the team’s other wide receivers. Sanders clearly has gained an appreciation for what he’s seen from those two young wideouts.

“I’ll tell you what, K.B. and Deebo, man, they’re special,” Sanders said. “Watch how those guys catch the football. Watch how they run through the football. Those guys can score at any moment. That’s who they are. They’re just wired to catch the football really well.

“My job is to let them understand the importance, because they’ve never been in this situation. But I don’t want them to lose their personality and who they are. I want them to treat every single play like it could be the last play of the game and everything is on the line. They’re cool dudes and humble dudes. I’ve been enjoying being around them.”

49ers vs. Packers live stream: How to watch NFL playoff game online, on TV

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AP

49ers vs. Packers live stream: How to watch NFL playoff game online, on TV

The 49ers have a golden opportunity to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since 2013.

With a win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday at Levi's Stadium, the 49ers would head to Miami for Super Bowl LIV to take on the winner of the Tennesee Titans-Kansas City Chiefs AFC Championship Game.

San Francisco opened as seven-point favorites, but that number has risen to -7.5 in recent days.

Injuries hampered the 49ers for most of the season, but they will enter the game against the Packers with a clean bill of health. Similarly, the Packers only have one player listed on their injury report.

Back in Week 12, the 49ers thrashed the Packers, 37-8, in Santa Clara. But no one is expecting San Francisco to cakewalk over Green Bay this time.

In that Nov. 24 matchup, vaunted 49ers defense held Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to 198 yards of total offense. Rodgers completed 20 of 33 passes for just 104 yards. San Francisco will need another performance like that in order to play on Sunday, Feb. 2 in sunny Florida.

[RELATED: Five 49ers to watch vs. Packers]

Here's how to watch the 49ers-Packers NFC Championship Game:

When: Sunday, Jan. 19 at 6:40 p.m. ET/3:40 p.m. PT
TV: FOX
Stream: Fox Sports; fuboTV -- Get a free trial

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (6 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday)

Also tune in at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 6:30 p.m.

Why NFL history, Aaron Rodgers' past bode well for 49ers vs. Packers

Why NFL history, Aaron Rodgers' past bode well for 49ers vs. Packers

If the Green Bay Packers are going to upset the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday at Levi's Stadium, they're going to have to do it without history on their side.

It has been less than two months since the 8-2 Packers waltzed into Levi's Stadium hoping to knock off the conference-leading 49ers on "Sunday Night Football" in Week 12. By halftime -- if not much earlier -- it was readily apparent no such event would occur, as San Francisco raced out to a 23-0 lead on its way to a 37-8 win. It was a thoroughly dominant performance by the 49ers, and resulted in Green Bay's most lopsided defeat of the season.

The Packers haven't lost since, winning their final five games of the regular season to earn the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. They held on to beat the visiting Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round, but historically speaking, all that momentum might not mean much as it pertains to a rematch with San Francisco. As NFL.com's Chris Wesseling noted, the last 13 playoff teams to lose a regular-season game by at least 20 points have also lost the postseason rematch against the same opponent.

Now, obviously, not all teams are created equal, and in a sport where quarterback is the most critical position, one might argue that the Packers have a significant advantage over those previous 13 teams that have occupied the same space they will Sunday.

That wouldn't necessarily be accurate, though.

Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers will go down as one of the best QBs of all-time, and while he has put together several memorable postseason performances, he has not had much playoff success against teams he previously lost to that same season. In fact, the last five times he and the Packers qualified for the playoffs, they were eliminated by a team that had beaten them earlier that season.

[RELATED: Beathard gets 49ers scout-team honors for imitating Rodgers]

That obviously bodes well for San Francisco, and that's before even digging into the specific head-to-head matchup between Rodgers and the 49ers' top-ranked pass defense. Throughout his career, Rodgers has faced the No. 1-ranked pass defense a total of five times; he has not fared well in those matchups, and has never won one on the road.

There's a reason why the 49ers were the NFC's No. 1 seed, and there are plenty more as to why San Francisco is favored by more than a touchdown over Green Bay on Sunday. The Packers are going to have to overcome plenty to prove victorious, and you can add NFL history to the list.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 6:30 p.m.