49ers

How Aaron Rodgers can join historic company with Packers' win vs. 49ers

How Aaron Rodgers can join historic company with Packers' win vs. 49ers

There's a lot on the line Sunday when the 49ers host the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Levi's Stadium.

The winner obviously will punch their ticket to Super Bowl LIV in Miami. But there also is a lot on the line in terms of Aaron Rodgers' legacy.

The Packers star hasn't been back to the Super Bowl since the 2010 season when Green Bay beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25. He's been back to the NFC Championship Game two times since, losing to the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons, with both games being on the road.

Rodgers and the Packers were trashed by the 49ers 37-8 back in Week 12 and are heavy underdogs in the NFC Championship Game. If Rodgers can lead the Packers to a win Sunday, he'll join some elite company as one of six quarterbacks to win multiple MVP awards and go to multiple Super Bowls. 

Rarified air.

[RELATED: 49ers' close wins were 'stepping stones' to NFC title game]

Since getting blasted by the 49ers, the Packers have reeled off six consecutive wins, including a 28-23 win over the Seahawks in the NFC divisional round. They look like a different team since the beatdown and undoubtedly will bring their best Sunday at Levi's Stadium. 

The 49ers might be seen as the more complete team, but the last three 13-win teams to go on the road in a conference championship game as at least touchdown underdogs have won the game outright.

Never count out Rodgers.

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.

Wes Welker, now 49ers coach, doesn't subscribe to Bill Belichick's methods

Wes Welker, now 49ers coach, doesn't subscribe to Bill Belichick's methods

Bill Belichick's Patriot Way has delivered unmatched success over the past two decades, with the legendary coach and quarterback Tom Brady winning six Super Bowl and appearing in three more.

Former wide receiver Wes Welker, now the 49ers receivers coach, thrived as one of Brady's main weapons, catching 672 passes for 7,459 yards and 37 touchdowns in six seasons in New England. But Welker and the Patriots had a messy breakup, when Belichick chose not to attempt to re-sign the slot receiver when he hit the open market in 2013.

Belichick's way, while proven effective, can wear on players and Welker doesn't subscribe to the no-nonsense approach to coaching.

"I was still upset about it," Welker told WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show" about his departure from the Pats. "I did want to be there, but there was part of me -- I just like enjoying the game. I like having fun, all those things. Coaching now, you learn a lot from the tactics and different things like that, but at the same time putting your own twist on it and understanding -- I tell my guys all the time: ‘As long as we’re giving great effort and we’re on top of our assignments we’re going to be good. Once it’s not where we need to be, that is when we have problems.’

“Kind of being there and there’s a big mental aspect to the game of being prepared, being this, being that, all those different things, but also enjoying yourself and having fun playing the game. I feel like you’re playing your best ball when you’re having fun and enjoying (yourself). I think there were some times where I didn’t really feel that at times for different reasons -- the guys that we had in the locker room, the camaraderie that we had was better some years than others. We had all these different things and when you’re one of the highest-paid players on the team you’re expected to deliver and like a highly paid player. There’s definitely pressure on that and all these different things is tough and it’s hard. Coach Belichick is hard on guys and tries to get the most out of him that he can.”

There's no question Belichick's my way or the highway attitude isn't for everyone. Even Brady chose to turn in his Patriot Way membership card this offseason, electing to finish his career in Tampa Bay with the Buccaneers.

[RELATED: Raiders, 49ers go offense/defense in latest mock draft]

Welker, who began his coaching career with the Houston Texans before joining the 49ers in 2019, no doubt has taken some motivational tricks from Belichick while also crafting his own way that allows his players to be disciplined but also enjoy the journey.

What 49ers' options are with $15.7M left in cap space this offseason

What 49ers' options are with $15.7M left in cap space this offseason

Two weeks into the new league year, and with most of the team’s contracts tabulated, the 49ers rank 20th in the NFL in room under the league’s salary cap.

According to figures released by the NFL Players Association, the 49ers have 74 players under contract for the 2020 season and are $15,741,039 under the league’s $198.2 million salary cap.

Only the top 51 players count toward each team’s salary cap until the cutdown to 53 players for the start of the regular season.

The figure does not include the recently signed one-year contract for backup offensive lineman Ben Garland or free-agent agreements with lineman Tom Compton and wide receiver Travis Benjamin.

The 49ers carried over $7.86 million of unused cap room from last year’s cap into 2020.

The 49ers must leave cap space this offseason to sign their rookie class. The 49ers have seven scheduled draft picks, including Nos. 13 and 31 in the first round.

The club is also expected to pursue a contract extension with tight end George Kittle, who is in line to become the NFL’s highest-paid tight end -- by a lot.

[RELATEDGeorge Kittle's new contract will be 49ers' next priority after free agency]

Kittle has one season remaining on his original rookie contract. Earlier this offseason, the Cleveland Browns signed tight end Austin Hooper to a four-year, $42 million contract.

Here is the list of salary cap space for each team (players under contract in parenthesis):

Houston (64) $45,834,619
N.Y. Jets (65) $45,018,663
Cleveland (65) $45,347,227
L.A. Chargers (53) $39,675,066
Tennessee (58) $33,186,101
Washington (68) $32,145,235
Detroit (76) $31,893,750
Denver (76) $28,875,754
Philadelphia (65) $28,544,977
Indianapolis (69) $27,540,144
Dallas (62) $27,310,030
Jacksonville (61) $23,485,088
Miami (78) $23,359,352
Buffalo (67) $23,172,999
Chicago (61) $22,122,887
N.Y. Giants (65) $18,571,509
Carolina (62) $17,508,922
L.A. Rams (55) $16,883,884
Raiders (73) $15,825,066
49ers (74) $15,741,039

Tampa Bay (62) $15,512,767
Cincinnati (62) $15,181,484
Green Bay (63) $13,580,733
Minnesota (59) $13,172,243
Baltimore (57) $12,230,579
Seattle (64) $11,919,646
Arizona (63) $10,360,175
New Orleans (64) $9,914,157
Pittsburgh (69) $9,344,614
Atlanta (60) $7,456,988
New England (67) $1,568,575
Kansas City (62) $676,971

Source: NFL Players Association.