NEW YORK (AP) Comments on the San Francisco 49ers by the AP Pro32 panel (ranking in parentheses):
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (3)
Chris Berman (ESPN, 1) - As long as Justin Smith is ready to roll for the postseason.
Clifton Brown (Sporting News, 4) - Came very close last season, and this could be their year.
Cris Collinsworth (NBC Sports, 4)
Rich Gannon (CBS Sports/SiriusXM NFL Radio, 3) - Can Kaepernick win in his first postseason ... he can with that defense and running game.
Bob Glauber (Newsday, 4) - Colin Kaepernick did about as well as anyone could have asked. But the stakes get higher now. It's Super Bowl or bust. Earning the bye week could be the difference.
Rick Gosselin (Dallas Morning News, 4) - The 49ers have the best defense in the NFC - and sterling defense took San Francisco as far as the NFC title game last season.
Clark Judge (CBSSports.com, 4) - Make Colin Kaepernick the president of the Minnesota Vikings fan club. By beating Green Bay, the Vikes gave Kaepernick one less playoff game to prove himself.
Ira Kaufman (Tampa Tribune, 3) - Very quietly, WR Michael Crabtree is on the brink of elite status.
Pat Kirwan (SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com, 4) - The Kaepernick experiment is working and this is one tough physical team. They want to run the ball more than pass but that may not be the case in the playoffs.
John Lynch (Fox Sports, 6) - San Francisco has a great defense. Kaepernick appears great at times, but can he be consistent enough to flourish in the postseason?
Alex Marvez (Foxsports.com, 3) - With two wide receivers on injured reserve, Michael Crabtree (172 yards receiving and two touchdowns against Arizona) couldn't have picked a better time to play the best football of his four-year NFL career.
Dan Pompei (Chicago Tribune, 4) - In his last nine games, Frank Gore has failed to rush for 100 yards. If they are going to win in the playoffs, Gore has to heat up.