Colin Kaepernick was just another name on the San Francisco 49ers team roster at the beginning of the season. The second-season pro was to all intents and purposes a back-up rookie QB (with only a few snaps under his belt), languishing in obscurity and waiting for a shot that might never come.
However, that chance arrived sooner than he could have imagined when starting quarterback, Alex Smith, went down with a concussion in Week 10 against St Louis. Kaepernick has seized his opportunity with both hands and feet, something Smith could never do. So while Smith was a play-the-percentages guy, Kaepernick has offered his team a twin-threat capacity with his mobity from the pocket and a long arm for deep-field connections.
Kaepernick's package is certainly more exciting than his predecessor's. Trouble is: it's also fraught with danger. And what works in the regular season against also-rans is not necessarily the blueprint for success against the main play-off contenders where any errors are magnified.
There's no going back now, however. Coach Jim Harbaugh has his man and is at pains to point out that Kaepernick's late-term rallies against the Rams and the Saints have stamped his postseason credentials. The real test, though, arrives in Saturday's late game where the Niners host the Green Bay Packers in a do-or-die Divisional Round.
Of course, the 49ers are far from a one-man band. They boast a bruising ground game and suffocating defense which has given Kaepernick the space to atone for the mistakes he has made. However, their defense, which was rivalling Seattle's at the start of the campaign, has struggled to maintain its stingy concessions - giving up 34 to the Pats and then 42 to the Seahawks in the closing stages of the regular season.
If their combined confidence has been dented, now is not the time to be facing the Pack, whose offense is finally firing on all cylinders. That's largely because Aaron Rodgers has found his groove. The QB has registered a mammoth 30 touchdowns for only four picks in his last 12 matches and posted a mouth-watering completion rating close to 70%. His laser delivery has also been assisted by the return - to form and fitness - of wide men Greg Jennings, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson and the Pack are a different proposition to the outfit which struggled against the Niners in Week One. They can even run the ball a bit, too, with DuJuan Harris offering some variety from a pass-first-think-later gameplan.
With defensive leader Charles Woodson also back on Green Bay's active list, having recovered from a broken collarbone, the Packers now possess the requisite balance on both sides of the ball to upset San Francisco - even at a boisterous Candlestick Park. The 49ers, on the other hand, need to rediscover their poise and slow the "Aaron Avalanache". Then it will be up to Kaepernick to keep them close.
Harbaugh has described his talisman as "savant-like" in the run-up this week. However, to my jaundiced eye, Kaepernick is closer to a clueless freshman. Rodgers is the proven scholar in the play-offs. Trade accordingly in what could prove an unexpected shootout.
Back Green Bay Packers (+3 points) on the Match Handicap @ 1.845/6 or better
Back Green Bay Packers (+3 points) on the First-Half Point Spread @ 1.664/6 or better
Back Over 44.5 Total Points @ 1.9110/11 or better
Back G Jennings to be First/Anytime Touchdown Scorer @ 10.09/1 or better