SANTA CLARA -- All the 49ers' starters have playoff experience except one: quarterback Colin Kaepernick. But at least he's in a similar category to most other quarterbacks in the NFC playoffs.
Also making their playoff debuts will be the Washington Redskins' Robert Griffin III, the Minnesota Vikings' Christian Ponder and the Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson. While the AFC bracket includes the storied tandem of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, such proven dominance doesn't exist on the NFC side, and that might bode well for Kaepernick and the No. 2 seed 49ers (11-4-1).
Aaron Rodgers is the NFC field's only quarterback with a playoff win. Of his 4-2 postseason record, those wins came in the 2010 Green Bay Packers' Super Bowl run, which was sandwiched by one-and-done playoff exits. Matt Ryan, of the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons, is 0-3 in his playoff career.
Come their Jan. 12, divisional-round opener at Candlestick Park, the 49ers will be ready to unleash Kaepernick, who's coming off seven pressure-packed starts.
"One of the things that stood out about Colin from the very start was the poise beyond his years," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "He was able to handle many and all those situations like a guy who looks like he's been playing that position for a long time. And you could say the same for the other (young) quarterbacks as well."
Kaepernick revealed Wednesday how he still carries a grudge when it comes to five other quarterbacks getting drafted ahead of him in 2011.
"That's something I carry with me every day," Kaepernick told Jim Rome on CBS Sports Radio. "Going through the draft process and seeing people taken before you, it really kind of puts a chip on your shoulder.
"People didn't think I was up to the standards of those quarterbacks. To me, that was a challenge to go prove everybody wrong and that you're better than those quarterbacks and you can go out and win games."
Before the 49ers traded up to pick Kaepernick 36th overall, a quintet of QBs went ahead of him: Cam Newton (No. 1, Carolina Panthers), Jake Locker (No. 8, Tennessee Titans), Blaine Gabbert (No. 10, Jacksonville Jaguars), Ponder (No. 12, Vikings) and Andy Dalton (No. 35, Cincinnati Bengals).
Kaepernick, Ponder and Dalton are all playoff-bound. Griffin, Wilson and Stanford product Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts are trying to join just five other rookies since 1966 to win their playoff debuts.
Harbaugh isn't expecting those young quarterbacks to flinch, saying: "Most of these guys that are playing this position are accustomed and feel right at home on the big stage."
By winning his starting debut Nov. 19 over the Bears in 32-7 fashion, Kaepernick told Rome that it "confirmed in my mind I can come out and compete with anybody." Road wins followed at New Orleans and New England, and he rebounded from a 42-13 loss at Seattle to lead a 27-13, NFC West-clinching win Sunday over Arizona.
After Sunday's win, Kaepernick said of his next mission: "You have to treat the playoffs like it's every other game. You have to prepare like it and go out there to perform."
Kaepernick has been fast-tracked for this playoff journey. The time is at hand to prove Harbaugh made the right call in sticking with him over Alex Smith, who guided the 49ers into last season's NFC Championship game.
Interestingly, Kaepernick and Smith each attempted 218 passes this season. That left them six shy of qualifying for the league's leader boards. Kaepernick would have had an NFL-best 8.3 yards per attempt; Smith the third-best passer rating (104.1).
Overall, Kaepernick passed for 1,814 yards on 136 completions with 10 touchdown passes and three interceptions for a 98.3 rating. Smith: 1,737 yards on 153 completions with 13 touchdown passes and five interceptions.
While Kaepernick also is the 49ers' second-leading rusher (415 yards, five touchdowns), he told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday he's tried to keep that asset "in my back pocket as a little bit of a wild card."
Kaepernick honed his multidimensional skills in four seasons at the University of Nevada. He lost in his first three bowl appearances with the Wolf Pack. But he won big games during a 13-1 senior season, including victories over Cal, Boise State and finally Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
As for the NFC playoffs' other newcomers, Wilson lost his bowl finale in the 2012 Rose Bowl, and Griffin and Ponder won their final bowl games, though Ponder exited his early with a concussion.
Harbaugh claimed there's "a lot of evidence" Akers could win the competition and thrive in the postseason. As for Cundiff's hiring, Harbaugh said it was based on Cundiff's overall history rather than his having played for John Harbaugh's Baltimore Ravens.
NFC Divisional Playoff at 49ers, 5 p.m. FOX