A 3-4 record to start the year is not where the San Francisco 49ers envisioned themselves, but this is their current reality. After back-to-back losses against the Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs (one more forgivable than the other), the 49ers are reeling a bit as they try to regroup and reclaim first place in the NFC West.
It sounds crazy to say this about a team that’s been outscored 72-37 in their past two games, but the 49ers still have all the requisite talent to go on a deep playoff run.
As far as the NFC is concerned, the 49ers should still be considered one of the favorites to represent the conference in the Super Bowl. The Philadelphia Eagles are still the favorite, especially in the wake of their trade for Robert Quinn, but San Francisco absolutely has a real shot to go on a run. Just look at the roster. Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Trent Williams, Brandon Aiyuk, Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Fred Warner and the newly acquired Christian McCaffrey give the 49ers a core group of talent that is as good as any team in the league. The health of this group has caused some inconsistencies as far as team performance goes, but they’re still an extremely talented squad.
The 49ers defense has sputtered the last two weeks as they get guys back from injury. When they were healthy, they were arguably the best defense in football. Prior to a rash of injuries that decimating their defense for their Week 6 game against the Falcons, San Francisco ranked first in expected points allowed per play (-0.180) and success rate allowed (36.9%). Getting shredded by the Chiefs can happen to anyone at any time, but they probably would have fared better against the Falcons with most of their defenders healthy.
A team as talented as San Francisco simply needs to get to the playoffs. That’s where the true merits of its season will be measured. Fortunately for the 49ers, they play in a division that’s easily winnable for them, even with a losing record through the first seven weeks of the season. The Seattle Seahawks are currently in first place in the NFC West at 4-3, but the 49ers bludgeoned this team early in the season and are uniquely structured to dominate them. The Los Angeles Rams have already shown they can’t block the 49ers (or anyone really) while the Arizona Cardinals appear to be too inconsistent to pose a long-term threat for the rest of the season.
The 49ers are still the best team in this division and even though the records might not totally show it, they’re a good deal better than their immediate competition. Health, and maybe Jimmy Garoppolo, are the only real roadblocks that the 49ers have when it comes to winning their division. The Eagles, and perhaps the Dallas Cowboys, are really the only teams in the NFC that can match the 49ers in overall talent — if they can contend for the NFC, they can contend for the Super Bowl.
And if you disagree with that, then you can meet me at the sunny, breezy midfield logo in Santa Clara.