That is the question. Three weeks into the 100th NFL season, and the 49ers sit atop the NFC West, tied with the LA Rams. Is it real? Are we padding our record on the backs of patsies? Well, sure. But we don’t have control over the scheduling, so we play who they put in front of us. So far the teams we have played are a combined 1-8. TB is 1-2 (but a missed chip-shot FG from 2-1), Cincy is 0-3, and the Benless Steelers are now 0-3. Throw in the 1-3 Browns in two weeks and you have a whopping 2-11 record against (well, 2-12 when the Ravens stomp the Browns at home this weekend).
Still and all, the 49ers have the 4th best offense yardage-wise (5th in points scored), and the 2nd best defense yardage-wise (9th in points allowed). The problem? Turnovers. We lead the league in giveaways at 8. 4 fumbles and 4 picks. Our saving grace is the turnovers created. 7. 5 picks is a testament to or newfound pass rush, and we have forced a few fumbles along the way.
What of the rest of the West? Well the front-running Rams, 3-0 as well, have staggered their way through some sketchy games as well. They squeaked by Carolina 30-27, with a gimpy Cam Newton, they beat a no-wind (Brees-less) Saints team, and beat a Browns team that has talent but can’t seem to do anything right for any length of time. The Rams high-powered offense is mired in 16th place as Todd Gurley is off to a slow start, and the passing game is a mediocre 22nd in yards.
Seattle? They are 2-1, squeaking out wins vs Cincy and Pisstburgh, and losing to the Breesless Saints last week. The Legion of Boom is now the Legion of Meh at a middling 11th place (25th in points allowed) defensively, and the young offense is tripping along at 9th in yards and 10th in points. Decent, but not the scary dominant team of the early teens.
AZ? Well, they are exciting offensively and dogshit defensively. 0-2-1 is not an aberration.
As I said when the season started, we have the chance to rack up a lot of wins early to prepare for the grind at the end. Our first big test is LA on the road in 3 weeks. The other games are the Browns, Skins, Panthers, Cards, Seahawks, and Cards before we hit the meat of our season. If this team is for real, the team should be able to go 5-2 at worst. The Seattle game is at home, so 6-1 is doable.
If this team hits 9-1 or 8-2 at the 3/4 pole, the team has a great shot at the playoffs. Stagger now, and the end will get ugly and we’ll end up 8-8 or worse.
They’ve shown they can win ugly. Now comes the time when they need to simply beat the bad teams and hold their own against the good ones. The Falcons are beatable, as are the Packers if we can pound Mr. Rodgers. Ravens and saints on the road are tough no matter who is QBing. Hold their own in these early games, and 10-6 should be doable.