Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How Good Are The 49ers?

The 49ers finished the first half of the season at 6-2, putting them in a tie with two other teams for the fifth best record in the NFL.  The 49ers have proven that they are a good team, but exactly how good are they?

Let's take a look at how the 49ers built that record.  Over the first eight weeks the 49ers played a total of 3 teams with a winning record, all in the first three weeks of the season and they ended that stretch 1-2.  Over the last 5 weeks the 49ers have played 5 teams who are either at .500 or below, and they went 5-0.  The three upcoming games with Carolina, New Orleans and Washington will help answer the question.  

Like the 49ers, Carolina will bring a winning streak and streak of 30+ point performances with them into their match up this Sunday.  The Panthers are much like the 49ers in that they too have feasted on weak competition during their winning streak, having won 4 straight against teams with a combined win total of 8 games.

New Orleans the following week will provide an even tougher challenge.  The Superdome is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL.  Last season the 49ers were able to go in and defeat the Saints 31-21 in the dome.  The big difference this year is that Sean Payton will be back on the sidelines for the Saints after missing last years contest while serving a one year suspension as part of the pay for pain scandal.  In addition, new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has the Saints defense among the top 10 defensive units in the league.

Including Washington on the list of teams the 49ers need to beat to show how good they are may seem strange given their current 3-5 record, however this is a team that a season ago was 3-6 before going on a 7 game win streak to finish at 10-6 and win the NFC East.  After a rough 3-0 start to this season, Washington has bounced back to win 3 of their last 5, including home victories over Chicago and San Diego.

Forget the opponents for a moment.  The 49ers have put together this record while playing without their top 2 receivers from a year ago, and their leader in sacks the last 2 seasons.  Just as they begin this tough stretch they will get Mario Manningham and Aldon Smith back.  In addition, Michael Crabtree has been cleared to participate in practices for the first time since tearing his Achilles tendon during OTA's on May 21.  The return of these 3 impact players could not come at a better time.

In the NFL, it's not about who you beat, or how you beat them.  A team needs all the wins they can get to set themselves up for the post season.  That is exactly what the 49ers need to do, win, and over the next few weeks we will find out exactly how good they are.

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