After the events of Week Nine in the NFL, there remains only one undefeated team. The 8-0 San Francisco 49ers. Coming into the season, many predicted the Niners to be a frisky, wildcard type team despite the disappointing 4-12 2018 season.
This positive analysis of the Niners was in large part due to the coaching of offensive guru Kyle Shanahan as well as a number of astute signings and draft picks in the offseason. The return of Jimmy Garoppolo, the continued ascension of George Kittle, the Nick Bosa selection as well as the FA signings of Kwon Alexander and trade for Dee Ford. These were all factors in the optimistic outlook surrounding the Niners in preseason.
San Francisco have reached expectations and are on their way to shattering them. The defence is one of the best in the NFL, if not the best. Kyle Shanahan’s offensive game planning is as good as ever with Jimmy G at the helm.
While it is true that the 49ers schedule has been on the easy side, there are no easy wins in the NFL. Even among wins against bottom barrel teams such as the 41-17 trouncing of the Bengals and the 9-0 slip n slide win at the Redskins, there has been stiff competition.
In Week Six, the Niners had a dominant defensive performance away to the Rams, keeping Jared Goff to a measly 78 yards passing. Week Three at home to the Steelers presented its fair share of adversity as the Niners turned the ball over five times on offence and still hung on to win 28-24. And of course, San Francisco humiliated the Carolina Panthers in Week Eight, 51-13.
With this in mind, the upcoming schedule does get more challenging for San Francisco. The vaunted 49er defence will have to face Russell Wilson twice, OROY contender Kyler Murray, Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson, Drew Brees and Jared Goff once again before the season is out.
As the old saying goes, pressure makes diamonds, so it’s very likely we will see what this Niner defence is made out of in the upcoming weeks. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has been getting high praise this year for how his defence is playing, and rightly so. Saleh has done a fantastic job of expanding his defensive play calling, leaning away from the more basic Seattle cover 3 shell and more into the wide 9 as well as mixing in man coverage and 2 high safety looks. Having DROY and DPOY Nick Bosa on your d-line doesn’t hurt either.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Niners running game has been a huge factor in their success so far this season. The duo of Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida are one of the most explosive outfits in the league. However, against the Cardinals in Week Nine, the run game was completely shut down, forcing Garoppolo to throw. Garoppolo proceeded to show why the Niners paid him all that money and sliced apart the Cardinals in Brady like fashion.
Going back to the title, can the 49ers go 16-0? No. At least I, a 49er fan, doesn’t believe so. It’s incredibly hard to win in the NFL and as discussed the Niners schedule is a walk through the treacherous gardens of elite quarterbacks. It is more likely that the Niners finish the season 12-4 or 13-3. Split with Seattle, beat the plucky Cardinals at home, beat the Packers at home in a tough contest. A tough east coast away trip awaits with two tough loses for the Niners on the road against the Ravens and the Saints. A return home to a win against the flailing Falcons before rounding out the season with a match up against the Rams that could go either way and a loss in Week Seventeen in the Clink against the Seahawks.
Whatever the record, this second half stretch will do a great deal of good for the Niners before the play-offs. Better to test your mettle against the best of the best than to continually beat up on the small teams only to get exposed when things get real.
After this amazing start to the season, 16-0 is a possibility, although I forgot the last time they handed out the 16-0 trophy. The Niners can make history, but eyes on the real prize. Super Bowl LIV.