San Francisco is one of the NFL's two unbeaten teams, is off to its best start since 1990 and just put up a season-high 51 points on Carolina.
So we know the 49ers are good.
But how good? We’re about to find out. Look at the schedule, and you’ll see what I mean.
Three of their next six games are vs. division-leading teams (Green Bay, Baltimore and New Orleans), with a fourth against 6-2 Seattle and the last two vs. an Arizona team that just had a three-game win streak broken.
Add it up, and you have opponents with a combined record of 30-14-1 (we count Arizona twice). Toss the Cards, and it’s 24-6.
Now look at December. The 49ers end the season with Seattle and the L.A. Rams. Put it all together, and you have one of the league’s toughest remaining schedules.
The good news is that the 49ers have one of the two best defenses in the league … just acquired wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders … are getting tackle Joe Staley back … just had Tevin Coleman score four times … have held four consecutive opponents to 100 or fewer net yards passing … and have a quarterback who can’t lose.
You can look it up. With Sunday’s victory, Jimmy Garoppolo is 15-2 as a starter.
That will take San Francisco far. But how far depends on a schedule that suddenly gets tougher.
Look, San Francisco is not a surprise. As long as Garoppolo was healthy, the pre-season feeling was that the 49ers could – and maybe would – challenge for a wild card. But they’re more, much more, than that today. They’re unbeatable and on top of their division.
Until, of course, they’re not.
I don’t know if that happens. What I do know is that within their division there are two clubs (Seattle and the Rams) that could challenge them for first in the NFC West. Of course, San Francisco already knocked off the Rams … in L.A., no less … and has a game-and-a-half lead on Seattle.
So that’s promising.
But the numbers don’t lie, and what they tell us is that the 49ers have conquered opponents that are 16-35. Now those figures are about to flip, so fasten your seat belts.
SUNDAY SCHOOL: FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. OK, so Buffalo is no threat to New England in the AFC East. But don’t give up on the Bills yet. Their next four opponents are a combined 5-24.
2. The only kicker Chicago can trust is Mrs. O’Leary’s cow.
3. Deshaun Watson is a better passer with one eye open than Mitch Trubisky is with two. Reason I mention that: Trubisky was the second pick of the 2017 draft. Watson was the 12th.
4. Marcus Mariota is unofficially finished in Tennessee. He becomes a free agent after this season, and the Titans are 2-0 with Ryan Tannehill.
5. There is no homefield advantage to Arrowhead Stadium. That was the Chiefs' third straight loss there and, dating back to the 2018 playoffs, their fourth in five starts. The Chiefs will win the AFC West, so that's not a problem. But this is: Halfway through the season, New England is three games ahead of them, meaning that if Kansas City goes deep in the playoffs again it almost surely goes to Foxboro when/if the Chiefs meet New England. Of course, considering their home record, that may not be all that bad.
1. Just a hunch, but Cam Newton’s injured foot magically heals this week.
2. Shame on the Bears’ Matt Nagy. There is nothing certain about a 41-yard field goal … especially in Chicago … and especially after last season. Yet Nagy decided to take a knee at the 22 with 45 seconds left and one timeout left. Excuse but … huh? The Bears ran through the Chargers for 162 yards. Why not run for more when you can?
3. Malcolm Jenkins 1, Orlando Scandrick 0.
4. Jon Gruden should know better. Never challenge a PI. Waste of a timeout.
5. I don’t care how well Deshaun Watson plays. Without J.J. Watt, he can’t overcome the Texans’ defensive shortcomings. Look for them to make a move before Tuesday's trade deadline.
6. Congratulations to the Atlanta Falcons. They produced a sack for the first time in over a month.
7. Aaron Rodgers is special (see his insane, off-balance TD pass to Jamaal Williams), but the Packers wouldn't be 7-1 without two Aarons. Rewind the tape to Sunday's defeat of Kansas City, and you'll see why Aaron Jones is almost as valuable … or invaluable … to Green Bay as Aaron Rodgers.
8. The Giants plan a players-only meeting Monday. Yep, that should plug the leaks in their pass defense.
9. I keep hearing about the bad breaks the Chargers suffer, but this just in: Opponents missed 13 kicks this year, nine field goals and four extra points. Yet the Bolts are still 3-5.
10. Blame it on the Bosa Nova. Brothers Joey and Nick on Sunday combined for five sacks, seven tackles for losses, six quarterback hits and one interception. Oh, yeah, and two wins.
11. At one time … and not that long ago … Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett were on the same roster. The three are a combined 20-2 this season.
12. I don’t care how old Adam Vinatieri is (and he’s 46). Outside of Justin Tucker, he’s the one kicker I’d trust to make a money field goal.
13. The Eagles have gone an NFL-high of 40 straight games without a 100-yard rusher. Just sayin.’
14. We all know about Tom Brady. But this is how good New England is on defense: Cleveland’s Nick Chubb didn’t fumble his last season at Georgia, and he didn’t fumble his rookie year with the Browns. He fumbled twice in the first quarter vs. the Pats, and the Browns turned over the ball on three consecutive snaps.
15. If I were Bruce Arians, I’d be livid with officials, too. No question, that was a fumble on Tennessee's fake field goal … and it should have stood as a return TD.
16. That makes Seattle’s Russell Wilson 30-7 following a loss, but it comes at a cost: The Seahawks lost center Justin Britt to a knee injury, possibly for the season.
17. The more you watch Mitch Trubisky, the more you understand why Matt Nagy wants to commit to the run game.
18. Four concussions in two years for Brandin Cooks? That’s more than a problem. It’s a legitimate concern.
19. Kliff Kingsbury said he doesn’t regret going for it on fourth-and-1 at his own 29 midway through the third period. He should.
20. Maybe Rex Ryan was right about Baker Mayfield.
MY TOP FIVE
1. New England … One of these years doomsayers will get it right … but not now.
2. New Orleans … Who Dat? Killer B’s move to quarterback.
3. San Francisco … Best start since Montana and Rice starred at The Stick.
4. Green Bay … Opponents want relief from Aaron Rodgers … his arm and his State Farm ads.
5. Baltimore … Perfect antidote for another lost summer with the O’s.
MY BOTTOM FIVE
32. Al Riveron ... NFL replaces him with Judge Judy; fans rejoice.
31. Miami … Next loss: Pittsburgh. Then the N.Y. Jets. Maybe.
30. Cincinnati … Two continents, one bad team.
29. Washington … Dave Martinez declines head-coaching job for 2020.
28. N.Y. Jets … Sam Darnold joins auditions for “The Sixth Sense II.”
STAT THAT MAY INTEREST ONLY ME
Bill Belichick is 28-0 at home vs. quarterbacks who are 24 or younger.
AND ONE THAT MAY INTEREST YOU
San Francisco’s George Kittle has had four touchdown passes overruled by penalties this season. Of course, you knew that if you drafted him for your Fantasy team.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET
NEW ORLEANS QB DREW BREES. Only five NFL quarterbacks in their 40s threw for more yards than Brees' 373 Sunday – but none did it with a surgically repaired thumb on his throwing hand in his first game back after five weeks off.
GOLD JACKET QUOTE
“I know the thought would be ‘Why don’t you just wait until after the bye? Everything seems to be going great. Why take the change?’ But, man, I’m a football player. As soon as I could get back, I was gonna get back.” – New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees on returning.
GOLD JACKET QUOTE, PART DEUX
“What happens if you take a sack or lose a fumble? I’ll be brutally clear: Zero thought of throwing the football. Zero thought of running the football. “ – Chicago coach Matt Nagy on taking a knee with 45 seconds left.
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