Six weeks into the NFL season and the time to make far too early assumptions about the NFC is now.
Despite the usual craziness between trades, injuries, winners, and losers, one team has especially stood out so far. That team would happen to be the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers enter Week 7 as the only unbeaten team in the NFC, after handily beating their division rival Rams in Los Angeles 20-7.
Their plus-83 point differential is number one in the NFC by far, with Minnesota ranking second at plus-57. This is a true tell sign that their dominance has been no joke.
What exactly changed though? These 49ers were supposed to show up last year rather than the 4-12 debacle of a season they had.
For starters, their $100 million quarterback is healthy after he tore his ACL in Week 3 of last season.
Now despite his mediocre start with seven touchdowns to five interceptions and a 95.2 rating, his presence has meant more than that. Jimmy Garoppolo was groomed behind Tom Brady and under Bill Belichick for long term success.
While his stats aren’t quite eye-popping yet, his command over this offense is evident. The 49ers rely on a run-heavy offense behind Matt Brieda and Tevin Coleman and Garoppolo are smart enough to realize that.
San Francisco ranks fourth in yards per game with just over 400, but that can be attributed to their 180 rushing yards per game. A stat that is good for second in the NFL.
On defense though, that is where the team dominance is felt.
Their front seven features Dee Ford, Solomon Thomas, Deforest Buckner, Kwon Alexander Fred Warner, and rookie Nick Bosa. You will be hard-pressed to find a better unit than those seven.
They are the main reason the 49ers give up the second least yards and points per game in the NFL.
On top of that, they boast the top-ranked pass defense behind the reinvigorated Richard Sherman, who already has two interceptions on the season.
The final and perhaps most important piece of the puzzle behind the 49ers success though is their head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Like Garoppolo, Shanahan is a former member of the New England Patriots family. He has created a new winning culture so far in 2019 after a disappointing 2018.
Even more so, the 49ers play smart, as they are the fifth least penalized team in the league. That is a direct reflection of discipline from the coaching.
While it is only Week 6, there is a new dark horse ready to claim the title of the NFC.
- I am a huge Yankees, New York Giants and Los Angeles Lakers fan. However I have a huge passion for all three sports in general across the MLB, NFL, and NBA. I also cover the Cal State Long Beach Men's Basketball team.