It's not that difficult to identify some of the best teams in the NFC. We can all do a mental tally in our head. For the most part, I bet that we think of similar teams. Yeah, there might be one or two that I think is a borderline-to-lock best team, but you just think of them as borderline at best. Maybe one or two of us has a serious dark horse candidate that not many other people would agree with. Maybe one or two of us is right about that.
The fact is, though, pretty much all of us would say that the San Francisco 49ers are one of the best teams in the NFC. First off, how amazing is that sentence? Screw you, 2002 ‘til last season! The Niners are good now!
But secondly, and most importantly, it's not just us saying this. Pretty much everybody with half a brain and a non-antiquated notion of Alex Smith as anything but perfectly cromulent thinks that the 49ers should be successful this season.
The 49ers join the ranks of the Packers, the Lions, maybe the Bears, probably the Falcons now that the Saints have a lot to deal with, the Giants, and maybe the Eagles or the Cowboys. These are the "best" teams in the NFC. A pretty stupid sentence to write when so much can happen before the season, but I'm pretending to be under oath right now. I had to write that.
The point is, though, that when I write out the teams that are the best in the NFC, I'm not writing a list of Super Bowl Favorites, I'm writing down the teams that I think can make the playoffs.
Follow me after the jump for my larger point.
My larger point is that the playoffs are such a crap shoot. A dirty game of Russian roulette that plays with our emotions. Every year somebody comes up with the solution to the playoffs. He or she thinks that the code has been cracked. And usually, this theory reflects a trend prevalent in the NFL for a few years. Recently, this has been QB play.
It's understandable why. The recent rule changes and style of play have both made the QB a more premium position. Can't really argue with that. And for a while, teams winning the Super Bowl had the elite QBs, frequently without elite defenses or special teams or what not. That was a trend for a while, so sports critics adapt. It's their job. Soon enough, everybody adapts. That's human nature.
But the NFL be a fickle mistress, matey. I would tend to agree with my esteemed colleague, Dylan DeSimone, who argues that the current NFL favors the complete team over the elite QB team. That seems to be the new trend. Pass rush is more important than ever because that is how the league has learned to fight the QB-crazy offenses. We have that, so, you know FAVORITES!
Except that this is sort of a silly word. Not for the 49ers, but for everybody. Winning the Super Bowl is all about getting hot/lucky/talented all at the same time. It's for about four weeks right around January. As much as we want the secret code to the playoffs, history has shown how silly that line of thought is. Sometimes the "favorite" wins it all, but a lot of time the "underdog" does. There is enough data demonstrating that anybody can win it once they are in the playoffs that we should really stop talking about Super Bowl contenders and start with playoff contenders.
And if anybody here seriously thinks that the 49ers are not playoff contenders in the NFC West, then I have this super nice jar of snake oil for only $50. It's a steal.