I’m a data-driven dude. You ask me why I make certain articles, I point to my traffic I get from it. You ask me why I think the San Francisco 49ers have a shot at the division, I point to Pro Football Focus saying the 49ers have a 39.8 percent probability to win the NFC West, the highest probability of all four teams.
There’s still a lot of football to be played and I fully understand, as well as support, the notion the 49ers need to beat teams besides the Steelers and the Bengals before they can get respect. Omissions from power rankings and non-mentions as the league's best doesn’t bother me because I absolutely get it and if it was anyone else I’d be preaching the same thing.
That said, the 49ers are in position to at the very least get a wild car spot. Here’s what PFF said about the 39.8 percent probability.
San Francisco did have the benefit of a bye in Week 4 and will go into their Week 5 matchup with the Browns at 3-0. The team’s defense is vastly improved compared to last year, as the unit currently ranks seventh in yards per play allowed and second in EPA per play allowed. The defense has four primary players with coverage grades 75.0, and newcomers Dee Ford and Nick Bosa lead a significantly improved pass-rush upfront. Offensively, Kyle Shanahan & Co. run the football a league-high 53.7% of the time with an offense that currently ranks 10th in run-blocking grade. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been unspectacular to start, with a 72.6 passing grade, two big-time throws and two-turnover worthy throws so far this year. Garoppolo and the offense overall will need to be better against better NFL teams moving forward, but their stout defense and the risk-averse offense have worked thus far.
I’ve been beating this death but I’ll say it again: If the 49ers can win Monday against the Cleveland Browns and then the following week against the Los Angeles Rams (both games that have become quite winnable), that makes them 6-0. If you give them both games against the Arizona Cardinals (they lose, so help me), Washington, and the Atlanta Falcons. That puts them at 10-6 and a respectable W/L record, most likely good enough to get a wildcard spot.
The NFC West is between the Rams, the 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks. If you watched that Thursday Night game, you might put the Seahawks and 49ers as the contenders and the Rams falling out. We’ll see how that goes in the coming weeks when the 49ers go to Los Angeles and then face their NFC West rivals in subsequent games.
For now, numbers are fun. Way better than hearing the 49ers have the lowest probability to win anything.