For the first time in a while, the 49ers can say that they are sitting atop the NFC West division after three weeks. After defeating the Buccaneers, Bengals, and Steelers, San Francisco heads into their bye week before taking on the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football.
Based on yards per game, Kyle Shanahan’s offense is ranked No. 4 in the NFL, behind the Ravens, Chiefs, and Cowboys. On the flip side, Robert Saleh’s defense is ranked No. 2, just behind the defending Super Bowl Champions. No other team in the NFL has a top-four offense and top-four defense through three weeks.
The argument that’s being thrown around to tear down San Francisco’s 3-0 start is the combined 1-8 record of their opponents. It seems to be a baseless statistic that doesn’t mean anything without any context. Dallas, New England, and Buffalo are some of the other undefeated teams in the NFL. Their opponents have a combined two wins and 25 losses. Teams play who is on the schedule, and it can’t be held against them when they stack up wins.
San Francisco has dominated all three teams in every phase, except for one category — turnovers. If it were not for the five turnovers against the Steelers or the ugly interception against the Buccaneers, the games would all be blowouts. Shanahan’s squad has taken care of business and done what is expected of them up until this point, despite numerous key injuries, including left tackle Joe Staley, running back Tevin Coleman and corner Ahkello Witherspoon.
Looking at the NFC West landscape, the Rams are also undefeated but have looked shaky through their three games. They took down Carolina, 30-27, but Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton was a shell of himself. Los Angeles handled New Orleans at home, but a majority of the game was without quarterback Drew Brees due to an injury. The Rams’ most impressive win came this past Sunday on the road against a talented — yet poorly coached — Browns’ team.
Sean McVay and the Rams have the most talented roster in the division but have seemed lifeless on offense, with running back Todd Gurley II not looking like MVP-candidate Gurley from last season.
Looking up north to Seattle, the Seahawks defeated the Bengals and Steelers, before dropping their last game against backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the Saints. Seattle still has quarterback Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll, but a young defense and new faces on the offense have stunted their start this season. Nonetheless, it’s still the Seahawks, and they will find a way to be in the mix down the stretch of the season.
Last, the division’s newest couple, head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray, sit at 0-2-1 through two weeks. While the offense has certainly moved the ball and put up points, the defense has been pathetic and needs significant work. Arizona is playing just as expected and will have growing pains through the early part of Murray’s career.
The NFC West seems to be one of the better divisions in football, and it means that the 49ers can’t afford to give games away — especially the divisional ones. San Francisco will take on the Rams in Los Angeles after the Monday Night Football game against the Browns, and it will be the 49ers’ first test against a quality, playoff-level opponent.