The San Francisco 49ers are coming off a big blowout win over Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. The Niners improved to 4-3 heading into a ridiculously tough three-game stretch that begins with a matchup against their hated rivals, the Seattle Seahawks.
San Francisco lost Deebo Samuel, Jeff Wilson Jr. and Richie James to injuries, but could get some help going into Sunday’s game. Head coach Kyle Shanahan says Tevin Coleman and K’Waun Williams could be back in the lineup, as could starting safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt.
The 49ers are very much in the race to win the NFC West and should be in contention for one of the seven available playoff spots.
Here are how some of the major media outlets have the Niners ranked going into Week 8.
ESPN has the 49ers 15th (up two spots from last week)
Who needs to step up: QB Jimmy Garoppolo
Over the past two weeks, the 49ers have gotten back to their formula of running the ball, playing good defense and having Garoppolo steer an efficient play-action passing attack. But the schedule is about to get tougher, and the burden is probably going to fall more on Garoppolo to deliver. That means pushing the ball down the field more consistently and taking advantage when opposing defenses stack the box to stop the run. Garoppolo has done it before, but for the Niners to remain in the NFC playoff hunt, they’ll likely need him to do it again.
NFL.com has the 49ers 13th (up four spots from last week)
The 49ers got a jump-start on Halloween by crawling out of their own grave. Left for dead after a 2-3 start to the season with a seemingly impossible stretch of opponents ahead on the schedule, the Niners have righted the ship with back-to-back quality wins. On Sunday, it was a beatdown of the Patriots in Foxborough, a victory that had to be extra rewarding for ex-Patriot Jimmy Garoppolo and head coach Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinator of the Falcons during their infamous Super Bowl LI collapse. The Niners whipped the Pats by staying true to themselves: According to ESPN, the Niners ran by design or used play-action on 51 of their 63 offensive plays (81%), the highest percentage by any team in a game this season. Shanahan’s scheme works, even when he doesn’t have his best players available.
CBS Sports has the 49ers 15th (up four spots from last week)
Kyle Shanahan is doing an amazing job with this team after all the injuries. They have won two straight games as they head to Seattle to face the Seahawks.
USA TODAY has the 49ers 15th (up four spots from last week)
Just when they’re finding their stride, RB Jeff Wilson and WR Deebo Samuel go down. Niners have used league-high 69 players in 2020.
Yahoo has the 49ers 14th (up two spots from last week)
The 49ers still aren’t out of the woods. They have five more tough games coming up (at Seahawks, vs. Packers, at Saints, at Rams, vs. Bills). Their past two performances are encouraging. They look like the defending NFC champions finally, and maybe they can survive this gauntlet of a schedule.
Bleacher Report has the 49ers 16th (up two spots from last week)
A couple weeks ago, many people just about wrote off the San Francisco 49ers. The team had been ravaged by injuries and had just been blown out at home by the Miami Dolphins. The injuries are still a major issue, with running back Jeff Wilson Jr. the latest to get banged up.
But after destroying the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, the Niners are back above .500—just like every other team in the NFC West. Tight end George Kittle made it clear the team isn’t going anywhere.
“It’s fun to be part of a team with a bunch of psychopaths,” Kittle told reporters. “I fit in really great here.”
“It’s been a weird year for the 49ers, but we clearly can’t rule them out based on how resilient they’ve been,” Gagnon said. “It takes a damn well-coached team to roll into Foxborough and dominate a Bill Belichick-coached squad that had its back against the wall. It continues to be an uphill battle due to injuries, but the 49ers have the ability to grab a playoff spot, and anything can happen from there.”
The other NFC West teams are ranked like this:
Seahawks: ESPN (3), NFL.com (6), CBS Sports (4), USA TODAY (6), Yahoo (6), B/R (5).