The NFL trade deadline is less than a week away, and the 49ers have already made their move by acquiring star running back Christian McCaffrey for multiple draft picks.
ESPN’s Jeremey Fowler and Dan Graziano wrote an article about the upcoming trade deadline and where the addition of McCaffrey puts the 49ers in relation to the rest of the NFC:
Fowler: They are the fifth-best team, somewhere behind Philly, Dallas, Minnesota and maybe one other. It feels like anything can happen in the NFC, with the past two Super Bowl winners (Rams and Bucs) sitting on three wins, alongside the Packers and 49ers. This is a cluster that must be sorted out. And I’m bullish on Seattle, which has improved its defense the past two weeks. So, San Francisco has a lot to overcome, and it has been depleted injury-wise, but no team has more star power.
Graziano: ”Fifth” was the answer I was going with here, too. I’m sorry, but they’re still very average at the most important position, and no matter how much talent you put around Jimmy Garoppolo, you’re still going to have times when you need him to elevate his play beyond where he can. You can’t go through a whole season and never find yourself in a position where he’s going to get you beaten with a crummy throw, or by holding the ball too long and getting sacked out of field goal range. Kyle Shanahan’s tenure in San Francisco so far has been all about finding a way to build a team that can overcome its own quarterback, and with Trey Lance hurt he’s right back to where he always has been. They are a good-not-great team.
The NFC is a cluster, as Fowler stated. I’d add a suffix to cluster to drive the point home, but we don’t curse on this site.
Based on everything we’ve seen during the first seven weeks, Philly and Dallas are head and shoulders above the rest of the conference. Both teams have proven they can win in multiple ways. The difference in DVOA reflects that when you look at the playoff teams in the NFC:
So, San Francisco has a ways to go from the top while still being recognized as one of the better teams in the conference — which might say more about the NFC.
It’ll be difficult for Seattle to maintain their current pace with that defense. The Bucs players and coaching staff are trading pubic jabs and passing the blame. The Giants feel like a figment of our imagination, while Minnesota can’t put away bad teams.
All of that bodes well for the 49ers' playoff chances. This week’s opponent, the Rams, are 23rd in DVOA compared to the Niners' tenth ranking. Head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke about how important getting a victory against a divisional opponent is on Monday:
Our number one goal is always to be the last team standing. And in order for that to happen, you have to get in the tournament and the best way to get in the tournament is to win your division. So regardless of what our record is, I want our guys to always focus on trying to get into that tournament and the easiest way to do it is win our division.
Due to the success of the NFC East, the 49ers might be forced to win the division to make the playoffs. Still, does anyone buy that New York will keep their magical run for another nine games? We all know what to expect from Kirk Cousins.
Teams could add difference-makers between now and the trade deadline. Panthers’ edge rusher Brian Burns has been linked to seemingly every team. Some believe the Packers' woes will be solved by adding a wide receiver. I have my doubts.
So with all of that in mind, and assuming McCaffrey is the final addition the Niners make, where does this team rank in the NFC? My answer is fourth, behind the Eagles, Cowboys, and Bucs — who I imagine will figure it out as they’re too talented — then the Niners, who fall in the same category for me as Tampa Bay.
As for McCaffrey, he’ll start to have somewhere around 20 touches a game. And judging by last Sunday, most of his opportunities will be 1-on-1 with a safety:
Where do the 49ers rank in the NFC
This poll is closed
1st or 2nd
3rd or 4th
5th or 6th
Hanging onto the last wild card spot
On the outside looking in