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The 49ers are playing like the best team in football

Since their bye week and fully acclimating Christian McCaffrey into the offense, this team has taken off and performing at a level unlike any other team in the league

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The 49ers have been in a league of their own since the bye week. It would be easier to list the statistical categories where this team isn’t in first place. If we reference total DVOA (schedule-adjusted efficiency) since Week 10, the 49ers are nearly double the Bills, a team everyone picked to win the Super Bowl before the season.

The 49ers have played complementary football, and the numbers reflect that. They’re second offensively in DVOA, with the best passing offense by 12 percentage points, and seventh against the run.

To help paint a better picture of the 49ers' dominance, here’s a graph that measures every team’s performance on both sides of the ball using EPA per play:

Graph courtesy of RBSDM

Up and to the right is where you want to be. As you can see, it’s the Niners and everybody else.

The addition of Christian McCaffrey has put this offense over the top. And despite injuries to Jimmy Garoppolo or Deebo Samuel, they haven’t missed a beat, and the ultimate weapon is McCaffrey is the reason why.

The 49ers are sixth offensively in EPA per play, and eighth in success rate since McCaffrey has been fully acclimated into the offense. The 49ers had one running back surpassing 100 yards this season in a game. That was Jeff Wilson in Week 5 against the Panthers, where 41 of his 120 yards came on one play. McCaffrey has rushed for over 100 yards two weeks in a row.

Here’s Kyle Shanahan on whether he’s been surprised by McCaffrey:

“Just that he was exactly what was advertised. Everyone, we knew what we were getting from what we see on tape, but everyone telling us how hard he worked at things, how consistent he was, and how fast he would be able to pick things up, and that’s what I’ve been the most impressed on because everyone told us, but I think it’s even been stronger than that.”

Objectively, the 49ers' defense is better than their offense. That’s been the case all season and remains true during this seven-game winning streak. San Francisco is first in EPA per play defensively and doubles the second-place Commanders. They just edged out Robert Saleh’s Jets in defensive success rate for first place.

DeMeco Ryans’ unit has the speed to teleport from sideline to sideline. They are physical, don’t miss tackles, and don’t give up the big play. Of course, it helps to have 11 good players on the field, ala 2019, but the execution has been nearly flawless, and the product has been a joy to watch.

Next up, the Commanders, who Shanahan believes his team shouldn’t take lightly:

“Anyone who plays defense as well as they do and commits to running the ball usually is a recipe to be in the playoffs. And they’re number one in the league in time of possession. They’re top four in yards. I think they’re third on third down. They’re top five in the least amount of explosives allowed. They they’re a top five defense and when you have that and you’re able to stop the run without always having to play the run, it makes them real tough to go against. They don’t give up big plays, they make everyone work for everything and then on the other side of the ball, they’re controlling that clock, so usually when they take care of the ball, they win.”