Kyle Shanahan has two playoff appearances as the 49ers’ head coach. Both appearances led to an NFC title game appearance. The 49ers have clinched the NFC West on the back of the league’s best defense paired with an ascending offense.
When you look around the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles have been the class of the conference. However, the 49ers still have a chance to notch the first seed in the NFC as the Eagles are dealing with injuries to Jalen Hurts, Lane Johnson, and other key contributors.
The Minnesota Vikings currently sit in the second slot. They’ve won 11 one-score games. That’s impressive but is not a recipe for sustained success. Beating lesser opponents isn’t a crime. Wins are wins in the NFL. The fashion they’ve beaten these teams has to be a concern. Minnesota faces Green Bay on Sunday.
The 49ers are holding the third seed. The Dallas Cowboys are right behind them. Dallas has surrendered nearly 100 points in three consecutive weeks to the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Eagles. While I’m writing this, Dak Prescott tied the league lead for interceptions with 14. Prescott missed five games this season.
The other three spots are up for grabs between Tampa Bay, the Giants, Washington, Seattle, Detroit, Green Bay, Carolina, and New Orleans.
What does this all mean?
Looking around the NFC, it’s easy to argue the 49ers are the best team.
Brock Purdy has stepped in and given this offense a lift. The defense just got back Javon Kinlaw, and Kerry Hyder, Jr. plus Kevin Givens, should return soon. Shanahan has done the best coaching job of his career.
The offense has playmakers all around. Deebo Samuel is close to his return. Christian McCaffrey has provided a considerable boost.
When you compare where the 49ers are right now, even with a rookie QB, I’d argue an NFC championship appearance is absolutely in their sights.
The team is battle tested, well-coached, and knows what it takes to win in January.
It will feel like a failure if the 49ers don’t reach the NFC championship game.