We’ve seen a few different iterations of the San Francisco 49ers under Kyle Shanahan come oh so close to winning a Super Bowl. The 2019 season was a heartbreaker, but 2021 and 2022 also saw the Niners look like contenders.
This season is different. There are weeks when it seems like the defense has taken a step back, but that unit has been impressive all season and come up with some key stops and critical turnovers.
The most considerable difference comes on the other side of the ball. We got a glimpse of what the 49ers could be down the stretch last year when Brock Purdy took over at quarterback and Christian McCaffrey was added into the mix. But a full offseason with McCaffrey and a healthy, more confident Purdy has produced a historic offense.
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, who you wouldn’t confuse with an analyst that’s been pro-Niners over the years, has changed his tune in 2023. Florio believes everybody is playing for second place:
“If key players are healthy, they’re gonna kick the shit out of everybody they face. The quest is for second place. That’s it. As long as those people stay healthy. They’re currently healthy. They’re going to kick the shit out of the Ravens on Monday night. I’m sorry, I know that’s rude to the Ravens, but let’s be realistic.
They have to fly across the country on Christmas night. The 49ers are waiting. And the 49ers are going to dismantle the Ravens If it’s a Super Bowl preview, the Super Bowl is going to suck. Because the 49ers, as long as those guys are healthy, they’re going to run over everybody.”
Now, I’d say Arik Armstead and Javon Hargrave constitute as key players. Those two aren’t healthy and haven’t been for a couple of weeks now. We’ll see if that changes on Monday. But Florio is likely focused on the offensive weapons, so that makes sense.
Evidence would suggest that the 49ers will not be slowed down by anybody. The “best” teams that they’ve faced this season, the Eagles and the Cowboys, gave up 40 points and the game was over in 2.5 quarters.
Florio is making it sound like we’ll see a similar outcome on Monday night. Baltimore is a better team than Philadelphia and Dallas, but they’ve shown cracks in the armor recently, and the cross-country travel doesn’t bode well for the Ravens.