25% of the season is in the books and the 49ers are 2-2 — two dominant wins and two dominant losses. Who the heck are these guys? Contenders or pretenders?
The next five games should answer the question. HOU, AZ, at TEN, at JAC, BYE, CAR. They’ll be favored to win them all and they should. 7-2 after nine games would just about guarantee a playoff spot and keep the heat on Seattle for the division crown. At that point, they’d be getting Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham back and the offense could kick into another gear and be primed for a postseason run.
It was good to see the 49er running game return to action against the Rams. A good run is a thing of beauty to observe. You get to see every step of it, watch all the intricate blocks that made it happen, the juke moves and opposing players steamrolled. Fun stuff. The pass isn’t nearly as entertaining. There’s the QB, there’s the ball spiraling through the air, there’s a guy catching it. Yawn.
Even the Patriots went with the ground game Sunday. They’re in a similar predicament as the Niners, with all their WRs hurt or in jail. The Falcons should have blown them off the field, but they didn’t and look poised for a big decline this year. The Patriots prevailed in the game, but long time fat guy in the middle Vince Wilfork shredded his Achilles in the second quarter and is done for the year, making the Patriot defense seriously compromised. 350 pounds of meat on tiny little feet finally takes its toll.
Same story in Houston, with Matt Schaub throwing away a victory over Seattle in truly ridiculous fashion. Schaub is never going to lead that team anywhere. HC Gary Kubiak probably wishes he’d have gotten into the Alex Smith sweepstakes last offseason. Smith has led Kansas City to a 4-0 record, and the Chiefs only need to go 4-8 the rest of the way to bump that third round pick the 49ers got from them into a second rounder. Trent Baalke will then use it on an injured college star and red-shirt him for a year, like he has with Tank Carradine.
Tony Romo has turned into a humming .500 machine. In his last 46 games, he’s won 23 and lost 23. 5-5 in his last 10 games of 2010, 8-8 in 2011, 8-8 in 2012, and 2-2 this year. A well-oiled, extemely expensive mediocrity. You can count on Tony to bring home half the bacon.
The Denver Mannings are wowing the world so far this year. But they did that last year, too. But a blowout W don’t count any more than a squeaker W. With Denver and Peyton Manning, it’s how they do when the weather turns cold. Manning historically performs poorly in temperatures below 40°. And the Super Bowl will be held in New York in February. Good luck with that one, creaky old guy.
The Giants and Steelers are a combined 0-8, each contributing 4 losses to the total. These two long time powers are competing with Tampa and Jacksonville, the other 0-4 clubs, for worst team in the league honors. It’s a brand new world.