The San Francisco 49ers are on an undeniably great roll so far in 2011.
Even from their current 5-1 perch atop the NFC West, you could very easily make the case that Jim Harbaugh’s bunch is being underestimated and undervalued by the pundits. You know, by all of the folks who expect that quarterback Alex Smith will revert to being his old self and see the squad’s defensive dominance as a fluke.
At the same time, it’s important not to go too far the other way. To not get so caught up in how great the 49ers are this year, that you accidentally overestimate their capabilities and suggest something crazy. How crazy? Well, something along the lines of what ESPN’s 2012 Playoff Insider (via Tyler Nickel of Revenge of the Birds) did when it was noted that San Francisco would go 14-2 on the year.
The 49ers, sorry to say, will not win 14 games this season.
Firstly, it’s important not to dismiss all of the wins that San Francisco has accumulated thus far as meaningless or inconsequential. Although victories versus the likes of the Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals don’t exactly evoke a lot of enthusiasm, they don’t represent all of the 49ers’ victories.
Mind you, this team has also beaten down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Detroit Lions, two of the more impressive young clubs in the league. And their win against the Philadelphia Eagles is mighty impressive given that team’s personnel, even if they haven’t put it all together just yet.
So the notion that the 49ers can’t go 14-2 because they haven’t proven that they’re good enough isn’t accurate. It’s more of a situation where parity and a grueling 16-game schedule tends to wear teams down as the year progresses, and make winnable games much harder to win than it otherwise would be.
The 49ers still have games against the New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers on the agenda. Even if two out of three end up being losses, that would take their losses mark to three on the year. Then if the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams or Seahawks can punch through even once, that record plummets even further.
A wins total more in the 10-12 range is very feasible, and that in itself should be deemed a huge coup by a franchise that didn’t even make the playoffs in the marshmallow soft NFC West last year. Plus, that total should be more than enough to comfortably secure a home playoff berth considering the fact that the Seahawks are currently in second place in that awful division with a 2-4 mark.
So, no – 14-2 isn't going to happen. But 49ers fans have plenty to smile about anyway.