SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Coverage of the San Francisco 49ers

History and Numbers Are on 49ers' Side

Analyzing the numbers

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    At 5-1, Alex Smith and the 49ers may be almost impossible to catch in the NFC West.

    On the field, the NFL is about speed, violence and athleticism.

    Off the field, it’s often about observers dissecting information to draw conclusions from what has happened to predict what will happen.

    As the San Francisco 49ers take time off during their bye week – or “improvement week,” as head coach Jim Harbaugh calls it – analysts have made a few points about the surprising 5-1 team that is leading the NFC West, including:

    The turnaround: The San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch has reported that since 1990, nine other teams have started 5-1 or better after beginning the previous season 1-5 or worse. Both the 49ers and Lions have done it this year, and of the eight others who made the about-face between 1990 and 2010, six made the playoffs, three won at least one playoff game and one, the 1998 Falcons, made the Super Bowl.

    Best one-loss team: Based on strength of schedule, the 49ers are the NFL’s best 5-1 team. San Francisco has beaten the Seahawks, Bengals, Eagles, Bucs and Lions, teams with a combined winning percentage of .559 (19-15), reports Branch. By comparison, the opponents’ winning percentage of the Patriots (5-1) is .516, the Lions (5-1) is .500, the Ravens (4-1) is .442 and the Chargers (4-1) is .346. The Packers, at 6-0, have played teams with a winning percentage of just .353.

    Looking ahead: In addition, the 49ers already have played the toughest part of their schedule. Yahoo.com reports San Francisco has only four games remaining against teams with a winning record, and it still has five games left against teams from the weak NFC West. Winning a title in a division with Seattle (2-3), Arizona (1-4) and St. Louis (0-5) may not be automatic, but it certainly appears probable.