By staging a big comeback to beat the Arizona Cardinals this past weekend, the 49ers improved to 9-1 and stayed atop the league power rankings compiled by NFL.com.
The victory wasn’t pretty, but it was gritty, with the defense coming up big in the second half and Jimmy Garoppolo making crucial passes late after some sloppy early play.
As Dan Hanzus of NFL.com noted of the 49ers in general and Garoppolo in specific, “Garoppolo wasn’t perfect, but he tied a career high with four TDs and again looked like a quarterback who won’t blink in the big moment. That trait should be especially useful come January.”
But if the 49ers want to stay a Super Bowl favorite, Kyle Shanahan's team will have its work cut out for it over the next three weeks.
This Sunday, the 8-2 Green Bay Packers come to Levi’s Stadium for a nationally televised night clash that Hanzus says has “Game of the Year potential.”
And, it won’t get any easier for San Francisco after the Packers game. The 49ers have to face the 8-2 Baltimore Ravens the following Sunday and the 8-2 New Orleans Saints in their next game. As Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com wrote this week, it’s a historically difficult road for the Niners, as no team in the Super Bowl era has played three consecutive games this late in the season against teams that have won at least 80 percent of their games (if Baltimore and New Orleans continue to win).
How the 49ers perform in this stretch will go a long way to determining their final record, confidence, NFC West championship and home-field advantage for a playoff run. The Seattle Seahawks – who recently beat the 49ers in overtime – are right behind San Francisco at 8-2.
Wrote Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk: “The stakes are high for the 49ers over the next three games. One or two losses could increase the chances that, despite their 8-0 start, the 49ers could end up losing the NFC West to Seattle.”
Sunday’s game vs. the Packers is set for a 5:20 p.m. kickoff.