The San Francisco 49ers put together a 6-0 start under relatively quiet conditions, which is just how an up-and-coming team prefers to break through the wall that separates contender from pretender. The longer one avoids showing up on the radar, the bigger head start from the competition. That's the good news for Kyle Shanahan's side. The bad news -- even if this is a good problem to have -- is that the Niners are quickly morphing from hunters to hunted.
Sunday's complete dismantling of Carolina served as smelling salts to the national media. A 51-13 rout over a playoff-sniffing team tends to do that. An offense that's both innovative and productive tends to capture the imagination. Nick Bosa playing one of the better defensive games of the year is hard to ignore.
If San Francisco's season was a movie, critics would be fighting among themselves to provide quotes for the poster. Rex Ryan got right to work on Get Up, calling them the best squad in the NFL.
Good Morning Football's Peter Schrager is so excited about the turnaround that he sounds like one of those overly excited finance bros he plays.
Colin Cowherd devoted time to them on a day after Baker Mayfield was abjectly humiliated, which should tell you a lot. He's saying equally glowing things about this Bay Area surprise.
This is "today he became president"-type stuff. For good reason, it feels as though the tide has hit a critical mass and the pendulum has swung to a point where San Francisco must be put either on par with or above the New England Patriots.
Today, San Francisco became a viable Super Bowl candidate.
And that's fine. Let the good times roll. But as Booger McFarland tells Stephen A. Smith about the Niners' ability to travel anywhere and play every style in the background as I type this, let's not forget our history. The NFL is not typically a wire-to-wire enterprise. The belle of the ball before Halloween often turns into a pumpkin.
It may be prudent to sell high on San Francisco, as fun as their meteoric rise has been. Trips to Baltimore, Seattle, and Los Angeles await. The Packers, Seahawks and Rams visit Santa Clara. The division is very much in reach, but it won't be easy. And if the Niners have to go on the road in the playoffs, do you really trust them?
Yes, Jimmy Garoppolo has been good. Yes, it's been smooth sailing. But in New Orleans against Drew Brees? Excuse me if I'm not rushing to the window for a San Francisco future slip.
The beginnings of things are fun. Falling in love obscures some obvious faults. So I don't want to be a Debbie Downer. It's just that it's probably best to watch from afar as the talking heads give their hearts to San Francisco with big, bold words and flowery praise.