Jerry McDonald: Who can hang with the 49ers in the NFC? It's Philly and the pretenders.

Jerry McDonald, The Mercury News on

Published in Football

Maybe I’m not buying the whole 17-0 regular season thing, but it’s pretty clear through three weeks the 49ers are the class of the NFC and at worst co-favorites to play in Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 11 in Las Vegas.

They’ve scored 30 points in three consecutive games and are a little miffed it hasn’t been more. Their stars, of which there are many, have played like stars. The only injury of note, to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, shouldn’t be an issue this week when the 49ers host the Arizona Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium.

While an NFL season doesn’t allow for clear sailing to a conference title game, the 49ers have made good on just about every positive preseason prognostication that came their way.

The general public is even apparently becoming dimly aware that Brock Purdy is something more than an undersized game-manager at quarterback.

With that in mind, here’s a look at how the NFC teams currently over .500 line up heading into Week 4, and so far only one team appears capable of taking the 49ers down:

— 1. Philadelphia (3-0): The Eagles beat host and previously unbeaten Tampa Bay, 25-11, Monday night. They did it in the fashion they won the NFC title a year ago, by dominating both sides of the line of scrimmage with 201 yards rushing and 272 yards passing, holding the Bucs to 174 yards of total offense and 45 plays.


The Eagles are the only team that can match the 49ers at the point of attack, and even letting Javon Hargrave escape in free agency appears to have been negated by the addition of rookie defensive tackle Jalen Carter.

Jalen Hurts as of yet is not the operator he was a year ago, but he’s still getting used to Brian Johnson, the play-caller who replaced Shane Steichen when the former OC left to become the head coach in Indianapolis. But health permitting, they should be in sync by the time the 49ers come to town on Dec. 3.

Next three weeks: vs. Washington (2-1), at L.A. Rams (1-2), at N.Y. Jets (1-2)

— 2. Dallas (2-1): Talk about team extreme. The Cowboys hammered both New York teams by a combined score of 70-10 in the first two games, and then inexplicably were punched in the mouth in Arizona, 28-16.


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