The best thing you could say about the San Francisco 49ers' current winning streak is that the scoreboard has been sparkling at the end of every game. Really, the magnet schedule that's been on the refrigerator since the start of September is starting to gleam brighter than that straight-A second-grade report card that Mom never bothered to take down.
It all started with a road game against the St. Louis Rams. Playing without two of its star linebackers in Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith, the Niners defense played a one-sided game of catch with Sam Bradford in a 35-11 smackdown. One week later the 49ers humiliated the Houston Texans 34-3. Then they outgunned the Arizona Cardinals 32-20. Next came a 31-17 drubbing of the Tennessee Titans. Then last week in London, only diplomatic immunity prevented them from being detained after they obliterated the Jaguars 42-10.
In the last five games, the 49ers have outscored their opponents 175-61 and haven't trailed once going into halftime.
The caveat: All of those blowouts came against teams without winning records. So what's going to happen this week when the 49ers face the suddenly surging Carolina Panthers?
Well, they're going to be an even better team with good additions like Mario Manningham and Aldon Smith and awesome minuses like Nnamdi Asomugha and Nate Stupar. And as easy as their schedule has been, they haven't needed a phalanx of fourth quarter miracles to avoid catastrophic upsets like the Seattle Seahawks this season.
But if the Niners want to separate themselves from their northern rivals, there are several questions they have to answer going into Week 10.