Here we are, not even midway in the 2011 season, and it is all but confirmed that the San Francisco 49ers will make the playoffs.
Having a four-game lead in your division after just seven games does that. Of course, playing in the NFC West helps.
Seattle, St. Louis and Arizona currently post a combined record of 4-17, and five of SF’s remaining nine games come within the division. However, the strong advantage at this point in the season has nothing to do with the rest of the NFC West and everything to do with what the 49ers have proven on the field.
Moreover, the schedule includes games against non-NFCW opponents like the Giants and Steelers at home, the Redskins (this Sunday) and Ravens on the road. Right now the best matchup appears, without question, to be Dec. 19 at home against Pittsburgh.
Fans who have been watching week-in and week-out might notice several factors that can serve as the foundation of a rather surprising but compelling argument: There is no reason right now to discount the 49ers as a serious No. 2 seed going into the NFC Conference playoffs in January.
What’s more, there’s a chance they could become the top seed.
Here are four reasons why the 49ers have to be considered serious Super Bowl contenders.