At 8-1, the San Francisco 49ers are almost guaranteed a playoff spot for the first time since 2002. They are playing an old school brand of smash mouth football under new head coach Jim Harbaugh and have not lost since Week 2.
It has been a long time coming for a franchise which, in recent years, had fallen from grace.
From 2003-2010, the 49ers struggled. They were the worst team in the league in 2004 at 2-14.
The team saw a rotating door of unknown or otherwise ineffective quarterbacks in that span. These included Tim Rattay, Cody Pickett, Trent Dilfer, J.T. O'Sullivan, Shaun Hill and Troy Smith.
Current QB Alex Smith's career was a roller coaster ride of mediocrity before 2011.
Since being drafted first overall in 2005, he has worked with seven offensive coordinators in seven seasons.
Long before this season, fans and pundits wondered if Smith was a victim of constantly changing schemes or just unable to compete in the NFL.
It seems we have our answer.
Alex Smith's emergence as a reliable QB is one reason to watch out for the 49ers. Here are five others.