San Francisco 49ers are proven contenders but can’t take anything for granted


The San Francisco 49ers picked up a big road win to secure their contender status but still have work ahead to capture the NFC West and No. 1 seed.

Sunday’s Week 14 battle in New Orleans between the Saints and San Francisco 49ers was one of the best games of the year. The way two of the NFC’s best teams battled it out until the end made it exciting yet stressful all the way until the game-winning field goal. That George Kittle fourth-down play will be on highlight reels for the rest of the year.

Now the Niners are back atop the NFC West and NFC as a whole, thanks in part to the Seahawks losing to the Rams as well. In the win over the Saints though, the 49ers showed the league that it isn’t just their defense that defines them.

San Francisco accrued 516 total yards as Jimmy Garoppolo was awarded NFC Offensive Player of the Week, finding his targets down the field for 349 passing yards and a 131.7 QBR. Garoppolo spread the ball out well, showing the diverse weapons on the 49ers offense.

More from NFL Spin Zone

Four different receivers had 40 yards or more, including Emmanuel Sanders who had 157 receiving yards, a receiving touchdown and a passing touchdown as well. It’s a shame he was on many fantasy football benches after a string of down performances.

Off the victory, the 49ers look to keep the offense hot down the homestretch of the final three games of the regular season. Unfortunately, their high-scoring victory came at a steep price for the aforementioned offense.

Staring center Weston Richburg was placed on the injured reserved due to a torn right patellar tendon. The defensive side of the ball was hit as well with Richard Sherman, D.J. Jones and Dee Ford all suffering injuries that have them listed questionable, if not doubtful for the upcoming Week 15 game against the Atlanta Falcons in Santa Clara.

Though the 4-9 Falcons may not seem like too much of a threat, Austin Hooper and Julio Jones getting back on the field led to a 40-point game for the Falcons in their win against the Panthers. The 49ers defense will need to do their best to avoid giving up a large number of points again. That may not be the easiest thing with who is left on the schedule.

After the Falcons, the 49ers host the Los Angeles Rams, then make the big trip up to Seattle for what may be the NFC West-deciding game against the Seahawks. Jared Goff and the Rams offense has been on fire and everyone knows a game at CenturyLink Field is never easy.

To get around these injuries and survive this tough stretch run, the 49ers will need to keep their focus and slow down their high-scoring rivals. Look for Nick Bosa to be a big difference-maker as he adds to his eight sacks on the season.

Next. 20 Bold predictions for NFL Week 15. dark

Overcoming their remaining opponents will not be a walk in the park, but the 49ers have built confidence after their recent victory and should be able to nail down the NFC West and, thus, the No. 1 seed in the NFC. 49ers fans only hope they keep the momentum through the possible bye in the Wild Card Round as they look to make their way to the Super Bowl.