San Francisco scratched and clawed their way into a playoffs spot during the Week 18 overtime nail-biter against the Los Angeles Rams. And since, many analysts see the 49ers as an ascending team in the NFC as they prepare to take on the Dallas Cowboys in the Wild Card Round of the postseason.
With 14 teams all vying for one goal on Feb. 13, here's a look at how NFL pundits have ranked San Francisco heading into the first round of postseason football.
The 49ers punched their ticket to the postseason with a stirring comeback win over the Rams that announced San Francisco as a legitimate threat to come out of the NFC. Jimmy Garoppolo -- playing with a torn ligament in his throwing thumb -- overcame a slow start to deliver a faith-affirming performance, while Deebo Samuel authored another unique masterpiece that included rushing and passing scores. The defense stepped up, as well, taking over the game in the trenches after a rocky first half. The Niners' reward is a Sunday matchup with an inconsistent Cowboys team that has every right to be nervous about its first-round draw.
There isn't a hotter team right now in the NFL than the 49ers. Since Week 8, San Francisco has an 8-3 record, which is by far the best in the entire league. A big reason for their recent success is because the 49ers got healthy at the right time.
Tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Deebo Samuel are two of the best offensive weapons in the NFL, and they make life a lot easier for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. If the 49ers are going to come away with a win over the Cowboys, they will need to run the ball effectively with Elijah Mitchell and Samuel against a vulnerable Cowboys defense.
The Niners didn't lock up their playoff spot until the final day of the season, but our voters see them as a top-10 team no one should be sleeping on.
The 49ers (+2400) are back in the playoffs after their injury-riddled Super Bowl hangover season of 2020. Kyle Shanahan has done a great job turning them back around and they have some positive elements that resemble their NFC championship run, including a reliable running game, a versatile passing game and an active front seven. But the pass defense can be overwhelmed and the immediate draw against the Cowboys doesn't help.
A 17-0 first-half deficit? No problem. The 49ers still beat the Rams for the sixth consecutive time to clinch a playoff spot that otherwise would've gone to the Saints. Deebo Samuel – the NFL's most versatile weapon – had 95 receiving yards, 24 passing yards and a touchdown, and 45 rushing yards and a touchdown.
They have a ceiling with Jimmy Garoppolo, but the veteran QB showed up in Week 18. More importantly, Kyle Shanahan has been here before, and if his ground game is clicking, they can control the ball en route to some surprise wins.
After falling into a 17-3 halftime hole on Sunday and staring elimination in the face, the San Francisco 49ers did something that has never been accomplished before.
They beat a Sean McVay-coached team that was leading at halftime.
The game itself was a microcosm for what makes San Francisco hard to peg heading into the postseason. When wide receiver Deebo Samuel is tearing through the open field or edge-rusher Nick Bosa is terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, the 49ers look like they can beat anyone.
However, Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo committed a pair of costly turnovers Sunday, and San Francisco's secondary is held together with Silly Putty and hope.
"The Niners' comeback in Los Angeles was impressive," Bleacher Report NFL analyst Gary Davenport said. "And their ability to run the ball and play defense makes them the sort of wild-card opponent no one wants to take on. But Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Dalton Schultz and the Cowboys passing game feel like a bad matchup for a banged-up San Fran secondary. The Niners can win this game. But I don't think they will."
49ers management wasn't bluffing when they said they were committed to Jimmy Garoppolo this season even after surrendering three first-round picks to acquire Trey Lance. Garoppolo started 15 games — just the second time in his career he reached double-digit starts — and threw 3,810 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also led clutch late-game drives on Sunday to clinch a playoff appearance. With a strong running game and defense, the 49ers won't flinch against the NFL's best teams. Four of their 10 wins have come against opponents who reached the postseason.
This can be a dangerous football team. The San Francisco 49ers will be underdogs against the Dallas Cowboys, but they have the rushing attack and pass rush to create some chaos. If Jimmy Garoppolo protects the football, San Francisco controls the clock and racks up a few sacks, they will upset the Cowboys.
Meanwhile, San Francisco's great safety tandem of Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward – plus one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL in Fred Warner – has helped the 49ers make up for starting Josh Norman at cornerback. Rookie Ambry Thomas had the game-clinching INT in overtime against Matthew Stafford and the Rams.
They beat the Rams to get into the playoffs, and will be a dangerous team now that they are there. They are a tough, physical team. It's all about Jimmy Garoppolo.