The two best teams in the NFL through six weeks are the only two unbeaten teams – the Patriots and the 49ers – and they have a lot in common.
My oh my… can you imagine the possibilities?
There are only two undefeated teams left in the league after six weeks of play: the San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots. These two teams might play their home games on opposite sides of the country, in different conferences, and in completely different divisions, but the many ties that bind these two franchises are certainly strong.
If both were to find their way through the playoffs to meet in Super Bowl LIV, the NFL media and marketing departments would have an absolute field day in the two weeks leading up to the big game.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan would have to keep his cool every time reporters asked him a question about his fourth quarter play-calling as offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl LI. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick would have to resist telepathically beheading every poor reporter that asked him a question about whether deep-down, he really wanted to keep Jimmy Garoppolo over Tom Brady back in 2017.
Brady would be asked to talk about Garoppolo endlessly. Garoppolo would have to speak on Brady constantly. Even poor Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett would probably get pestered somewhere on the golf links or the fishing lakes for his take on TB12 versus Jimmy G, since Brissett was the third member of that Patriots QB “Wolfpack” brotherhood back in 2016.
It’s still not even mid-October, so there’s plenty of season left for both good and bad things to happen to the Patriots and the 49ers. Neither team is a lock for an appearance in Miami Gardens on February 2, and both have plenty of difficult opponents left on their respective schedules as potential landmines. Frankly, it’d be a major miracle if either team went undefeated this season.
And yet the fact that both squads are undefeated through Week 6 is still a remarkable achievement, and a testament to the overall strength, polish, and well-roundedness of both teams in 2019.
For San Francisco, the early results of a 5-0 record must serve as sweet vindication that Shanahan and general manager John Lynch knew exactly what they were doing in assembling this team since they were both brought aboard in 2017. The Niners went 6-10 in the pair’s first year and then 4-12 last season, but injuries played a major role in both of those records… particularly in 2018 when Garoppolo was lost for the entire season in Week 3 with an ACL tear.
For New England, it’s more of the same… sort of. The Patriots looking like one of the best teams in the NFL is old hat ever since the day Brady and Belichick arrived up in Foxborough, but it’s still been a long time since New England started off this fast and looked this dominant on defense.
Both teams have certainly benefitted from playing some weaker competition to begin their 2019 campaigns. The Patriots’ six opponents this year are a combined 9-23; the 49ers’ five opponents are a combined 8-21. It’s also true that both teams have difficult games back-loaded on their schedules: New England still gets Baltimore, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, and Kansas City; San Francisco still has Carolina, Green Bay, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Seattle twice.
But if these two teams can navigate the rocky paths toward the end of the calendar year and set themselves up nicely for the postseason, perhaps both will earn the top seeds in their respective conferences. At the very least, each is already well-positioned for a first-round bye. From there, if they can make it through the playoffs all the way to the Super Bowl, the storylines practically write themselves.
Northern California native Tom Brady versus the San Francisco 49ers, the team he grew up idolizing.
Jimmy Garoppolo versus the New England Patriots, the team that first drafted him and groomed him into the player he is today.
Defensive genius Bill Belichick versus offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan in a rematch of arguably the most exciting Super Bowl ever.
Even the two franchises would have a lot on the line from a historical standpoint. The 49ers would be seeking their sixth Lombardi Trophy, and would tie the Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most all-time with a win. The Patriots would obviously be hoping to break free of that same tie with the Steelers to claim a seventh Lombardi with a win, a feat that’s never been done before.
Both teams also have similar ideological make-ups and roster constructions. They play fundamentally-sound football without turning the ball over often, they make use of short-to-intermediate gains instead of big plays to move the chains methodically, they score points systematically rather than all at once, and they both have stifling defenses that lead the league in most all of the important categories.
Even if you’re not a fan of the Patriots or a fan of the 49ers, you should be secretly rooting for this Super Bowl matchup to happen if your own favorite team doesn’t make it all the way to Miami. Not only would San Francisco/New England automatically give fans some of the juiciest plots and storylines imaginable… it would also most likely be one hell of a football game.