Throughout the last couple weeks, there are about six teams who I've seen garner the majority of the attention: the Broncos, Seahawks, and Bengals (for positive reasons) as well as the Bucs, Jaguars, and Vikings (for negative reasons).
But few seem to be talking about the 49ers.
Since their embarrassing losses to the Seahawks and Colts, games in which Colin Kaepernick had been criticized and thought of as a one season wonder, all the 49ers have done is ride a five-game winning streak right into their Week 9 bye.
They are just 1 and a half games behind Seattle for first place in the NFC West and will likely get a wild card spot at the very worst.
Any questions about Frank Gore's age or durability have been put to rest with his performance this season. He is on pace to easily break 1,000 yards and already has 7 rushing touchdowns. Backup Kendall Hunter has done a good job of spelling Gore, averaging just under 5 yards per carry while rushing for 210 yards and 3 scores.
Kaepernick's running abilities (6 ypc, 294 yards, 3 TDs) has also been able to put defenses on edge. Thanks to that trio being so potent, San Francisco is the best rushing team in the league, averaging over 150 yards per game on the ground.
That running game has been key to their scoring offense, which is ranked 6th in the league at 27 points per game.
Their defense has been as advertised, ranking in the top ten in rushing yards allowed, total yards allowed, and points allowed.
Everyone knows about the potent combo of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, but how about Eric Reid? The rookie from LSU is ranked 3rd (behind Willis and Bowman) on the team in tackles with 39, and is also tied for the team lead in interceptions with 3. His excellent play has helped San Francisco become a tough team to both run and pass against.
While Kaepernick has played better since those two losses, it's safe to say that he still needs a lot of improvement to get back to where he was a year ago. So far he has completed 57 percent of his passes, with 9 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. While those stats aren't bad, the fact that the 49ers are ranked 31st in the league in passing yards per game (190) has to be concerning.
Kaepernick has shown he can make any throw he wants to (See: Week 1 vs. Green Bay) but he must continue to improve on his mechanics and be more decisive in the pocket. His throwing abilities will be key for the 49ers to sustain their success. This also means that the receivers must step up. Anquan Bolden and Vernon Davis are playing outstanding, but production is very thin after those two players.
Overall, the 49ers look to be in excellent shape. They are sound in nearly all aspects, especially with their ground game and defense. However, their passing game remains a concern, as well as their strength of victory: they have not beaten a team with a winning record since week one against Green Bay. Upcoming games against Carolina and New Orleans will determine whether they are average or elite.
Until then, the Niners remain under the radar. It will be interesting to see how long that will last, and whether they have what it takes to repeat as NFC champions.