They’re calling it the “Stretch of Death.”
Or, south of the border, it’s known as “El Strech-o de Death-o”.
For the 49ers, it might be.
Or, it could just be a ton of fun as Kyle Shanahan’s Fightin’ Flat Brims enter a historic three-game stretch vs. Green Bay, at Baltimore and at New Orleans. ESPN tells us that no team has faced three consecutive foes with winning percentages of at least .800 this late in the season in the Super Bowl Era.
8-2 Green Bay. At 8-2 Baltimore. At 8-2 New Orleans.
Hence, “El Stretch-o de Death-o.” Or, as it’s known on the mean streets of Paris: “Le Stretch du Death.”
How could the season look three weeks from now? Let’s have some fun spitballing, from least likely to most likely:
— LEAST LIKELY — 49ERS GO 3-0, MOVE TO 12-1, RULE THE UNIVERSE: This is, frankly, the most unlikely scenario. Every team in the NFL is supposed to lay an egg or two, as I was just saying to Drew Brees in Atlanta and Aaron Rodgers in Carson, CA. Losing to any one of these three teams doesn’t remotely come close to laying an egg, which means that it’s likely they will lose one of these games. They’ll almost certainly be underdogs at the Ravens and Saints. And the injuries — I know, I know, every team has them — at some point have to come calling on the W/L record. So the idea of outfoxing Aaron Rodgers, containing Lamar Jackson and stymying the Superdome Saints is almost a non-starter.
— THIS AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN — 49ERS GO 0-3, WORLD COMES TO AN END: First off, a 9-4 49ers team still exists. The apocalypse has not yet arrived when a 9-4 49ers team comes home to face the Atlanta Falcons at LLS — Loud Levi’s Stadium. So while this is definitely unpalatable, and would definitely make for some spicy sports talk radio, the idea of Kyle not being able to at least get a home win over Green Bay seems unlikely. There’s too much DeForest Buckner and George Kittle (he’ll be back at some point, right?) in this team to hit the skids.
— THIS COULD VERY WELL HAPPEN — 49ERS GO 2-1, WALK TALL AT 11-2: Now this would be impressive. You’d get your home win over Green Bay on Sunday night, because Levi’s demanded it. And then you’d get one of two at Baltimore and New Orleans, which maybe you can see because the Saints have shown that deficient gene in the Falcons loss, or maybe because our pal Steve Young has said that he has yet to fully buy in to the Baltimore Ravens mystique. I trust Steve on most everything, but Lamar Jackson dusting both Tom Brady’s Patriots and DeShaun Watson’s Texans has me a little higher on the Baltimore mystique. But you could see the 49ers run game clicking on one of the road games, and you could see Jimmy Garoppolo and a returned Kittle (he is coming back at some point, right?) hooking up for a couple of key TDs in one of those road games. Yes, yes. I could see this, and it would mean sweet news for the 49ers’ NFC West hopes.
— THIS IS WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN — 49ERS GO 1-2, STILL LIVE TO FIGHT FOR NFC WEST: Calm down, don’t yell at me, kids. I’m not saying I *want* this to happen. I’m just saying the most likely turn of events is a home win over Green Bay, because I’m a Levi’s guy. And then there’s too much Lamar in Baltimore, and too much Superdome in New Orleans. And that’s totally OK. A 10-3 49ers team would probably be tied for the NFC West lead with Seattle, and then have a winnable two game home-stand vs. Atlanta and Rams to go 12-3 into Seattle to finish the season. Yes, it would be for all the NFC West marbles. And yes, you want to go back to Monday Night and have Chase McLaughlin make that kick, or Kyle Shanahan play for the tie, or go for it on 4th-and-1 and al the woulda/coulda/shouldas.
That’s sports, my friends. Sports involves regret. It involves Stretches of Death. This is our lot.
But man, isn’t it fun to be in a pennant race again?