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Are the 49ers for real? The cases for, against a playoff run

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Woody predicts 49ers beat the struggling Rams (1:08)

Damien Woody explains how the 49ers have established their identity with the run game and defense, and he picks San Francisco to beat the Rams ahead of Sunday's NFC West matchup. (1:08)

Five weeks into the 2019 NFL season, only two undefeated teams remain. If you had asked before the season began, the New England Patriots would have been a pretty unanimous pick to be one of the two; while they've had their well-publicized September struggles in recent years, no one has gone broke picking the Patriots to win football games. Identifying the second team, however, would have been trickier. Some likely would have chosen the defending NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams; others would have backed reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. The New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Chargers and the Pittsburgh Steelers also looked like dominant teams prior to Week 1.

Not many would have pegged the San Francisco 49ers, who haven't finished with a winning record since 2013, as the team joining the Patriots atop the NFL, but here they are. After their 31-3 rout of Cleveland on Monday night -- the best single-game performance of the season, per Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings -- the 49ers have put themselves in the conversation of the league's top teams.

It wasn't a one-week nationally televised anomaly, either; San Francisco has been putting up lopsided performances throughout the first month of the season. As a result, the 49ers not only rank first in DVOA after Week 5, but are the sixth-best team we've ever tracked through a team's first four games, stretching back to 1986.

San Francisco is the only team in the NFL to rank in the top five in both offensive and defensive DVOA. While the narrative says that the 49ers are winning with a punishing ground game and a ferocious pass rush, they've actually been effective no matter the situation; they're the only team to rank in the top 10 in rushing offense, passing offense, rushing defense and passing defense. The 49ers and Patriots are heads, shoulders, knees and toes above the rest of the league at the moment. We've never seen anything like the gap these two top teams are putting between themselves and the rest of the league in terms of their DVOA rating; each of them are a full 30 points higher than third-place Kansas City.

Is this real life? Are the 49ers really a historically great team? Or are they going to come back to Earth after a wild month?