1. Talent. Look at the margin of victory/loss. The Niners have scored 174 points and given up 174 points. They've been involved in only 2 blowouts, the first a +35 win, the second a -35 loss. Their wins are +4, +13. Their losses are -3, -3, -4, -7. The Niners aren't keeping it close because Jimmy Raye or Greg Manusky have discovered breakthrough innovations in offense or defense. So the one valid conclusion that can be drawn from the tiny margins of victory/loss is that the Niners' talent is on par with the best in the NFL - Indy, Minn, AZ.
2. Coaching tells in how a team plays on the road. The Niners have played 4 road games, three in the Central time zone. These teams have a combined record of 25-8. And yet, the Niners margin of victory/loss are +4, -3, -3, -4. In three of these games they've held a 4th quarter lead. That's good coaching.
3. Coach willing to change. He'll change little things -- notice how he's stoped using timeouts for mid-game pep talks? He'll change big things, like QB, even scheme. Remember back to 2007 when Smith was hurt and the offense was stuck in the mud? Remember Nolan's mantra? I do. It was, "I'm not going to change the problem." He wouldn't change players, he wouldn't change the style of offense, nothing. Nolan was afraid that change would only make things worse -- he lacked confidence. Singeltary is willing to change anything that doesn't work.
4. Niners can score points. The last 10 quarters of football show that Vernon Davis, Gore, Crabtree, Jason Hill, and Josh Morgan are legit playmakers if they have a QB with normal NFL-quality armstrength. When the offense is opened up under Smith it has scored 24.8 ppg (62 points divided by 2.5 games). Finally, FINALLY, the Niners can score, they have a modern NFL offense.
5. While Shaun Hill can't increase his arm strength, but Alex Smith can reduce his turnovers with more practice and more playing time.
Although it was obscured by the turnovers, I think a big offensive turn-around began in Houston and really got going yesterday. On Thursday it pays off with a win. And then the Niners will be a very dangerous team indeed.