Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

49ers show up on two of ESPN’s most-likely Super Bowl LIV matchups

Oct 3, 2019 at 8:15 AM--

Maybe you should start thinking about your February hotel reservations in Miami. I'm joking. Please don't book anything just yet.

The San Francisco 49ers are a perfect 3-0 heading into Week 5's matchup against the Cleveland Browns and are all alone atop the NFC West standings. ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) is in love with the 49ers thanks to their hot start, the team's best in over two decades.

The FPI, by the way, is a prediction system for the NFL developed by ESPN's analytics team.

ESPN used the FPI to simulate the season 20,000 times and came up with its 10 most-likely Super Bowl LIV matchups, and Kyle Shanahan's 49ers showed up twice in the top five.

The most-likely matchup, according to the FPI simulations, is the New England Patriots versus the Dallas Cowboys (8 percent chance). The 49ers show up at No. 3 with a matchup against the Patriots, which has a seven percent chance of occurring.

"Yes, FPI is head over heels for San Francisco through three games," writes ESPN's Seth Walder. "One reason for Kyle Shanahan's success: His offense is running play-action on 38% of its dropbacks -- and it's working. The 49ers have averaged 10.6 yards per dropback on play-action and 7.0 yards on all other plays."

San Francisco shows up again at No. 5, with the team going against the Kansas City Chiefs. This scenario has a seven percent chance of taking place, according to the FPI.

"The 49ers' pass rush hasn't completely put it together yet," adds Walder, "but Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner, and Nick Bosa have the potential to be devastating."

The Patriots and Chiefs are the clear favorites in the AFC with one of the two teams appearing in each of the top 10 Super Bowl scenarios.

Five NFC teams are represented on the list. Along with the 49ers, they are the Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Rams, and New Orleans Saints.

San Francisco may be undefeated through the first quarter of the season, but Shanahan isn't getting too ahead of himself.

"Yeah, that is good, but that doesn't mean anything," the 49ers head coach said on September 22. "I've been 5-0 and not made the playoffs before, so that doesn't mean much."

The 49ers are preparing to host the Cleveland Browns (2-2) at Levi's Stadium on Monday night.

H/t to Patrick Tulini for the find.

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