When it comes to the 49ers, you need to take the long view.
Today, they're in Nashville playing the 3-3 Titans, a middle-of-the-road team if there ever was one. The Titans (couldn't they get an original name?) play good defense but don't have much offense and are a joke at running the football. And while they have the usual on-any-given-Sunday chance to beat the 49ers, it's not much of a chance.
Note to self: If the Tennessee Titans defeat the surging 49ers, the overwhelmingly more talented 49ers, that's BIG news.
Back to article: So, what does this game in Nashville mean?
Conventional wisdom (don't you just hate conventional wisdom?) would call this a "trap" game. A trap game occurs when a team and coaching staff of a superior team (i.e. the Niners) look past a nothing opponent (i.e. the Titans) to a really important massive thunderous game that looms. That's the trap. They don't pay attention to the business at hand and they get their helmets handed to them. Oops.
Here's why the concept of trap game is baloney. No NFL coaching staff ever looks past the current game to a future game. Doesn't happen. Each game is one-sixteenth of the season, a big chunk, and coaches know it.
It's not like Jim Harbaugh said to offensive coordinator Greg Roman last Tuesday night, "You know what, GRo, these Titans suck. Forget all the game planning and looking at film and all the rigmarole we usually do. Let's get pizzas for everyone, including our little pals from the media — I'm talking pizzas with everything on them — and we'll listen to the Shirelles greatest hits and just generally screw off."
And there's something else. For a game to be a trap game, the next opponent must be a threat. Otherwise, you wouldn't be looking past this week's game to next week's. If you consult the schedule, you'll notice after Tennessee, the 49ers are traveling to London (why did the English never develop anything worth being called a cuisine?) to play those terrors, the 0-6 Jacksonville Jaguars, the worst team in the NFL, perhaps the worst team in the history of history. So, there is absolutely no trap today unless, while thinking about traveling all that way to England to slaughter the Jags, the Niners die of laughter.
OK, if today's game isn't a trap game, then what is it?
It's a keep-pace game. Allow me to explain.
The Seattle Seahawks already played on Thursday night and won. Seattle's record is 6-1, an excellent record. It happens to be the best record in the NFC West and it ratcheted up the pressure on the second-place 49ers. Keep that in mind.
The 49ers are 4-2 and their goal is simple. They need to take care of business week after week. In their case, taking care of business means beating the run-of-the-mill teams like Tennessee and the absolutely wretched teams like Jacksonville and the outstanding teams like the Saints (Nov. 17 in the Superdome). Taking care of business means doing this again and again so they stay in contention with the Seahawks.
What are the 49ers staying in contention for?
The 49ers are staying in contention for Sunday Dec. 8.
What's the big deal about Dec. 8?