San Francisco's Win over Green Bay Makes the 49ers the Early Super Bowl Favorite

Sam Quinn@@Samquinn23Contributor IIISeptember 10, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 09:  Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers throws a pass during the NFL season opener against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 9, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Who else thought the Green Bay Packers were the best team in the NFL?

I know I did. In my NFL preview, I did everything short of handing them the Stanley Cup and naming Aaron Rodgers emperor of Mars. 

And then the San Francisco 49ers came into their house and laid an absolute whipping on them. Don't let the 30-22 final score fool you, this game was never truly close.

I went through the five stages of grief several times (the Packers kept pulling me back in with touchdowns on bad calls) before coming to the now-seemingly obvious conclusion that the 49ers are the best team in the NFL.

Last year's formula was completely in place against the Packers.

They ran the ball extremely well (211 yards), their special teams gave them a constant field-position advantage (and several long field goals by David Akers) and Jim Harbaugh did all of the Jim Harbaugh things he always does to give the 49ers a coaching advantage.

Here's the difference. Alex Smith played like a quarterback. Not a game-manager, but a bona fide "glad we didn't replace you with Peyton Manning" quarterback. 

He completed 20-of-26 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns, but those stats don't tell the real story.

Early in in the game, when the Packers expected San Francisco to play its usual ball-control offense, Smith was absolutely electric. His first-half passing (particularly to Randy Moss, who caught the first touchdown) is what put the 49ers in control of the game.

That's really weird to say, because the defense and running game spent most of last year bailing him out. Here's the thing, though; I'm not sure Smith ever was the problem. Maybe he was always the right quarterback, but the 49ers simply never gave him the right weapons.

Dom Capers was so terrified of Randy Moss that his safeties had to spend most of their time playing center field rather than roaming around the line of scrimmage. The 49ers haven't had a receiver like that since Terrell Owens left in 2004. 

Moss may not be his old self, but a well-past-his-prime Moss is better than most receivers in the NFL. The name on the back of his jersey makes things easier for everyone else.

You could argue that San Francisco beat the Packers at their own game. On offense, they followed Green Bay's formula of spreading the ball around to everyone, as Moss, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and Vernon Davis all had very good games. 

The Packers hadn't lost a regular-season home game in 13 tries before the 49ers emasculated them on national television. In doing so, they staked their claim as the NFL's best team.

If you disagree, ask yourself this question: If the 49ers can beat the Packers in Green Bay, who can't they beat?