The San Francisco 49ers are off to one of the best starts in franchise history and remain one of the NFL's two undefeated teams heading into Week 6.
The Niners are averaging 33.4 points per game so far in 2023 while their defense is stifling opposing offenses on route to allowing just 13.6 points and 266.8 yards per contest, with both figures placing them in the top three in the league.
Impressively, they've managed to only turn the ball over twice during the opening stretch of games, allowing quarterback Brock Purdy to masterfully lead an offense buoyed by an All-Pro in the making season from wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and the steady -- and often unbelievable -- play from running back Christian McCaffrey.
And coming off a 42-10 drubbing of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football in Week 5, it seems safe to say that the 49ers have risen to the level of competition so far and should be among the favorites to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in Las Vegas in February.
But that's getting a bit ahead of things, so let's take a step back and look at the next major marker in the 49ers' season: their Week 9 bye, which effectively cuts their season in as perfect a half as a 17-game slate can be.
As is often the case when a team goes this long without losing a game, the question of "when will they lose their first game" begins to swirl.
Well, given the schedule leading up to the bye and the circumstances surrounding the teams on the slate for the next three weeks, there is a case to be made that the 49ers will be able to continue their undefeated run at least up until the bye week.
The campaign continues this Sunday with a trip to Cleveland to take on the Browns. This trip comes after a run of three home games, which included a short week to play on Thursday Night Football for their home opener as well as this past Sunday's Sunday night contest against the Cowboys.
Sunday's game is a 1 PM ET start, which means a 10 AM body clock kickoff for the 49ers, who also have several fewer hours rest due to the later start on Sunday. While this might present some problems, the 49ers are clearly the better team and should go heading into the matchup relatively healthy.
The Browns, on the other hand, are suffering from a few key injuries with quarterback Deshaun Watson's status for Sunday already in doubt after missing Cleveland's Week 4 loss to the Ravens and despite the Browns' early bye this past week.
Cleveland has already lost running back Nick Chubb and offensive lineman Jack Conklin for the season as well, and on top of those major misses, offensive lineman Joel Bitonio was seen on crutches with "an undisclosed injury" earlier in the week.
Entering the matchup with a 2-2 record and an offense that has been up and down since Chubb's injury, this feels like a game the 49ers should win, even if the Browns' defense, led by EDGE rusher Myles Garrett, is formidable.
After the game in Cleveland comes another midwestern jaunt, this time to Minnesota to take on Kirk Cousins and the Vikings on Monday Night Football.
The Vikings are 1-4 heading into Week 6 and will be coming off a divisional matchup against the Bears in Chicago this weekend before hosting the 49ers in prime time.
But whereas Minnesota was one of the luckiest teams of all time in terms of success in one score games in 2022, they've been the opposite so far this year, with all four of their losses coming by seven or fewer points while their lone victory was with a margin of just eight points.
Their defense has given up a lot of yards (1712 through five games, 19th in the league) and even more points (122 or 24.4 per game, 23rd in the league) and their offense hasn't been able to keep up, averaging just 22 points per game.
Add to that the news that their star wide receiver Justin Jefferson is going on IR and will miss this Week 7 contest and you have a recipe for disaster for Cousins and Co. Combine all this with the fact that Cousins is 0-9 of Monday Night Football in his career and this feels like yet another 49ers' victory.
The final game before the bye is maybe the most intriguing.
The Cincinnati Bengals came into the season with Super Bowl aspirations, but a preseason calf injury for quarterback Joe Burrow has lingered into the regular season, diminishing his ability to lead this high powered offense, while the defense has yet to allow fewer than 16 points in a game this year.
Burrow's injury has led to the Bengals scoring just 83 points in five games, good for just 16.6 points per game, and while they did look better on Sunday against the Cardinals, they've also managed just three points twice so far: in the opener against Cleveland and in Week 4 against the Titans.
With the quarterback still "a few weeks away" from being fully healthy, you have to wonder how the Bengals' offensive line, which has already allowed Burrow to be sacked 11 times this year, against the 49ers' defensive line, especially if Burrow's mobility continues to be limited.
If he continues to get healthier, then this matchup will be the trickiest of the season for the 49ers, with an offense that features wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, who singlehandedly destroyed the Cardinals on Sunday to the tune of 15 catches on 19 targets for 192 yards and three touchdowns.
This doesn't even take into account running back Joe Mixon who is off to a solid if unspectacular start to his campaign, and whether Chase's wide receiver running mate, Tee Higgins, can get healthy and be ready to go by October 29.
Still, the Bengals' defense is certainly beatable with the 49ers playing the way they are on offense now, so you'd have to give the 49ers an edge in this one, especially at home with the bye week looming.
All this said, it's the NFL and the old adage is true for a reason, but with the 49ers rolling like this on both sides of the ball, it feels likely that they can stretch their undefeated run to their Week 9 bye.