NFL standings ordered by net yards per play: 49ers near the top (but not No. 1)

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

If the NFL suddenly decided to sort its standings by net yards per play, the 49ers would still be toward the very top of the list.

Despite losing in disappointing fashion to the Cleveland Browns in Week 6, the San Francisco 49ers are still nevertheless an exceptionally good team with nothing short of Super Bowl aspirations in their crosshairs.

At 5-1, the Niners are tied with four other teams for the league's best record heading into Week 7.

But, what if NFL standings were tossed out the window in favor of the elusive-but-telling stat of net yards per play?

OK, it's kind of a geeky analysis. However, football is so stats-driven, and while net yards per play isn't the end-all, be-all of statistical analysis, it's a pretty good telling point of how good (or bad) teams are as a whole.

As our FanSided colleague Iain McMillan explained, "It's simple the number that's left over when you take the average yards gained per play on offense and subtract the yards given up per play on defense."

Extrapolating that into simpler terms, teams in the positive are generally good, while teams in the negative are generally bad.

Got it? Good.

So, where does San Francisco rank with the rest of the league in terms of net yards per play?

Turns out, it's pretty close to the top (emphasize: pretty).

NFL net yards per play rankings: 49ers sit at No. 2 overall

McMillan did the grunt work of looking at all 32 teams and figuring out how they ranked from first to 32nd.

The 49ers, who own the league's No. 2 scoring offense and the No. 1 scoring defense, should be within the top five, right?

Correct. They are. No. 2 in net yards per play and trailing only the Miami Dolphins.

Here are the 10 best teams after six weeks, based on net yards per play:

  1. Miami Dolphins (plus-2.8)
  2. San Francisco 49ers (plus-1.5)
  3. Baltimore Ravens (plus-1.2)
  4. Detroit Lions (plus-1.1)
  5. Kansas City Chiefs (plus-1.0)
  6. Cleveland Browns (plus-0.7)
  7. Minnesota Vikings (plus-0.7)
  8. Philadelphia Eagles (plus-0.6)
  9. Buffalo Bills (plus-0.5)
  10. Seattle Seahawks (plus-0.5)

It's interesting to see the Niners' next opponent, the two-win Vikings, actually ahead of another 5-1 team in the Eagles.

Related story: 49ers vs. Vikings: Monday Night Football kickoff time, location, TV and streaming

Maybe that says more about Minnesota being unlucky rather than bad, and it could paint a bigger challenge for San Francisco than originally thought.

As for the bottom 10? Here are the 10 worst ranked in reverse order:

  1. New York Giants (minus-2.0)
  2. Cincinnati Bengals (minus-1.4)
  3. Carolina Panthers (minus-1.3)
  4. Denver Broncos (minus-1.2)
  5. Pittsburgh Steelers (minus-1.1)
  6. Washington Commanders (minus-0.8)
  7. Jacksonville Jaguars (minus-0.6)
  8. Chicago Bears (minus-0.6)
  9. Tennessee Titans (minus-0.3)
  10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (minus-0.3)

Again, another few oddities in there, particularly with a 4-2 Jaguars squad that's actually playing well.

But, it's important to remember that one lopsided loss or victory can wholly skew the data.

Either way, San Francisco is second best (and that 70-point Dolphins win over the Broncos probably explains why).

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