The 49ers are the last remaining undefeated team in the NFC, sitting pretty at 3-0. So, the playoffs are a foregone conclusion, right?
Don't tell that to Kyle Shanahan.
"That is good, but that doesn't mean anything," San Francisco's head coach said (h/t ESPN's Nick Wagoner). "I've been 5-0 and not made the playoffs before, so that doesn’t mean much."
The frustrating collapse to which Shanahan referred was his experience in his first season as the Falcons' offensive coordinator, back in 2015. Atlanta raced to a 5-0 start but went on to lose seven of its next eight before ultimately finishing a disappointing 8-8.
Shanahan learned from that, and isn't allowing his 49ers to look too far ahead. That said, he believes there's value in acknowledging the fact that they're 3-0 for the first time in two decades.
"It's both," Shanahan explained. "You've got to believe. There's lots of things that make you believe. You've got to believe that you're good enough, and I think we've added some guys that definitely help, and I think guys that have played here know that they're good enough. They've gone and been in a lot of situations.
"I feel like guys are getting better, and that's the confidence that helps you believe in yourself."
There's no question that San Francisco is a superior team compared to one year ago. On offense, the 49ers average the fifth-most points (32.0) and the second-most rushing yards (175.0) per game. On defense, they rank third overall, having allowed the fifth-fewest yard per play and already tied their forced turnover total (seven) from last season.
That said, there's ample room for improvement. The 49ers have been too careless with the ball on offense, for one, and their record -- albeit undefeated -- has come against teams that are a combined 3-9.
Standout defensive lineman DeForest Buckner agrees with that sentiment.
"We know as a group we can be so much better," Buckner said. "We know we can do better on that on all phases. ... It's just the little things. It's executing and just taking care of the ball and getting the ball on defense."
Fresh off their Week 4 bye, the 49ers have been focused on those improvements heading into "Monday Night Football." They'd love to get to 5-0 and -- eventually -- the playoffs, but first, they have to go through the Cleveland Browns.