Do Not Count The San Francisco 49ers Out Of The NFC West Just Yet
October 22, 2020
Fans had high expectations for the San Francisco 49ers following a 13-3 regular season and a trip to the Super Bowl. As was expected, they began the season favored to win the NFC West. The Seattle Seahawks were not too far behind, followed by the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals.
But then they dropped their season opener to the Arizona Cardinals, 24-20. They bounced back the following week to dominate the Jets and followed that game up with a win over the Giants.
A team as good as the 49ers can bounce back from a single loss. But from all the injuries they have suffered early in the season? George Kittle missed a couple of weeks after going down in Week One. Jimmy Garoppolo was out for a couple of weeks. Deebo Samuel did not play until Week Four.
Raheem Mostert is expected to spend some time on the IR with a high ankle sprain—and that is just some of the injuries on the offensive side of the ball. The defense lost Solomon Thomas, Nick Bosa, and Ezekiel Ansah for the season inside the first month.
Nick Bosa Carted Off Field w/ Injury | 49ers vs. Jets | NFL Week 2
Richard Sherman and Dee Ford might not be back until Week 12. Again—that is just some of the injuries.
With the number of star players the 49ers have seen go down, it isn’t surprising that expectations for them have changed dramatically. After starting the season favored to win the division, Caesars now has their odds now listed as +1500.
The Cardinals odds are +550, the Rams +400, and the new favorite is Seattle at -240.
It does not look good for the 49ers. Losing 43-17 to the Miami Dolphins certainly does not help.
If you think it is time to fade the 49ers, most will probably say you are right. But you might want to reconsider that position for one simple reason.
San Francisco 49ers Are Still In It
If you watched that game against the Dolphins, the idea will sound ludicrous to you. But it is true. The 49ers are not out of the hunt by any means. You could say they are right in the thick of it.
With a 3-3 record, they are in last place in the NFC West—which looks terrible. But it isn’t as bad as it could be. They are only a game behind the 4-2 Rams, who they beat last week, and Cardinals. But then the undefeated Seahawks have a nice cushion.
However, the 49ers have yet to play Seattle. With how porous the Seahawks defense is, it is not hard to imagine the 49ers scoring some points and winning both games. Do so, and the division race gets very interesting.
Easier said than done, right?
Well—maybe not. Despite all of the personnel losses, the San Francisco 49ers are not a bad team. They are not great by any means. But you do not have to be great to beat anyone in the NFL. You just have to be better than they are on the day you face them.
Offensively, they are not bad at moving the ball (16th in total offense; 368.5 yards/game). But they are not great, either. While they do struggle a little to score points (24.7 points/game;20th), they are not allowing too many (21.7 points/game; tenth).
Anytime you have a positive scoring differential, you must be doing something right.
Stats Do Not Win Games Though
Some are still probably going to point to the Dolphins game as evidence the team is not going anywhere this season. But consider this—maybe the Dolphins are not that bad this year.
Like the San Francisco 49ers, their record is 3-3. They are not a bad team, but they also are not a great one. But they are currently one game behind the Buffalo Bills—who have lost two in the row and might be crumbling right before our eyes.
If Tua Tagovailoa can play well when the Dolphins return from their bye next week, the Dolphins could become dangerous in the weeks ahead.
But then skeptics will point to the two wins over the Jets and Giants and say beating them means nothing. While the skeptics would be right, they would be overlooking the obvious. Beating the Jets and Giants may be meaningless but taking down the Rams is not.
The Rams are a good team this year. Their offense is effective (tenth in total offense) and the defense has been stingy (19.0 points/game allowed; fifth). With all the injuries the 49ers are dealing with, they held the Rams offense to 70+ yards less than their season average and scored 24 points.
Their stars may be going down, but the rest of the roster is starting to step up. Kyle Shanahan is adjusting to his personnel and doing what he can to put the 49ers in a position to win. If the win over the Rams is any indication, the 49ers might be ready to reassert themselves.
If they can start to do that now, and then become even better when guys start to come off the injured list, it is not hard to imagine a scenario where the San Francisco 49ers are division winners when the regular season ends.