By, Faux John Madden (Special to OddsUSA.com)
With 7:13 remaining in the 4th quarter of Super Bowl LIV, the vaunted 49ers defense had Patrick Mahomes flabbergasted, frustrated, and facing 3rd and 15 from his own 35-yard line.
Mahomes did what he did so many times throughout the 2019 season, stood tall in the pocket until the very last moment, and unleashed a bomb to a wide-open Tyreek Hill for a 44-yard gain.
The Chiefs would eventually score on that drive and on their following possession to retake the lead. All hope for the 49ers elusive sixth Lombardi Trophy began to wane considerably.
But alas, a Super Bowl throw for the ages was about to take place!
Trailing 24-20 on 3rd and 10 with 1:34 remaining from the Kansas City 49-yard line, Jimmy Garoppolo dropped back to pass where Emmanuel Sanders looked to have the Chiefs defense beat over the top for the go-ahead, Disney movie-like ending to the Super Bowl.
Instead, the pass would um, essentially land in Orlando, and the 49ers would officially give Kyle Shanahan his second blown 4th quarter Super Bowl lead in four seasons.
(Quite the accomplishment!)
With a roster still loaded with talent, particularly on the defensive side of the football, San Francisco has all the pieces to return to the Super Bowl this season, the biggest question that remains is whether or not they can avoid the same Super Bowl loser hangover that has doomed so many other teams before them.
49ers 2019 Season Review
The 49ers entered the 2019 NFL Season off a disappointing 2018 4-12 season that saw the team lose starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a season-ending ACL injury in Week 3.
With Garoppolo returning to the lineup and the infusion of talent with Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel in the draft and Dee Ford in free agency, expectations for a bounceback season were reasonably high, but few projected the 49ers to leap into Super Bowl contender status as quickly as they eventually did.
The 49ers emerged as a powerhouse in the NFC almost immediately, as the team would race out to an 8-0 start to the season, with five of their wins coming in blowout fashion and a 9-0 win over Washington that felt much worse than the score would indicate.
San Francisco would enter Week 10 with a Monday Night Football date with 7-2 Seattle, and had they not lost Robbie Gould for the week with an injury they probably would have walked out of this matchup with a three-game lead in the division and a perfect 9-0 record.
However, replacement Chase McLaughlin would miss a 47-yard field goal in overtime and open the door for Seattle to win at the gun in overtime with a field goal of their own to deliver San Francisco their first loss of the season.
The 49ers would then embark on the most difficult part of their schedule with games against the Packers, Ravens, and Saints. They would thoroughly dominate the Packers on Sunday Night Football with a 37-8 thrashing and fell in a close road loss to the Ravens by the score of 20-17.
That set up the game of the year in a road-trip to the Superdome to face New Orleans. In a thriller for the ages, the 49ers defeated Drew Brees and the Saints 48-46, in large part because George Kittle carried half of Louisiana on his back during their comeback.
Naturally, this would set up one of the biggest rope-a-dopes in recent gambling memory, when in the week after their enormous win over the Saints, they would manage to lose a home game against the 4-9 Falcons. The set back put the 49ers at 11-3 and suddenly left the team in 2nd place in the NFC West, as they were now in a tie with 11-3 Seattle.
However, after an onslaught of injuries suffered by the Seahawks in a Week 16 loss to Arizona, San Francisco once again had the inside path to the division title and top seed in the NFC. The 49ers would escape a Los Angeles Rams team playing for their playoff lives with a 34-31 victory, before surviving a last-second gasp by Russell Wilson and the Seahawks in a 26-21 Week 17 win.
The 49ers would cruise in their two NFC playoff victories and essentially stake a claim to the NFC North title with blowout wins over Minnesota and Green Bay, paving the way for them to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2012.
Looking Forward to Kyle Shanahan Giving Them Anguishing Heartbreak
LT Trent Williams (Washington/Trade)
TE Jordan Reed (Washington)
WR Travis Benjamin (Chargers/COVID-19 Opt-Out)
WR Tavon Austin (Cowboys) / Placed on IR
G Tom Compton (Jets)
DE Kerry Hyder (Cowboys)
Flew Away Like a Deep Throw in Miami
DT DeForest Buckner (Colts/Trade)
WR Emmanuel Sanders (Saints)
DT Sheldon Day (Colts)
RB Matt Breida (Dolphins)
WR Marquise Goodwin (Eagles/COVID-19 Opt-Out)
LT Joe Staley (Retired)
49ers 2020 Offensive Preview
The 49ers enter the 2020 NFL Season with what could potentially be an even better offense than the 4th ranked unit they boasted in 2019.
When Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t trying to throw a pass from Miami into the Gulf of Mexico in the Super Bowl, he was a pretty effective quarterback in 2019, occasional head-scratching interceptions aside.
In 2020, despite losing veteran tackle Joe Staley to retirement, the 49ers offensive line may have improved substantially with the acquisition of franchise left tackle Trent Williams. Williams will anchor an offensive line that returns three starters, though it will have a new starter at right guard with Daniel Brunskill filling in for Mike Person.
The Niners boast the best rushing attack in football, thanks in large part to Kyle Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme that seems to turn anyone into a capable running back. The latest rags-to-riches story at tailback for the 49ers comes with Raheem Mostert, who figures to get the lion’s share of carries after his 220 yards and four touchdowns in the NFC Championship put him on the map for all to see.
Mostert headlines a stable of 49er running backs that include Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon, who has yet to play a full season for Shanahan since signing with the team in 2018. The 49ers rushing game also boasts usage of the best fullback in football with Kyle Juszczyk.
In the passing game for San Francisco, while the team did lose Emmanuel Sanders in free agency to New Orleans, Kyle Shanahan hopes that 2020 1st round selection Brandon Aiyuk will step right into the starting role opposite of 2019 2nd round selection Deebo Samuel. Samuel had an outstanding rookie season for the 49ers and emerged as the team’s best receiver down the stretch.
Beyond Aiyuk and Samuel, Kyle Shanahan is really just looking for something that sticks. The team signed Tavon Austin in free agency, but he was placed on injured reserve and will miss the 2020 season. The team also signed Travis Benjamin, but he opted out of the season due to concerns about the COVID-19 virus. That leaves Shanahan with Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, and Dante Pettis as their main options at wide receiver beyond their two young starters.
Fortunately for San Francisco, George Kittle figures to take a lot of pressure off the 49ers wide receivers and remains the best player on the 49ers offense. The All-Pro tight end was rewarded for his outstanding play with a mammoth contract extension and has topped 80 receptions and 1000 yards receiving in each of the last two seasons.
Kyle Shanahan also added Jordan Reed to play as the team’s number two tight end, but he has a long history of concussion and hamstring injuries so it is anyone’s guess how many games San Francisco will be able to get out of him.
49ers 2020 Defensive Preview
Without question, the catalyst for the 49ers run to the Super Bowl was their second-ranked defense in 2019, and if the Niners are to get back to the Super Bowl in 2020 it will be the defense doing the heavy lifting once again.
There will be some minor changes to the 49ers defense in 2020, most notably along the defensive line where the team was pressed into trading DeForest Buckner to the Colts because they couldn’t afford to extend him and their other star players like George Kittle and Arik Armstead.
Replacing Buckner on the defensive line will be Javon Kinlaw, who the 49ers selected with the first of their two first-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. Should Kinlaw fill Buckner’s role, there’s no reason to believe San Francisco’s defense can’t replicate what they did a season ago.
The 49ers defensive line is still loaded even with the departure of Buckner, as 2019 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa returns to play opposite of Arik Armstead, with DJ Jones and Solomon Thomas rotating at tackle next to Kinlaw.
San Francisco boasts a ridiculous amount of speed at linebacker, where Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander, and Dre Greenlaw return. Warner may miss the opening game against the Cardinals due to being placed on the COVID-19 list, however, he figures to start for the team at inside linebacker the moment he is cleared.
In the secondary, the 49ers again will be headlined by future Hall of Famer Richard Sherman, with Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt playing safety. The tandem at safety has been one of the better duos in the league, however, they have missed 44 games combined in the past four seasons, so durability is a bit of a concern here.
The 49ers occasionally struggled in finding a cornerback to play opposite of Sherman a season ago, and hope to see Emmanuel Moseley or Ahkello Witherspoon hold down the right cornerback position in 2020. If Jason Verrett can avoid injury, he may become an option for the Niners opposite of Sherman as well.
49ers 2020 Outlook & Prediction
The 49ers were bestowed the painful honors of having the Super Bowl loser scarlet letter painted across their chest, but this roster remains as one of the most talented rosters in the entire league. While the team did have some slight roster turnover from a season ago, the key pieces to their 13-3 team return in 2020 where they hope to return to the Super Bowl and finish the job.
The team will face a tougher schedule in 2020, as they no longer have the luxury of playing a last-place schedule as they did in 2019. The biggest question circling the 49ers this season is how they will be able to shake off the heartbreaking manner in which last season ended. San Francisco believes they are the best team in football, we believe they’re going to be a very good team that can once again come out of the NFC as conference champions.
With that said, we believe they will have a slight step back because of that Super Bowl loss and finish 11-5, relinquishing the NFC West crown to division rival Seattle in the process. However, they certainly have the talent to make this prediction look quite foolish in a few months as well.
49ers 2020 Projection: 11-5, 2nd place NFC West
49ers 2020 Betting Preview
Unlike the 4th quarter of a Super Bowl for Kyle Shanahan, these futures bets involving the 49ers should treat you exceptionally well.
- San Francisco 49ers OVER 10.5 Wins — (+102) at DraftKings Sportsbook
The 49ers are certainly a prime regression candidate given their tougher schedule in 2020 and potential Super Bowl loser hex hanging over their heads, but the value on this roster makes this win total very enticing. If the 49ers can avoid a key injury, all the pieces are in place for San Francisco to win 11 games or more in 2020. We’ll take our chances with that.
- Jimmy Garoppolo OVER 3700.5 Passing Yards — (-118) at DraftKings Sportsbook
We just think this total is a bit too low and an overreaction to the 49ers vaunted rushing attack. Does Kyle Shanahan love to run the football? Yes. Will he use his stable of running backs a lot in 2020? Also yes. But consider this, despite the well-known infatuation with running the football, Jimmy Garoppolo finished the 2019 NFL Season just 22 yards shy of 4000 passing yards on the season. We think the tougher slate of opponents will force Garoppolo to win some games with his arm and that he will sail over this low projected total.
- 49ers Defense to Have Most Sacks in Regular Season — (+1400) at DraftKings Sportsbook
We thought about the token 49ers to win Super Bowl bet here, but that’s too simple for this. So how about a slightly more unique prop bet in taking the 49ers to lead the NFL in sacks? Joey Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Javon Kinlaw will harass the quarterback early and often in 2020, and with a 14-to-1 price on this, it’s well worth the dart throw.