The San Francisco 49ers nearly won the Super Bowl following the 2019 season but plummeted to 6-10 and last in the NFC West in 2020 because no team was hammered more by injuries. The big storyline entering camp is whether veteran QB Jimmy Garoppolo can hold off rookie Trey Lance for the starting QB job. NFL oddsmakers are high on the Niners for this season.
Analysis NFL 2021 | San Francisco 49ers
- 49ers win total: 10
- Odds to win NFC West: +205
- Odds to win NFC: +500
- Odds to win Super Bowl 56: +1400
If there’s one positive that came from 2020 season, it could be that the Niners appear to have one of the more favorable schedules in football – outside of the NFC West, which is probably the toughest division in football.
The Niners reportedly were ready to trade Garoppolo this offseason after his injury-plagued, disappointing 2020 campaign – remember, too, he wasn’t all that great in the playoffs following the 2019 season and his second-half fade in Super Bowl 55 is one reason why the 49ers blew a double-digit lead to the Kansas City Chiefs and lost.
Last year, the 49ers turned the ball over 31 times, which was the second-highest total in football. While that would be bad enough, they then allowed teams to score four defensive touchdowns as well.
San Francisco traded up to No. 3 in this year’s draft and took North Dakota State QB Trey Lance. That means this is Lance’s team eventually. When the Niners ended their offseason program on June 9, Garoppolo remained atop the depth chart with Lance in the second spot and backups Josh Rosen and Nate Sudfeld jockeying for position and reps. San Francisco was 3-3 when Jimmy G started a year ago and 3-7 when he did not.
“I think Jimmy had his best spring since we’ve had him,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I thought Jimmy came in in great shape, really locked in, a good place physically and mentally. And I thought he had as good of OTAs as he’s had.”
The Niners also are high on rookie third-round running back Trey Sermon, and he figures to take over as the featured back sooner rather than later. Sermon broke 24 tackles and averaged 3.64 yards after first contact last season with Ohio State. Last year’s 15th place finish in rushing yards and 16th place finish in yards per carry wasn’t nearly good enough for San Francisco. Those numbers dropped from second and ninth, respectively, in 2019.
Injuries resulted in the Niners finishing the season with four halfbacks starting games and a fifth tallying 39 carries behind an offensive line that had nine players start at least three games. The 2021 Niners have Raheem Mostert, free-agent acquisition Wayne Gallman Jr., rookies Sermon and Elijah Mitchell plus JaMycal Hasty and Jeff Wilson Jr.—though Wilson is recovering from a torn meniscus and will likely miss an early chunk of the season.
San Francisco does have two of the best players at their position in tight end George Kittle and defensive end Nick Bosa. Despite missing eight games in 2020 with a nagging foot injury, Kittle’s impact was felt leaguewide. The 49ers fell from fourth to 15th in total offense without Kittle and for much of the year. Kittle was still on pace for 96 catches and 1,300 yards over 16 games.
Bosa won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2019 with nine sacks, 25 quarterback hits and 16 tackles for loss. He tore his ACL in Week 2 last year but still posted an impressive 84.9 Pro Football Focus rating in limited 2020 action.
The injury bug already has hit the Niners again this summer with an ACL tear for offensive lineman Justin Skule and an Achilles tear for defensive back Tarvarius Moore. The 49ers defensive backfield remained mostly intact from last season, the one notable loss being veteran cornerback Richard Sherman. He will not be re-signed.
Players will report to training camp on Tuesday, July 27, and official on-field practices will begin on Saturday, July 31. San Francisco opens the season on Sept. 12 at one of the NFL’s projected worst teams, the Detroit Lions. The Niners are 7-point favorites. It’s the third time in the Super Bowl era that the Niners have opened on the road against the Detroit Lions. The previous two times that happened came in 1981 and 1984. San Francisco won the Super Bowl in both.Expert PredictionNiners finish 9-7
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