- Win Over/Under: 8.5 (-120/+100)
- Make NFC Playoffs: +175 (36%)
- Win NFC West: +350 (22%)
- Win NFC Championship: +1500 (6%)
- Win Super Bowl: +3000 (3.2%)
The Action Network’s Projected Wins: 8.5 (13th)
The 49ers are coming off a 6-10 season, their quarterback has seven career starts to his name and their defense gave up the eighth-most points in the league last year.
And yet expectations are high for Year 2 under head coach Kyle Shanahan, and their win total has been set at 8.5.
Sounds like a trap, right?
Shanahan rightfully draws a lot of comparisons to Sean McVay because both are brilliant offensive minds, but this year’s 49ers also have a lot in common with the team of another sharp offensive-minded head coach: Doug Pederson’s Super Bowl champion Eagles.
Like Pederson last year, Shanahan has a potential franchise quarterback whom critics are still skeptical of, a talented line on both sides of the ball and a losing record that precedes an 8.5-win over/under.
In fact, from the perspectives of both betting and prior-season performance, the 49ers have a lot in common with each of the past three NFC champions.
- 2017 Philadelphia Eagles: 8.5 over/under; 7-9 record in 2016
- 2016 Atlanta Falcons: 7 over/under; 8-8 record in 2015
- 2015 Carolina Panthers: 8.5 over/under; 7-8-1 record in 2014
What else do those teams have in common?
Quarterbacks who played at unreal levels.
And over the last five weeks of 2017, Jimmy Garoppolo was unreal.
Consider how Garoppolo’s performance stacked up to the rest of the league:
- Drew Brees led the NFL with 8.1 yards per attempt. Garoppolo averaged 8.8 over his six appearances.
- Carson Wentz led the NFL with a 78.5 in ESPN’s Total QBR. Garoppolo had an 82.7 mark.
- Tom Brady led the NFL with 286.1 passing yards per game. Garoppolo averaged 308.4 over his five starts.
- The league-leading quarterbacks in game-winning drives had four, and the league leaders in fourth-quarter comebacks had three. All started at least 15 games. Garoppolo had two apiece in five starts.
Then consider the impact Garoppolo had on his team:
- The 49ers were 1-10 before Garoppolo took over and finished 5-0.
- The 49ers averaged 17.0 points per game before Garoppolo took over and 28.8 after.
- The 49ers scored nearly half of their points for the season (44%) in Garoppolo’s five starts.
- Not counting an interception return, the 49ers offense scored 37 points with Garoppolo against a Jaguars defense that allowed 14.9 per game in its other 15 games.
And then consider the players Garoppolo had at his disposal.
His most targeted player was Marquise Goodwin, a former track star and one-dimensional deep threat who averaged a 2.5/53.0/0.1 line before Garoppolo and 5.8/76.8/0.2 in Garoppolo’s five starts.
Tied for second in targets was a fullback, Kyle Juszczyk, who matched fifth-round rookie wide receiver Trent Taylor, who posted 6.0 yards per target and a 65% catch rate on non-Garoppolo throws and 9.6 yards per target and an 85% catch rate with Garoppolo.
Tied for fourth were fifth-round tight end George Kittle (6.6 yards per target without Garoppolo, 11.8 with him) and undrafted wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (6.7 yards per target without Garoppolo, 8.1 with him).
And finally sixth was Carlos Hyde, who has never topped 6.0 yards per reception in his career. He averaged 5.5 with Garoppolo.
This season, Hyde has been replaced by running back Jerick McKinnon, who ripped off 8.3 yards per reception last season. Garoppolo also gets wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who averaged 5.0 catches for 62.5 yards per game last season before he was sidelined after Week 8. And Garoppolo gets explosive second-round wide receiver Dante Pettis instead of journeyman wideouts rounding out the depth chart.
The offensive line will be bookended by Joe Staley — Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 NFL tackle in 2017 — and first-rounder Mike McGlinchey — PFF’s No. 1 college tackle in 2017.
The interior features former Giants center Weston Richburg, who graded 11th of 44 centers to play 150 snaps, and a pair of former first-round guards in Laken Tomlinson and Joshua Garnett.
The Falcons reached the Super Bowl two seasons ago with Shanahan as their offensive coordinator despite having a defense that ranked 27th in points allowed. But his offense shouldn’t have to bear that kind of burden this season.
The 49ers defense has playmakers all over the field.
The defensive line features three top-17 draft picks in Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead. Buckner finished fourth while Earl Mitchell finished 23rd among 124 interior linemen in PFF’s pass-rushing grades.
The linebacking corps will be anchored by 2017 No. 31 overall pick Reuben Foster, who will serve a two-game suspension but was graded ninth of 96 linebackers to play 250 or more snaps last year (PFF). Fellow starter Korey Toomer was even better at fifth.
Adding Richard Sherman to play alongside Ahkello Witherspoon and K’Waun Williams gives the 49ers defense not only sorely needed championship experience but also three corners who ranked among the top 38 in PFF’s grades last year.
And along with Foster, Jaquiski Tartt helped the 49ers erase tight ends. He and Adrian Colbert give them two top-25 safeties in coverage.
The 49ers also should have one of the best special teams units in the league.
Kicker Robbie Gould was second in the NFL in field-goal percentage (95.1%) on the third-most attempts (41), while Bradley Pinion and Co. ranked No. 7 in rate of punts downed inside the 20-yard line (41.3%) and No. 2 in yards allowed per return (4.18).
Then there’s Pettis, who is the all-time NCAA record holder for most career punt return touchdowns with nine.
Of course, general manager John Lynch and Shanahan have had a hand in all of this. Shanahan is two years removed from coordinating one of the top-10 offenses in NFL history (which took its huge jump in Year 2, by the way).
And the 49ers have upside for more.
Garoppolo and the receivers have room to improve in the red zone, which is the biggest concern since Garcon has never topped six touchdowns in a season and Goodwin is undersized (5-feet-9, 180 pounds).
Garnett hasn’t scratched the surface of his first-round pedigree, and neither has Thomas nor Armstead.
While it’s true that Garoppolo’s proven success covers a sample of just five games, it’s also true that small samples turn into larger samples, and that identifying and wagering on the right small-sample trends lead to the handsomest payouts.
Ultimately, the 49ers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders underpriced in the betting markets. Westgate odds as of Aug. 29 have 15 teams ahead of the 49ers in Super Bowl odds and six ahead of them in NFC title odds.
I’m betting that the 49ers’ odds will not be this long again for a while. – Chris Raybon
The Bet: Over 8.5 Wins, Make NFC Playoffs, Win NFC West, Win NFC Championship, Win Super Bowl
San Francisco 49ers 2018 Schedule
- Games Favored: 10
- Avg. Spread: -1.4
- Strength of Schedule: 12th (1 = Easiest, 32 = Hardest)
Survivor Pool 101
- Use the 49ers: Week 5 vs. ARI, Week 16 vs. CHI
- Use 49ers’ opponents: Week 1 @ MIN, Week 6 @ GB
Fantasy Football Outlook
- Top Picks: RB Jerick McKinnon, WR Marquise Goodwin, QB Jimmy Garoppolo
- Sleepers: RB Matt Breida, TE George Kittle, K Robbie Gould
Best of “I’ll Take That Bet” on ESPN+
“We’ve seen under (8.5) support on the Niners. We also opened them at 16-1 to win the Super Bowl but moved to 30-1 and have seen some bets come in at that number. We just opened them too low.”
– Westgate bookmaker Jeff Sherman to The Action Network’s Michael Leboff
Jerick McKinnon Over/Under 8.5 Total Touchdowns? (-115/-115)
McKinnon was brought in on a four-year, $30 million deal as Shanahan’s handpicked feature back.
If healthy, McKinnon should shatter career highs in yardage based on projected volume alone. However, I would say a fair total touchdown prop would be closer to 7.5, which gives the under serious value.
McKinnon does not have the frame to handle a true lead-back role or all goal-line situations. Backup Matt Breida is underrated and has the talent to carve out enough of a role to turn this backfield into more of a committee, similar to what Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have in Atlanta.
The Alfred Morris signing puts even more of a damper on McKinnon’s touchdown prospects, as Morris could steal some of the goal-line work. – Sean Koerner
The Bet: Under 8.5 Touchdowns
>> Sign up for The Action Network’s daily newsletter to get the smartest NFL conversation delivered into your inbox each morning.
Jimmy Garoppolo to Win MVP? (Yes +2000)
I already mentioned that last year Jimmy G outplayed other popular MVP candidates, such as Brady (2017 winner), Brees and Wentz (considered by many to be last year’s frontrunner before he tore his ACL).
If Garoppolo can post similar results and lead his team to the playoffs, he could have an edge in the MVP race because of his newness to the conversation as well as how bad his team was last year and how underwhelming his supporting cast is perceived to be. – Chris Raybon
The Bet: Jimmy G for MVP!
The Jimmy GQ DFS Effect
Garoppolo proved that the 49ers were ready to compete with anybody in just five starts last season. Overall, the 49ers ranked fifth in points scored during the final five weeks of 2017, and Jimmy GQ was a top-10 fantasy quarterback.
The receivers certainly benefited. According to the FantasyLabs NFL Trends tool, Goodwin and Kittle ranked 11th and 12th at their respective positions in DraftKings points per game last December. – Ian Hartitz