Are the San Francisco 49ers Primed for Improvement in 2018?

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TwinSpires Staff

September 4th, 2018

by Fairway Jay
After starting the season 0-9 SU in 2017, the San Francisco 49ers turned around their fortunes with the insertion of newly acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Under first year head coach Kyle Shanahan and their new QB starting the final five games, the 49ers would close the season with five straight wins to finish the season 6-10 and in last place in the NFC West.

That finish along with the performance of Garoppolo has many expecting more wins in 2018 and the excitement is building again in the bay area. In fact, of the 11 teams that won 6 or less games in 2017, the San Francisco 49ers have the highest posted season win total at 8.5 wins (opened 9).

The 49ers were the only team during the 2017 season to lose at least five games by 3 points or less. That included in weeks 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 when San Francisco lost five straight close contests with the first three to division opponents. Two of the losses were in overtime, and the losses continued for three more weeks when the losing streak reached nine games. Near the end of the streak at the start of November, San Francisco acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from New England, who would watch and learn over the next three weeks as the team struggled through some tough times with rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard.

The NFC West hopeful finally broke through in Week 10 with a 31-21 win over the NY Giants as a home underdog. Following the San Francisco 49ers bye week, Beathard again started in another poor offensive performance and disappointing defeat to Seattle, 24-13. However, Garoppolo made his debut in relief going 2-for-2 for 18 yards and a touchdown pass.

The rest is history for Jimmy G, who would start the final five games and lead San Francisco to a 5-0 SU record while passing for more than 1,500 yards, 8.8 yards per pass and six TD passes. Quick release and accuracy, decision making and the ability to extend plays were positive and significant in his continued progression. Note too that Pro Football Focus rated Garappolo the top QB in passing under pressure in his short 5-game run last season. The 49ers like what they saw and signed Garoppolo to a record 5-year, $137 million contract in the offseason and he carries their hopes into the future starting in 2018.

The close losses last year are worth noting, as since the year 2000, there have been 26 teams that lost 5+ games by 3+ points during a season. Those teams combined to go 139-261 and win less than 35% of their games. Only two of those teams finished the regular season with a winning record.

But the following season, those 26 teams improved by an average of more than 2 wins per year with an overall record of 195-205 SU. A total of 10 of those teams went on to have winning records, and 18 teams won more games than the year prior while just six teams won fewer games than the previous year.

The expectations are higher for the 49ers this season, and the bookmakers took note as well with its current season win total of 8.5. That’s more projected wins that division opponents Seattle and Arizona, but still behind the NFC West favorite LA Rams. Concerns reaching that number include a tough early schedule and a defense that ranked in the lower third overall and in run defense last year as the 49ers lacked a true nose tackle.

The San Francisco 49ers have a tough schedule to start the season with three road games in the opening four weeks at Minnesota Week 1 and against Kansas City and San Diego following a Week 2 home game against Detroit. Another road game at Green Bay and against three division opponents makes for a tough road run, but the home schedule is most manageable.

The posted season win total is reflective of the potential improvement for San Francisco 49ers, but no season win total wager is recommended. Look for coach Shanahan’s creativity and offensive play-calling to result in some solid scoring with Garappolo now guiding the offense for a full season. The defensive improvement will determine the 49ers final results and playoff potential.

The San Frnacisco 49ers begin their season in Week 1 NFL betting against the Minnesota Vikings as +6.0 road dogs!