Team: San Francisco 49ers
2018 Record: 4-12 (3rd, NFC West)
2019 Record: 5-0 (1st, NFC West)
Outlook: The 2018 49ers’ fortunes took a nosedive when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went down for the year in Week 3. Without their newly-minted star quarterback, the 49ers won just three times in their final 14 games.
This season has been a much different story.
With a healthy (and wealthy) Garoppolo and an exceptional defense led by DeForest Buckner, Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander, and veteran Richard Sherman, the 49ers are the most improved team in the NFL. They’re third in points scored and fourth in offensive yardage, while being second in points allowed and second in yardage allowed.
Any questions about whether the Niners were as complete a team as they appeared to be have been answered in the past two weeks, as San Francisco came off a bye and crushed the Browns and the defending NFC champion Rams by a combined score of 51-10.
The 49ers have outscored their opponents 147-64, and that 83-point differential is the team’s best since 1961. Given how outstanding San Francisco has been, including five world title teams, what this year’s edition is doing is doubly impressive. Notably, however, that ‘61 team finished just 7-6-1. The 2019 version will certainly post a better winning percentage than that, and the Niners are now a slight favorite to win the tough NFC West.
How Worried Should They Be?: Not too worried. The only big danger here for the 49ers is that they have a letdown after the big win over their divisional rivals (which so jarred the Rams that they went out and made a deal for Jalen Ramsey).
Under other circumstances, I might actually see that as a possibility. After all, the Redskins have a little momentum after switching coaches and winning their first game of a year—a road game, no less—against the lowly Dolphins. Coming back home, one might think the Redskins would have a puncher’s chance.
The reason that’s unlikely is simple: Kyle Shanahan. He won’t look past this game, and he won’t let his team look past this game. Washington represents an opportunity for Shanahan to embarrass the franchise that tossed him and his father aside in the wake of the very contentious handling of Robert Griffin III and the on-field struggles that came with and followed that saga.
Even with the Redskins’ newfound (and very welcome) commitment to the run, Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, and company will find that gaining yardage against Robert Saleh’s defense will be a much taller order than doing so against Miami.
The Redskins are unlikely to exceed last week’s point total, and 17 won’t cut it this time around. I think the 49ers improve on their eye-popping point differential and send Washington back down into its previous death spiral.
The silver lining is that most people will be focused on the World Series, and there will be little time for post mortems on another sad Sunday.
Especially since the Redskins must turn around and face the Vikings on Thursday night.
How worried should the 49ers be about the Washington Redskins?
This poll is closed
Not too worried
Jimmy Garoppolo is dreamy