Point Spread: 7-9
Victims of the Super Bowl Curse & poster child for injuries in a season without preseason conditioning — it’s the San Francisco 49ers. From their perspective, nothing less than a Super Bowl victory would suffice, since they were NFC Champions the season before, stung by a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.
Betting markets reflected the Niners’ chance of success, with a 10½ season-win total and +1000 odds to ship it all. But owing largely to a series of devastating injuries, the 49ers fell far short of their goal and market expectations. Though they didn’t set the record for injured players during a season, theirs were sustained among starting and impact players. That played out as the worst differential in the league between expected and actual wins.
Their final and sixth win of the season came after their elimination from the playoffs and at the cost of two positions in the draft order.
After being upset in their opener, the Niners went on to an epic Pyrrhic victory over the Jets in which they lost five starters, including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman wouldn’t return until December, and Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas wouldn’t return at all.
Under backup QB Nick Mullens, they struggled enough that he would be benched for C.J. Beathard in a primetime loss. Still injuries piled up and their .500 record sat in the basement of the NFC West at the time.
Point Spread: 2-2
Jimmy Garoppolo’s premature return in Week 5 led to a beatdown by the Miami Dolphins, but his subsequent performance led to back-to-back wins against the formidable Rams and Jimmy’s old team, the Patriots. Despite that, the Niners wouldn’t be favored in a game again until December.
That led to a Week 8 showdown against the Seattle Seahawks to keep pace in the division, where their bye week came late. But they never managed to do better than a come within a half game of the rest, losing to Seattle in a game where the 37-27 final belied the actual beating. That was the last game of the season Jimmy Garoppolo played.
Point Spread: 2-2
Bad became worse as San Francisco lost its next two games, sporting a league-high number of players on injured reserve. After failing to cover three in a row, they limped into their much-needed bye week.
With a number of players fighting their way back to the field from injury, San Francisco edged the Rams in an upset that kept their playoff hopes on life support. But in December, they were effectively kicked out of their homes, as Santa Clara county banned contact sports due to the pandemic.
That forced the Niners to temporarily move to Arizona’s stadium for their remaining few games. There, they “hosted” the Bills as a short favorite, before Buffalo blew up those postseason aspirations, soundly beating them 34-24.
Point Spread: 1-3
Struggling between rushing injured players back into action prematurely for a long-shot at the playoffs and looking forward to next season, San Francisco leaned to the latter. They lost two more, first to Washington, and then to Dallas, officially eliminating them from playoff contention.
Playing out the string on the road, they did act as spoiler against the Arizona Cardinals beating them 20-12. (The Cards would eventually also miss the playoffs.) Ending on the whimper of a loss, San Francisco would play their final “home” game at State Farm Stadium.
Point Spread: 2-2
Divisional Record: 3-3
Conference Record: 4-8
Full Season Grade: C+
Looking Ahead to Next Season
Depending on the output of Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers could have a very glaring need under center, but considering their cap space and needs at other positions, they will likely be rolling with Jimmy. In the meantime, they need help in the secondary and will struggle to keep CB Richard Sherman and DE Solomon Thomas. (San Francisco ranks 15th among teams for cap space and has some wiggle room.)
They also have needs on the offensive line, and will have to negotiate with left tackle Trent Williams as well. San Francisco picks 12th overall in the draft.
The Niners will return a strong set of skill position players and have George Kittle locked up until 2026. The Niners also keep a strong defensive line returning next year, provided everyone can stay healthy.
Predicted Record for 2021 Season: 9-7
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