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Do It Again
by Dennis Ranahan

Last season, the San Francisco 49ers closed out their regular season with five straight victoires. That winning streak coincided with the insertion of recently acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

So, what was the most important factor in the Niners closing out their 2017 regular season with five straight victories after winning only one game in their first eleven?

While Garoppolo got much of the credit, and signed a ridiculously generous contract before this season began, he was not as responsible for that San Francisco big finish as the situations that were dealt them in their late season matchups. They caught teams just at the right times, squads like the Jacksonville Jaguars the week after they clinched first place in their division, and a number of other fortuitous situations that fed the 49ers success.

Problem is, that late season success swelled the expectations for San Francisco this year, far beyond their actual talent level. When a team has expectations above their actual talent, they get hammered. In fact, often a good finish to end a bad season is a precursor to more bad things the next year. In fact, statistically, a team that wins three or more games to close out their regular season and fails to make the playoffs, can be counted on to have fewer wins the following season.

Why?

First, if a team wins their last three or more in a row and miss the postseason, they must have been a bad team before the late season flurry. The fact that San Francisco had a rough season this year was totally predictable, and the loss of Garoppolo early in the season to injury was seemingly more reason for them to have a down year.

Well, welcome to 2018, and the 49ers are on the same flight pattern that directed them into a mountain side this year. Once again, the 49ers opened a season with minimum wins before reaching double-digit losses. Last year, it was 1 and 10, this season, 2 and 10. But, over the past two weeks the 49ers have doubled their season win total, and on Sunday host the playoff bound Chicago Bears the week after … wait for it … the Bears clinched their division title.

Now, this is not just the same old thing for Chicago. They have a rookie head coach and end a string of four consecutive NFC North Division last place finishes with a division title in 2018. Their last division title was in 2010, and that year the team that finished behind them was the Green Bay Packers, who parlayed their Wild Card berth into a road Championship Game win against Chicago enroute to a Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Now, the Bears erase seven years of struggles with a division win, and the week after they clinch they come to the same site the Jaguars stumbled in the same weekend last year.

Last season, on Christmas Eve, the 49ers won their fourth straight game over the Jaguars. This year, they are in line to get their third straight win before Chicago realizes they are still celebrating last week’s victory.

Now, if the 49ers win a fourth straight game next week behind Nick Mullens, they are going to give the young signal caller a new contract, and based on winning three or more games to close out this season without a playoff berth, San Francisco will experience another down year in 2019.

Expectations opening 2019 will once again be too high for this San Francisco group, but this week, against the playoff bound Bears, the expectations are just below what the point spread offers in value.

Qoxhi Picks: San Francisco 49ers (+4½) over Chicago Bears