Enthusiasm in sports can peak right before it is doused like a wet army blanket on a burning match. One moment anticipation of something great, and the next moment despair over the result.
Think of it this way, the crowd is on their feet at a Major League Baseball game with the home team trailing by a run, the bases loaded, and a 3 and 2 count on the batter with two outs. The next pitch has the crowd cheering louder than it has all game, and a moment later, when the batter swings and misses, they’re slumping in their seats in misery.
Well, the San Francisco fans haven’t lost all hope, but the faithful have had their enthusiasm for the San Francisco 49ers 2021 team severely fade based on two straight losses and three weeks of uninspired play. Last week, in a loss to division rival Seattle at Levi’s Stadium, starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went down with an injury that brought rookie quarterback Trey Lance into the battle.
For the 49ers, it is a battle against both opponents and injuries. Last season, no team in recent memory suffered more season crippling injuries than the 49ers. This year, they were hoping to avoid injuries and allow Garoppolo a full season without being sidelined. Last time he did that, he guided the 49ers to the Super Bowl.
But, on each side of that Super Bowl LV appearance, Garoppolo has missed extended time and the 49ers results have suffered. Now he is hurt again.
Have we seen this before?
With back-to-back losses at home, the 49ers are now forced on the road to play the NFC West Division leading Arizona Cardinals. The Kyler Murray Cardinals are the league’s only undefeated team, winning their fourth straight contest last Sunday in Los Angeles over the Rams.
The enthusiasm in Arizona over the Cardinals is the polar opposite of what it is in San Francisco. In the City, fans are fearful that another injury to Garoppolo will force an early move to Lance, and the rookie is likely not ready to lead the team to a Super Bowl. With those low expectations, a win this week against the undefeated Cardinals on their home field seems unlikely.
Two weeks ago, when the 49ers and Cardinals were both 2-0 in the NFC West standings, the point spread on this game would have been the Cardinals by four points. Due to the 49ers problems the past couple weeks and the Cardinals successes, the line on Sunday’s game is 5½ points. Factors that most often drive results from a motivational spot are favoring the 49ers, and those very factors are getting us more points on the spread.
It’s a beautiful thing.
I’m betting Garoppolo returns this week, plays the best game of his career, and the 49ers are reinvigorated about the 2021 season with a division-tightening road win. Ending the Cardinals unbeaten streak at four games.
What has happened during the first four weeks of the National Football League season is less likely to repeat than it is to respond to the motivational factors governing results.
The 49ers come in looking at the real possibility of falling three games behind the Cardinals in their division race. A division that is also home to the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks. Lofty competition.
The Cardinals can surely see how a victory here would go a long way to eventually winning the division, while the 49ers are faced with the early season prospect of being dropped to the cellar in the talented NFC West.
Enthusiasm in the Bay Area is scheduled for an uptick this weekend.
Qoxhi Picks: San Francisco 49ers (+5½) over the Arizona Cardinals