The San Francisco 49ers opened this season listed by oddsmakers as one of the handful of National Football League teams with a legitimate shot at playing at SoFi Stadium next February in Super Bowl LVI.
Those aspirations began to fade when following a pair of season opening wins Kyle Shanahan’s team lost four straight games. A victory three weeks ago at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears rekindled hope, but a home loss the following Sunday against NFC West Division leading Arizona doused those dreams like a bucket of cold water on a sleeping puppy.
The defeat against the Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium was particularly tough to take given it was the eighth straight loss for the 49ers on their home field and Arizona’s win was accomplished while their starting quarterback was sidelined with an injury. The defeat against the Cardinals was also not close, San Francisco lost by every measure in the 31-17 loss.
Where did that leave the 49ers?
Looking into the abyss for their chances of even gaining a Wild Card playoff berth dwindling faster than a bank account void of deposits. The Bay Area fans were bemoaning the team’s every move. Things like why they didn’t draft Mac Jones, who is having a spectacular rookie season with the New England Patriots, and maybe Shanahan is not the right coach to return the 49ers to their glory days, filled both the airways and fan conversations.
With that as a backdrop to last Monday night’s home game against the talented Los Angeles Rams, the 49ers responded like teams often do when they are most challenged, they pulled off a perfect effort and won going away, 31-10.
This week, the chatter is all about how the 49ers are now ready to make a run at the Cardinals and Rams, who both lost last week, and how special this team really is once again. San Francisco tightend George Kittle was the guest on the Bruce Murray and Brett Favre radio program that is nationally broadcast.
Favre gushed compliments to Kittle on his key block against one-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Von Miller and how his skill set is so special to the 49ers. Kittle accepted the praise with his common refrain while acknowledging his teammates for the win over the Rams. But you could hear the joy in his voice. The 49ers had looked into the shadow of defeat and come out winners.
The talk today in the Bay Area is not about the 49ers problems or liabilities or mistakes, but how they are now going to pull back into the NFC West race and how their prospects are once again elevated to legitimate Super Bowl contender.
That was fast.
Know what the difference is between the 49ers mindset entering the Rams game and it is now … and more importantly which one lends to a successful next effort on the field?
Lest we not forget that this is the same 49ers squad that lost five of their previous six games before their coming out party on Monday night. Those losses included defeats against a couple teams that don’t have winning records this season, the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts. Their only win in that six week stretch was against another team with a losing record, the Chicago Bears. That road win over Chicago was accomplished while the 49ers had the motivational edge of coming off four straight losses. This week, they are coming off their biggest win of the season.
Monday night did a lot for the enthusiasm around this team, but it didn’t do anything to help them prepare for their next game. I suggest that while they are preparing to play the Jacksonville Jaguars in Florida this Sunday, their conversations at their training site are often drifting to their success over Matthew Stafford than their challenge this week against Trevor Lawrence.
Whether the 49ers win or lose Sunday at TIAA Bank Field is a 50/50 proposition, while the chances of them covering a six point spread on the road in this spot are minuscule.
Qoxhi Picks: Jacksonville Jaguars (+6) over San Francisco 49ers