The San Francisco 49ers proved yet another victim of the Super Bowl hangover, an affliction that often sees the loser of the year’s biggest game struggle to find the same success in the regular season campaign that immediately follows the defeat.
The squad literally limped to a disappointing 6-10 record in 2020, a year marred by injuries to key players across most of its core units. However, the return of crucial contributors on both sides of the football, a strong offseason and a trade to move up to the third overall pick in the coming NFL Draft have expert oddsmakers predicting a 49ers return to formidability next season.
Early in April, several sportsbooks released projected win totals for every team in the league. Based on those initial lines, the 49ers are widely considered to at least somewhat restore themselves to their 2019 Super Bowl season form, when they went 13-3 and captured the NFC West Division.
According to PointsBet, the 49ers over/under win total is 10.5 wins. The odds-making website offered the same over/under total to the division rival Los Angeles Rams and the reigning NFC North champion Green Bay Packers — both of whom made the playoffs last season, the Rams losing to the Packers in the Divisional Round and the Packers falling to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship game. The Buffalo Bills, the loser of the AFC Championship game, are also projected at 10.5 wins.
Odds Indicate 49ers are Headed Back to Playoffs in 2021
The company the 49ers keep on the betting sheets indicates a few things clearly: Vegas, reflective to a degree of public perception, believes San Francisco will compete for a division title, has a strong chance to make the playoffs and could even be among the favorites in the NFC if close games and injury luck break in their favor.
BetMGM more recently set San Francisco’s win total over/under line at 10 wins, a half game lower than PointsBet. But BetMGM still heavily favors the likelihood that the 49ers will make the playoffs (-150) than that they won’t (+130).
It is important to note that regular seasons now span 18 weeks and 17 games, one more of each than in years previous. The extra contest on the schedule dilutes a 10-win or 10.5-win projection to a degree, and the heaviest of Super Bowl favorites — the Kansas City Chiefs, the Baltimore Ravens and the Bucs — are all projected between 11 and 12 victories.
However, as to playoff prospects, the field has been permanently expanded to seven teams in both the NFC and AFC, a format which began last season. When the fields were six teams a piece, allowing for only two Wildcard berths instead of three, a 10-win team was often left out of the mix. That is potentially less likely to occur with more playoff positions available, though more teams will be in contention to reach the 10-win mark with an extra game on the schedule.
While the Miami Dolphins (10-6) still missed out on the AFC postseason in 2020, the Chicago Bears (8-8) picked up the final Wildcard slot in the NFC. The Washington Football Team also made the playoffs, winning the hapless NFC East with a losing record of 7-9.
A 49ers Bounce Back Year is Reliant on Renewed Health to Key Players
Major injuries marred the 49ers 2020 campaign, proving a factor in four single-score losses that could have changed the season’s narrative and ultimate outcome had two or three games gone the other way.
Starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo missed 10 games, while the 49ers top running back, Raheem Mostert, played in only eight of 16 contests. Elite edge rusher Nick Bosa was sidelined for the season in Week 2 against the New York Jets after suffering an ACL tear, and defensive lineman Dee Ford missed 15 games with a back injury. All-Pro tight end George Kittle also missed half the season with injury.
And those were just the beginning of the 49ers’ problems.
The team has beefed up its backfield this offseason, adding Wayne Gallman Jr. It has also signed two defensive linemen in Arden Key and Maurice Hurst Jr. to one-year deals to shore up the defensive line.
Kittle and Bosa have looked exceptional during offseason workouts, and both are projected to return ready for Week 1. Garoppolo will also be under center to start the season, presumably backed up by a top-tier rookie quarterback as the 49ers first pick. Mostert should also be healthy by the season opener, though the prognosis for Ford is less certain.
No team goes through any season unscathed, but the overwhelming bad injury luck that saddled the 49ers in 2020 isn’t likely to repeat itself to such an extensive degree. The Super Bowl hangover is through and assuming the team can avert catastrophe, the 49ers appear poised to return to their winning ways come September.