The 49ers appear to be the most recent team to be hit by the infamous Super Bowl aftermath. The wounds ravage the troops and to maintain their status as a powerhouse in the national conference, Kyle Shanahan's gang will have to perform some miracles in troubled times.
Recovering from a day after the Super Bowl is often much worse than a day after.
The proof is that only eight teams in history that were defeated in the ultimate match found themselves there again the following season. Worse yet, two of the last four finalists lost didn't even get their playoff tickets the following year. Even before bad luck hit them at the start of the season, the 49ers thus inherited a colossal order.
Then, injuries hit key players like tight end George Kittle, wide end Deebo Samuel, center Weston Richburg, linebacker Dee Ford and cornerback Richard Sherman.
Last Sunday, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman, as well as defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas all fell in turn.
Experience and depth
Despite appearances, the 49ers are not doomed. The good news is, Garoppolo shouldn't miss too much of the action. Kittle, Samuel and Sherman are also getting closer to a comeback.
In relief at Garoppolo, the 49ers can bet on Nick Mullens, a reservist who, without being extraordinary, has at least a minimal baggage. In 2018, he started eight games, maintaining a respectable 3-5 record, with 13 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and 64.2% completed passes.
For Mostert and Coleman, this is obviously not ideal, but Kyle Shanahan's offensive system is very supportive of running backs, regardless of their status or background. Jerick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson can hit relief temporarily without the Niners suffering too much.
This may even bring back fond memories of the father, Mike Shanahan, who had only to insert any individual in his backfield to make him an instant star … and ephemeral!
Where it really hurts was the injury that ended Nick Bosa's season and, to a much lesser extent, that of Solomon Thomas.
The Niners are built to be a powerhouse on the defensive line and Bosa is in the category of irreplaceable players. The team has contracted veteran Ziggy Ansah to heal the wound, but he won't be shadowed by Bosa's impact. Rookie tackle Javon Kinlaw, a first-round pick, will quickly find himself in a position where he will have to hatch before time.
For now, the calendar is a flower for the 49ers. The upcoming games against the Giants, Eagles and Dolphins are captivable despite their ravaged roster and should not be avoided under any circumstances.
It is afterwards that it spoils. From Week 6 to Week 13, they will be pitted against the Rams twice, in addition to the Patriots, Seahawks, Packers, Saints and Bills. It's hard to forget, above all, that the 49ers open in the best division in the NFL, with three teams (Rams, Seahawks and Cardinals) enjoying perfect starts.
No, it's not a little beer, the day after!
5 points to watch out for
Attacks on fire
In this pandemic season before which the teams had little time to train on the field, it is clearly the offensive that seems to be winning. So far, 1,611 points have been scored in the first two weeks, beating the mark of 1556 set in 2012. Ahead of Thursday night's game, as many as 186 touchdowns have been scored, eclipsing the record of 174 that prevailed since 2018. No time to get up to run to the bathroom!
The Watt brothers
Since 1927, only three trios of brothers have found themselves in a single NFL game. Last year, the Tremaine brothers, Terrell and Trey Edmunds took part in the duel between the Bills and the Steelers. In 1927, brothers Joe, Cobb and Bill Rooney were the first to experience this rare event, they who lined up for the Eskimos of Duluth. Today, Texans defensive end JJ Watt will face his brothers TJ and Derek, playing as linebacker and centerback for the Steelers, respectively.
West to East
Popular belief is that teams from the West Coast of the United States have a hard time when it comes to playing across the country. This is not the case recently. This season, Western clubs are 5-0 when playing in the Eastern time zone. Since last season, including the playoffs, the Western teams have a 20-4 record when they cross the country.
Rivers and the 400 club
Veteran Colts quarterback Philip Rivers has 399 touchdowns in his career in the regular season. If he adds one today against the Jets, he will join the club select quarterbacks who have released 400 touchdown passes. Only Drew Brees (550), Tom Brady (544), Peyton Manning (539), Brett Favre (508) and Dan Marino (420) have crossed this milestone.
Duel of “MVP”
In 2018, Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes won the NFL Most Valuable Player award. Last year, Lamar Jackson of the Ravens succeeded him. It will be the first clash in history between two quarterbacks who won the highest honor before the age of 26. Against the Ravens, Mahomes is 2-0 with 751 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. Jackson is 0-2 with 414 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, in addition to 113 rushing yards.