The San Francisco 49ers suffered a costly setback in week 15 behind a shocking upset by the Atlanta Falcons at Levi’s Stadium that sent seismic shockwaves through NFL betting markets. …
Though the team recovered with a win last week with a nail biter against the Rams, that came down to a final second field goal to win the game. Heading into the final game of the regular season, though, it's hard to ignore that the 29-21 loss to the woeful Falcons was off the Richter scale. It was the biggest upset of the week and it had Dan Quinn’s side coming through as the whopping +10.5 closing road underdogs for their backers.
It was a difficult loss to reconcile with for Kyle Shanahan’s boys and fans alike, particularly as Matt Ryan and the Falcons flipped the script on the highly fancied Niners in a last-gasp drive that featured more dramatic twists than a Shakespearean dramedy. It was nerve-wracking. Somehow, they managed to come together against a Rams team that was fighting to keep it's playoff hopes alive.
Yet, if there were a takeaway from the past two weeks, it’s that anything can happen on a given Sunday. On the heels of the loss, the Niners slipped to an 11-3 record and fell out of the top spot in the NFC West, ceding top honors to arch-rivals Seattle Seahawks, who were 30-24 winners over Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Only one week later, the 49ers were back on top of the NFC West, and the NFC - and they face the division nemesis Seahawks in the final game of the season.
Fortunately, Shanahan’s side is still in control of its destiny, not only in the NFC West but also in the broad spectrum of the NFC playoff frame, and a win this weekend clinches the first seed in the NFC. A loss though, could have them fall to fifth-place in the NFC playoff race. With all the injuries on the team, the first seed is crucial so they can use the bye week to get healthy.
San Francisco’s season is a remarkable turnaround from a 4-12 finish in 2018, a campaign that took a nosedive immediately after Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a season-ending injury in the fourth quarter of San Francisco’s clash with Kansas City in week 3.
Going into 2019, the pressure was truly on Shanahan and Garoppolo and while the Niners were expected to be a much-improved side, few predicted (if any at all) that they would emerge as one of the best teams in the NFC. If anything, it appeared NFL betting markets had the Niners somewhere around .500, an outlook underscored in NFL futures.
Indeed, preseason season win totals had the Niners projected on an 8.5 win total with the OVER priced at EVEN money with Bet365 and the UNDER priced at -130. BetOnline, by comparison, projected the Niners on 8 wins with the OVER favored at -120 and the UNDER at +100.
The beauty of hindsight is in its clarity of vision. We now know the Niners smashed those projections with impunity. Heck, they reeled off eight straight wins before suffering their, a narrow 27-24 loss in overtime.
Since suffering the loss to Seattle, San Francisco is 3-3 in its last six games, by far the most difficult stretch of their schedule. It’s a decided drop in form that includes a 3-3 ATS mark as well. All three losses this season were the result of late gasp efforts by their opponents. In the Seattle loss, after the Niners botched a potential game-winning field goal, Russell Wilson led the Seahawks on a game-winning drive. In week 14, the Ravens scored a last-second field goal to clinch the W and last Sunday Matt Ryan’s heroics with barely two ticks left on the clock lifted the Falcons to the win.
Despite recent setbacks, the Niners are still considered one of the best teams in the NFC, if not the best. The most balanced in all three facets of the game. Underscoring that nod with a top seed finish would definitely set the Niners up favorably for the playoffs – there is no discounting the advantage of clinching the No.1 seed and the home-field advantage and first-round bye that come along with it. Especially given how banged up the Niners are.
To do so, the Niners will need to come up trumps on Sunday Night as the game has been shifted by the NFL to primetime for the final game of the season.
The Rams were almost closed to pull off the upset in last Saturday’s primetime football clash between these two NFC West rivals. They were flush off a humiliating 44-21 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, and fought for their playoff lives but came up short. The win has positioned the Niners to still have a shot at clinching the NFC West in week 17 at the expense of the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. How the rest of playoffs unfold, with the NFC tiebreakers will put your brain in a pretzel.