Team Capsules: San Francisco 49ers

August 30, 2023

© Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers captured lighting in a bottle last season with rookie sensation Brock Purdy. After yet another appearance in the NFC Championship Game, the 49ers are primed again for another strong season with Purdy under center and Kyle Shanahan running the show.

Shanahan has established himself as one of the premier head coaches in the NFL, having won double-digit games in three of the last four seasons to pair with two conference championship game appearances and a Super Bowl berth. San Francisco is still deep on the offensive side of the ball and should be anchored on defense with Nick Bosa. Overall, the 49ers are expected to be one of the best teams in the NFC this season.

As it stands, the 49ers are -175 to win the NFC West, +400 to win the NFC and +900 to win the Super Bowl. San Francisco has the second-shortest odds to come out of the NFC, behind only the Philadelphia Eagles.

What to like about the 49ers…

  • Good coaching is a difference maker in the NFL, and San Francisco has one of the best head honchos in Kyle Shanahan. While Shanahan has yet to win a Super Bowl, he has his team in position to do so nearly every season. What’s most impressive about Shanahan is his ability to mold an offense around his quarterback. San Francisco has won games despite having middle-of-the-pack QBs such as Jimmy G, Trey Lance and Brock Purdy. Despite the turnover at the position, San Francisco finished within the top 10 of total yards and points per game in the NFL last season. The 49ers made the decision rather quickly to move forward with Purdy as their QB, meaning Shanahan has had time to further adjust his offense to his strengths and weaknesses. A Shanahan-led team is always tough to beat; this season will be no different.
  • The NFC is as weak as it’s ever been on paper. Tom Brady is retired, and Aaron Rodgers is now in the AFC. The Philadelphia Eagles are the best team, followed by San Francisco. Beyond Philly and San Francisco, the rest of the NFC is relatively shaky, with known choke artists in the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings and a crop of unproven teams or squads banking on upside. So long as they stay healthy, the Niners are one of the best teams between their talent and experience in the conference.
  • Beyond Shanahan, part of the reason Purdy found success last season was because of the crop of talent around him. Nearly all the talent is back on offense again, with Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk at wide receiver, George Kittle at tight end, and Christian McCaffrey in the backfield at running back. San Francisco can beat you in several ways. Their talent, paired with the craftiness of their play-calling, makes the 49ers one of the tougher matchups for opposing teams in the NFL. When healthy, the 49ers are a tough team to slow down as they averaged 26.5 points per game last season, and that was with a carousel of players at QB.

What not to like about the 49ers…

  • Brock Purdy was the talk of the town last season. Is he capable of building upon his success, or will it prove to have been lightning in a bottle? The 49ers are obviously very confident in Purdy’s ability as he was named the starter pretty early in camp, with Sam Darnold claiming QB2 status. Outside of the odds being stacked against him as Mr. Irrelevant, Purdy is returning from a torn UCL that ended his season in the NFC Championship Game. Injuries are never something to take lightly, but an injury to the throwing elbow of a young QB is surely something to keep an eye on. While Shanahan is a wizard, and the San Francisco offense is stacked, Purdy’s success in year two is far from guaranteed. Obviously, he is set up to succeed, but a lot of the 49ers season outlook is riding on the shoulder of a 23-year-old QB who was the last pick of the NFL Draft. Can he do it again in his second campaign?
  • Nick Bosa is one of the best defensive players in the NFL, but he has not reported to the team up to this point due to a contract dispute. The season opener is less than two weeks away, and Bosa is away from the group; this could be problematic even if the two sides get a deal done before the season begins. Bosa won DPOY last season and is the heart of the 49ers defense that held opponents to just 16.3 points per game on average last season. Not having him hurts the team, and when they get him back, there could be an acclimation period before he returns to his peak form. Getting Bosa back on the field is critical for San Fran, especially after it lost a handful of key defensive contributors in the offseason via free agency.
  • While the NFC as a whole is not very strong, the NFC West is one of the more promising divisions on paper. Outside of the Arizona Cardinals, the other teams in the division should be competitive. The Seahawks made the postseason last year, and the Rams will look to return to form following their Super Bowl hangover. San Francisco will play L.A. and Seattle four times over the course of the season in addition to other tough matchups against Dallas, Cincy, Baltimore and Philly.

Steve Quinne’s Pick: 49ers win the NFC title (+400)

Given their win total is set at 11.0, and their odds to win the division are fairly juiced, let’s look at the 49ers to take down the conference. Save the juice on the division bet, as the 49ers can win this conference even if they are a wild card team for whatever reason. With that same thinking, 12 wins might be difficult for the Niners given their schedule and division. Record aside, when healthy, the 49ers are one of the three best teams in the NFC. Let’s grab them preseason at 4/1 to win the conference and see where they end up.