Just over a year ago, the 49ers were a hot pick for the Super Bowl among those who love jumping on a bandwagon because Jimmy Garoppolo looked like the second coming of Joe Montana in the later weeks of 2017 and people lost their marbles.
He didn’t look great in limited action last season though, and this campaign was shaping up to be a brutal wake-up call for the NFL’s most eligible QB, his offensive genius coach Kyle Shanahan and the Niners front-office who signed off on the trade for him and made a lot of draft picks that were looking very dodgy.
What a difference some football can make.
The Bay-Area franchise are 3-0 coming of their bye-week and top of the NFC West. Their running game looks a model of efficiency, with injuries to Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon barely registering as the likes of Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson and Matt Breida plug-in-and-play in Shanahan’s offence. An 24-20 win over the Steelers in Week 3 should have them coming into this game on a high and well-prepped for the Browns’ much-talked-about offence
And, to be fair, it showed last week that it deserves some of the billing – it’s just that it was Nick Chubb, the running back, making the case, not QB Baker Mayfield. He was fine as the Ravens defence failed to make him scramble for plays and allowed Chubb to rack up three touchdowns and a165 yards, but the Niners front looks a lot meaner than that.
The Niners had several freakish plays cost them turnovers in the Steelers game, finishing with a whopping five slips that kept Pittsburgh alive a lot longer than they should’ve been. We shouldn’t expect those to be repeated this week against Cleveland, and they’re more than capable of covering -4.
If they’d protected possession a bit better against the Steelers, they’d have easily cleared the 30 points mark, and I can see them going past that on Monday night at home against Cleveland.
The Browns will be feeling pleased with themselves for silencing some of their critics with last week’s beatdown of the Ravens, and there’s no doubt they played better than previous weeks. But the pattern with teams that are trying to change their losing culture is often one step forward and another step back.
The Browns defence is allowing, on-average, just under 120 yards per game on the ground too. That’ll have this Shanahan offence and its battalion of backs salivating. Tevin Coleman also looks likely to play this week
Expect them to accumulate points regularly against a leaky line.
Coleman’s likely return to the line-up undermines much of the recent evidence we have about like rushing scorers, but if we assume that preseason expectations for the Niners hold true with their free-agent signing back and healthy, Matt Breida looks the best option for a scoring bet against Cleveland.
He hasn’t got a score yet this season despite out-touching all the other San Francisco backs, and Jeff Wilson’s TD-snatching role will probably disappear if Coleman is back, so someone will get more of those goalline opportunities. Breida figures to be a big part of the SF offence in the preseason and he’s going to get a reward at some point. It could be this week.