Monday, as part of my sextet of NFL picks, I closed out Week 5 with an easy winner on the San Francisco 49ers, who are off to their best start since guys named Montana and Rice were playing catch at Candlestick.
As I told you, these 49ers are real.
Because they’re a complete team, getting things done on both sides of the football.
On offense, the 49ers head into Week 6 ranked second with 31.8 points per game, fourth with an average of 427.2 yards per game. And here’s the thing about this offense, which has a number of ways it can beat you with a much-improved Jimmy Garoppolo under center, the team’s power running game is the reason this is one of the highest scoring teams in the league.
While the 49ers rank 22nd with 227.2 yards passing per contest, they’re the No. 1 NFL team with a whopping 200.0 yards rushing per game. The triumvirate of Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert are among the top 21 running backs, and none of the three average 100 yards per game.
That’s the beauty of this unit — there is no star. It’s a collection of talent working together under the offensive mind of coach Kyle Shanahan.
The 49ers are outgaining their competition by an average of 169.7 yards per game.
And that’s because they have the second-best defense in the NFL, allowing just 257.5 yards per game. The 49ers are also allowing a mere 14.2 points per contest, fourth best in the NFL.
One week after everyone thought Cleveland found its offense by putting a 40-spot on Baltimore, quarterback Baker Mayfield suffered his worst game as a pro against San Francisco’s suffocating defense. Mayfield completed 8 of 22 passes for a career-low 100 yards and finished with a 13.4 passer rating after throwing two interceptions, fumbling twice and being sacked four times. It got so bad coach Freddie Kitchens pulled his boisterous quarterback in the fourth quarter.
San Francisco’s defense has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season, the only team in the NFL that can say that.
I’m not done.
The 49ers have the third-best punt-return unit, with 11.1 yards per return. On defense, they’re the best, with opponents averaging -2.0 yards per return.
The one flaw is kickoff returns, as they rank dead last when returning, and 12th in allowing opponents to pick up 21.5 yards per return.
The Westgate SuperBook’s updated odds find the 49ers at 20-1 to win the Super Bowl. Those are still decent odds, considering San Francisco might be the most complete team in football.
Now if only I could find as much consistency as the Niners. I did bounce back last week with a 4-2 performance, and I’ll try to balance things out with another six winners:
Bengals at Ravens -11: As long as Cincinnati’s defense struggles to stop the run, I’m going to play offensive-minded teams opposing it. Twice this season Cincy has allowed more than 500 yards overall, and more than 250 on the ground. Baltimore rumbles to a blowout win. RAVENS
Panthers -2 at Buccaneers: Christian McCaffrey has been playing like an MVP and.5it may be time to start recognizing Carolina as the NFC South favorite. He is on pace for 2,771 yards from scrimmage this season. Huge division game, and I’m laying road chalk. PANTHERS
Titans +2.5 at Broncos: You know the Shanahan fella I spoke of earlier in this column? Ya think Broncos head honcho John Elway is kicking himself for passing him up? Denver shouldn’t be laying points to any team except maybe Miami. Maybe. TITANS
Seahawks -1 at Browns: I promise you this is not a knee-jerk reaction to Monday night’s debacle. I liked Seattle long before Cleveland’s true colors were revealed. I’ll lend this one to coaching, as Pete Carroll will outcoach Kitchens. SEAHAWKS
Texans +5.5 at Chiefs: Houston could have looked past the struggling Falcons last week, and on to Kansas City. Instead, the Texans head to Arrowhead after their best offensive game in franchise history. Kansas City deserves to be favored, sure, but its defense is awful. Deshaun Watson has a game. TEXANS
Cowboys -9 at Jets: Dallas will head into this game enraged after the dismal showing in Big D against the Packers. Time for the Pokes to flex their muscles against a Jets team that is off to its worst start in 16 years. COWBOYS
Last week: 4-2