Niners – 2020 NFL Draft

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Firstly, prayers for all people globally as we all go through this terrible pandemic. Be safe and we will overcome.

As I have had plenty of time at home practicing social distancing to the fullest, I’ve gathered my thoughts on what I think the Niners should do in this upcoming draft.

The Niners have had an active off season with re-signings of some key players and one shocking trade which greatly influences what the Niner draft needs are and new options at their disposal.

Re-signings:

  • Arik Armstead (DL) to a 5 year extension. Arik had a breakout season last year so the Niners properly rewarded him with confidence that he will continue to play at a very high level.
  • Shon Coleman (OT) to a 1 year extension. Shon came over at the beginning of the 2019 season but sustained a season ending knee injury in a pre-season game so never saw action. He was being counted on as a swing Tackle as a backup for either Mike McGlinchy or Joe Staley. If Staley retires, it is too soon to project Shon as Joe’s replacement. Tackle is a need in the draft.
  • Kendrick Bourne (WR) to a 1 year extension after being offered a 2nd round tender. Kendrick played himself into the 3rd WR behind Deebo Samuel and E-Man Sanders. He is being looked upon to be a key WR in Shanahan’s offense going forward.
  • Matt Breida (RB) was offered a 2nd round tender to re-sign but has yet to sign. No team is going to give up a 2nd round draft pick for Breida so I expect him to sign a 1 year extension and compete for a job. Matt had a terrific season but at the end of the season and into the playoffs, he began to fumble the ball so saw very limited playing time. He’ll fix this issue and come back strong.
  • Ronald Blair (DL) to a 1 year extension. Ronald also had an outstanding year until he suffered a season ending knee injury. His motor never stops.
  • Jimmy Ward (S) to a 3 year contract. This was a key signing as Jimmy had a breakout season as his existing contract ended. I thought that he would leave as his play earned him the right for a hefty pay increase. With Lynch and Shanahan developing a winning culture, Jimmy thankfully decided to come back for 3 more years as a Niner. To me, this was a huge signing as the Niners otherwise would have had to prioritize a Safety in this year’s draft.
  • Ben Garland (OL) to a 1 year contract. This was a very smart move as Ben played exceptionally well as a backup at Guard as well as at Center when Weston Richburg went down with a season ending knee injury. Weston was having a Pro Bowl year and Ben stepped in without skipping a beat.
  • Jerrick McKinnon (RB) 1 year contract restructuring. Jerrick has missed the last 2 seasons with a knee injury which simply didn’t heal properly. He is the perfect fit for the Shanahan offense as he is both a shifty runner as well as a dangerous receiver out of the back field. This was a very safe signing for 1 year as he will be paid the league minimum.

Free Agent signings:

  • Travis Benjamin (WR) formally a Charger. Travis has been an effective slot receiver and will be competing with Trent Taylor for playing time.
  • Kerry Hyder (DE) formally a Cowboy. Kerry was an effective rotational player with the Cowboys and has experience playing for Defensive Line coach Kris Kocurek.

Free Agent Losses:

  • Sheldon Day (DL) signed with the Colts. Sheldon was a very effective rotational player on the defensive line. But he played too well and played himself out of the Niners roster as he deserved more money that the Niners didn’t have. His loss will be felt.
  • Elijah Lee (LB) signed with the Lions. Elijah was a backup but had the versatility and speed that the Niners liked. He too was a player that the Niners felt that they couldn’t pay properly.
  • E-Man Sanders (WR) signed with the Saints. This was a tough loss as he was the veteran voice who came in mid-season and brought the WR’s together for their Super Bowl run. But, he is 33 years old and another player that the Niners simply couldn’t afford.
  • Levine Toilolo (TE) signed with the Giants. Levine was used as a blocking TE with the Niners. They have Ross Dwelley as a backup to Kittle. Ross is another player who developed nicely during the course of last season.
  • Anthony Zettle (DE) signed with the Vikings. Anthony was a rotational player last year. His loss won’t be felt too badly.

Trade:

  • DeFo Buckner (DL) traded to the Colts in exchange for their 1st round draft pick (#13 overall pick). This was the off season shocker. But, after the dust settles, it may have been a good move going forward. The Niners simply couldn’t pay everyone. DeFo was deserving of a $84 million contract that the Niners simply couldn’t afford. With the 13th pick in this year’s draft along with their own 31st pick, the Niners have plenty of options to fill positions of need.

Draft needs:

  • WR: The Niners will have to replace E-Man Sanders. Dante Pettis regressed in his sophomore year. This year will be make-or-break for Dante. Regardless, WR will be a priority in the draft.
  • DL: With the losses of both DeFo Buckner and Sheldon Day, finding replacements for both may be a priority in the draft.
  • OL: Regardless of whether Joe Staley retires or not, the Niners will have to plan for his eventual retirement.
  • CB: Richard Sherman had a great year but he is 32 years old. Additonally, on the other side, Ahkello Witherspoon and E-Man Moseley shared CB duties. The Niners need to find and develop a shut-down corner.

Follows is my version of the Niner draft board:

  1. Jeff Okuda (CB). The standout CB in the draft. He won’t be available at #13 and it wouldn’t be wise to trade up for him.
  2. Derrick Brown (DL). The standout DL in the draft. If there are runs on QB’s and WR’s early in the draft, there is a potential that he will be there at #13. If he is, he’s my slam dunk pick.
  3. Javon Kinlaw (DL). Another player at DL whose motor never stops. If Brown is off the boards at #13, Kinlaw should be the pick.
  4. Mekhi Becton (OT). 6’ 7” 364 lbs. who dominates and runs like a deer. Would be a great pick to replace Staley.
  5. Tristen Wirfs (OT). Another LT candidate if Becton is off the boards.
  6. Jedrick Willis (OT). Yet another LT candidate.
  7. Andrew Thomas (OT). One of these OT’s will be available at #13.
  8. CJ Henderson (CB). 2nd best CB after Okuda.
  9. Kristen Fulton (CB). 3rd best CB.
  10. Jerry Jeudy (WR). Most likely the top WR in the draft. Having said that, I am prioritizing Defensive and Offensive beef and CB ahead of any WR’s. This is a very deep draft for WR’s. I just don’t see a gaping separation between the top rated WR’s and the next top 20.
  11. Denzel Mims (WR). Has the height (6’ 3”) and speed and toughness.
  12. Laviska Shenault (WR). Looks like a bigger version of Deebo Samuel to me.
  13. Michael Pittman (WR). 6’ 4” 225 lbs. Big, strong, fast with great hands. Notice that I didn’t list CeeDee Lamb? He played in a conference (Big 12) whose teams play very poor defense. I am a fan of tough receivers like Deebo Samuel more than WR’s who have speed.
  14. Henry Ruggs (WR). Has the top speed but speed alone doesn’t always translate into an effective pro WR.
  15. Noah Igbinoghene (CB).
  16. Cameron Dantzler (CB).

At #13,  draft a stud DL (Brown or Kinlaw). If both are off the boards, draft one of the top OT’s.

Niners should trade down from #31 and get an additional pick. With their 2nd pick, draft the best available CB.

With their 3rd pick, draft the best available WR.

With their 4th pick, draft the best available DL or OT depending on what they are able to get with their 1st pick.

Most likely, their 3rd pick and further down will be players who are not listed in my top 16. Lynch and Shanahan shine in finding diamonds in the rough with lower round picks.

Look for a potential shocker either before or during the draft. My shocker is trading Dee Ford for a high draft pick. Dee is a 3rd down rusher who has a hefty salary and has had a history of injuries. If this happens, look for the Niners to draft a Edge Rusher like Yetur Gross-Matos, A. J. Espenza, Terrell Lewis or Julien Okwara.

I am very much looking forward to the draft. Go ShanaLynch !!! Go Niners !!!

Coronavirus – Impact to SF Giants, GS Warriors, and SF Niners

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Sports is entertainment and a great way to escape real-world realities and life challenges. Sports is simply a way to “Relax Your Mind”.

With the current global Coronavirus situation, Sports has taken a back seat and made the right decision to cancel all entertainment events to avoid crowd gatherings and lessen the chance to spread this dreaded disease. My heart goes out to all those impacted by this outbreak. Focus is rightfully placed on protecting our family members and friends.

With this pause in sports, I’ve decided to comment on the three Bay Area franchises that I follow. But before doing so, I have to applaud all those sports franchises and athletes who have donated to pay the stadium/arena workers who won’t have any income until these sports venues open their doors again.

SF Giants

GM Farhan Zaidi has struck during this off season. He did try to sign Nick Castellanos who would have been a wonderful addition to a bad club to get this team kick-started in the right direction. After he wasn’t able to sign Castellanos, it became apparent that stars or potential stars simply want to go to a team having a chance to make the playoffs. Zaidi made a half-hearted contract offer to Madison Bumgarner who felt insulted so he left to go to Arizona. Zaidi’s only additions of note were to bring back Hunter Pence (37) and sign Billy Hamilton (29). So, instead of getting younger, the Giants got older. The Giants have fully adopted the “Go Green” principle. They will use the fewest bats in the league and kill less trees this year. I love the Giants but fans like me will have to wait a long time to see if Zaidi can turn this franchise around. The only positive for the Giants as it relates to the work stoppage is that they will be tied for first place into April and perhaps May or June.

GS Warriors

With the Dubs simply devastated by injuries, they finish this shortened season with the worst record in the league. The NBA lottery process changed to discourage teams from purposely tanking games to get the best chance for the #1 pick. With the new process, the Dubs are guaranteed to get a top 5 pick while having a 14% chance to get the top pick. Assuming that they get a top 3 pick, my hope is that they draft Obi Toppin (Dayton, Sophmore). He is a 6’ 9”, 220 LB athletic PF who can fit well with the Dubs running style of play. If they can’t get him, then one of the top 3 Centers (Onyeka Okongwu (USC, Freshman… 6’ 9” 245 Lbs.), James Wiseman (Memphis, Freshman… 7’ 1” 240 lbs.) or Isaiah Stewart (Washington, Freshman… 6’ 9” 250 lbs.) would be solid picks as well. I happen to be in the camp that Bob Myers made a terrific trade to off-load D-Lo Russell in exchange for Andrew Wiggins plus a Top 3 protected First Round pick in 2021. While D-Lo is an offensive threat, it became quickly apparent that he didn’t fit the Dub style of play. He hogged the ball so ball movement came to a screeching halt. While Wiggins will never live up to his #1 overall pick stature, he has length and is very athletic, showed he can play defense, and can put up 20+ points on any given night. With Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, and Marquese Chriss as starters next year, they will definitely be back in the playoff hunt again. Comparing this starting team to the first 2014 Championship Team, Wiggins is better than Harrison Barnes and either Marquese Chriss or a Center that the Dubs draft this year is an improvement over Andrw Bogut. Additonally, with the growth of Damien Lee and Eric Paschall and the potential growth of Jordan Poole, the bench depth may approach that of the dynasty team. It’ll be difficult to compare this bench with Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston and Mo Buckets Speights but these new young guys have benefitted by being able to play and improve their games. Really looking forward to seeing this new group play next year !!!

SF 49ers

The Niners are in a good place as they went from a 4-16 team to the Super Bowl in one year. While it was extremely disappointing that they couldn’t keep Patrick Mahomes under wraps during the last 7 minutes of that game, nobody can deny that they were the better team for 3 and ½ quarters. They do have some tweaking to do going into the 2020 season. Following are my recommendations:

My first recommendation is that the Niners trade down twice in this year’s draft and get an additional 2nd round and 3rd/4th round pick. Currently, they have one 1st round pick and their next pick isn’t until the 5th round. This draft is deep so although they won’t get any “named players”, they will get good players in the middle rounds.

QB: Stay with Garoppolo and Nick Mullens. I recommend that they look for a quick and mobile QB to replace CJ Beathard. The talk and rumors of bringing Brady here is absolutely ludicrous. Brady is 42 and on the downside of his career. Garoppolo is 28 and his career is ascending. As a matter of fact, in the first two years of their careers, Garoppolo had better overall stats than Brady.

FB: No changes. Kyle Juszczyk is the best in the league.

RB: Stay with Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson. If Jerick McKinnon can come back with a lower restructured 1 year salary and proves that he is healthy, I recommend keeping him over Matt Breida. For some reason, Breida had fumble problems during the latter part of the season and thus didn’t see much action during the playoffs.

TE: Stay with George Kittle, Ross Dwelley and Levine Toilolo. They may bring in a Free Agent or draft a TE to compete for that 3rd job.

WR: Keep Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Richie James, Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd. Both Taylor and Hurd were on IR all of last year and are expected to make contributions going forward. I would love to see E-Man Sanders stay but this depends on if they can agree on a team/player friendly contract. Now that the CBA has been approved, this raises the salary cap for all teams by an additional $10 million. Part ways with Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis. Look for another WR either through Free Agency or the draft.

LT: Joe Staley may retire. Justin Skule did a decent job while Staley was injured but he can’t be considered a full time starter. The wild card is Shon Coleman who was on IR last year. They will have decide if Coleman can be a full time starter at this critical position. I recommend that they look to Free Agency and not the draft to bring in another LT if Staley retires.

LG: Stick with Laken Tomlinson. Look to Free Agency or the draft to bring in another Guard.

C: Weston Richburg was having an All-Pro year until he broke his leg during the season. Ben Garland did a great job filling in for Richburg so no changes are needed.

RG: Mike Person should remain the starter but the Niners should bring in a number of new candidates either through Free Agency or the draft.

RT: Mike McGlinchey will be the starter and Daniel Brunskill his backup. New candidates will be fighting it out for the third slot.

DE: Arik Armstead deserves a long term contract. With the new CBA contract approved raising the salary cap by $10 million, there will be no excuses for the Niners not to come to an agreement with Arik. Nick Bosa and Ronald Blair are the other two that I feel are guaranteed to come back. The interesting player to me is Dee Ford. Although he is a force, he also has a $85 million contract and the Niners are on the hook to pay him $19.75 in 2020. While I don’t endorse trading him, I recommend that Lynch explore what he may possibly get in exchange for Ford. If they can get enough value and also allow them to keep Sanders, Armstead, Sheldon Day and Ward, then Lynch should pull the trigger. Guys like Kentavious Street and Anthony Zettel will have to prove themselves to make the team this year.

DT: DeFo Buckner, DJ Jones, and Julian Taylor are guaranteed to be back. I really would like the Niners to pay Sheldon Day appropriately and bring him back. He plays like a starter and other teams will offer him a good salary. I recommend that they pay Day and release Soloman Thomas.

LB: Kwon Alexander, Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw will be starters. Niners should keep Mark Nzeocha and Azeez Al-Shaair. The other two slots will be a dogfight for those jobs.

CB: Richard Sherman and E-Man Mosely will be starters. Ahkello Witherspoon will be the 3rd CB. The other 4 or 5 jobs will be up in the air. I feel that this is the position of greatest need so their first draft pick should be a CB. I also recommend that Lynch look hard and deep at the Free Agent market for this critical position.

SS: Jaquiski Tartt is the starter and Marcell Harris will be his backup. Niners will be looking for another player at this position.

FS: Jimmie Ward is a key decision. He will be offered a hefty salary by other teams so the question is if the Niners will match what other teams offer. The most important free agents on the Niners team this year are Arik Amerstead, Jimmy Ward, Sheldon Day and E-Man Sanders and I list them in my priority order. If the new salary cap allows them to keep all of them, GREAT!!! But if they can’t, then I say that is where potentially moving Dee Ford comes into play. If they lose Ward, then Tarvarious Morre becomes the starter by default. But, this position then becomes a priority in Free Agency or the draft.

ST: The Niners are set with Wishnowsky and Gould. Having said that, I recommend that the Niners bring in a new FG kicker to compete with Gould as he is getting long on his age.

Off season needs in priority order:

  • A shut-down CB.
  • A FS if we lose Jimmie Ward.
  • A very speedy WR to stretch the field allowing Garoppolo options to either go deep or find open receivers in the mid-level.
  • A Left Tackle if Staley retires and Coleman isn’t the guy.
  • Another Edge Rusher
  • A stout Guard.

With respect to this year’s draft, the Niners have the following picks:

Round 1 (own)
Round 5 (own)
Round 5 (via Broncos in Sanders trade)
Round 6 (own)
Round 7 (own)
Round 7 (via Lions in Eli Harold trade)

With a very deep draft class, I am hoping that the Niners trade down twice from their #1 pick to accumulate more picks.

Whatever they do, I have utmost confidence in Lynch and Shanahan to make this great team even better going into the 2020 season!!!

Niners 2020 Roster Decisions

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After a brilliant 2019 season, the Niners are primed to continue to be a very dominant team. Like all teams and all seasons, they do have to make some decisions on their roster going into the 2020 season.

Three key free agents have opening said that they would like to re-join the team but the financials may not allow that to happen:

  • E-Man Sanders is 32 and at an age where WR’s start to lose their speed. Having said that, he is a valuable team leader and sets an example for the rest of the young WR’s. His will be a difficult decision for the Niners Management.
  • Arik Armstead is still very young (26) and had a break-out season. There is no question that he will be paid and remain a Niner. It could take the form of a long term contract or a one year franchise tag.
  • Jimmie Ward also had a break-out season at FS. He is still in his prime at 28 years of age and was signed to a one year $4.5 million last year. He is now worth much more after his stellar season so it will be difficult for the Niners to hang onto him. It will boil down to whether Jimmie is willing to take what the Niners can offer or leave for a more lucrative contract.

Two key leaders that must be given long term extensions:

  • George Kittle is acknowledged to be one of the two best TE’s in the NFL along with Travis Kelce of the Chiefs. He will be given a long term contract that will keep him as a Niner for a very long time.
  • DeForest Buckner has become one of the best DL’s in the league and will also be extended with a very lucrative contract.

One key player who has been a staple on this team for 13 years (35 years old), Joe Staley, may call it a career and retire. The entire team felt the most sorrow for not being able to bring home the Lombardi Trophy for Joe.

Key players on Injured Reserve (IR) who are expected to make contributions to the team:

  • DE Ronald Blair III was having a great season until he tore his ACL in the first Seahawks game in November.
  • OT Shon Coleman was signed to be a swing tackle being able to play either right or left tackle. But he suffered a significant right ankle injury in a pre-season game. If Staley retires, he’ll be a serious candidate to become the starting LT.
  • WR Jalen Hurd, a rookie suffered a back injury in a pre-season game and never saw action during the regular season. Jalen is 6’4” and weighs 247 lbs. having the skills to be the big Red Zone WR that the Niners have sought.
  • DT D.J. Jones may have been the MVP on the Niner DL this past year until he broke his ankle in the New Orleans game in November. He was the dominant force in the middle who plugged the running back holes and also forced QB pressures up the middle allowed Dee Ford and Nick Bosa to be more effective.
  • RB Jerick McKinnon was hand-picked by Shanahan 2 years ago and given a very high $30 million contract. The problem is that he has yet to play a single play for the NIners as he tore his ACL 2 years ago in pre-season and suffered a significant set-back this past year. If he is brought back, he’ll have to take a significant salary cut and compete and earn a job in a crowded RB group.
  • C Weston Richburg was having an All-Pro season at the all-important Center position until he suffered a torn patellar tendon injury in the New Orleans game in November.
  • DL Julian Taylor was a very valuable rotational player on the D-Line but he tore his ACL in practice in December.
  • WR Trent Taylor broke in foot in pre-season and had multiple setbacks having to endure problems with the screws inserted into his foot and serious infections requiring 5 surgeries to repair. Losing Trent was a serious issue as Garoppolo and Taylor had developed a great chemistry together much like Tom Brady and Julian Edelman.

Following are questions that I have about the current roster:

  • RB Matt Breida fell from being the starting running back to third behind Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert as he began to fumble the ball. Since these trio of RB’s are good but very similar, it would make sense to make some changes. Will Jerick McKinnon come back and become the impact elusive runner and elite pass catcher out of the back-field? Will the Niners draft a strong and powerful RB? Regardless, it appears that Breida is the odd guy out.
  • DE Dee Ford provided the Niners with their badly needed edge rusher. He had 6.5 sacks this past season but also showed that he is injury prone. With a 5 year $85 million contract, it would be advisable for the Niner Management to evaluate his performance against his very high contract.
  • WR Dante Pettis did not develop in his sophomore year. As a matter of fact, he regressed. It is time to cut bait and let him go.
  • CB Richard Sherman, 31, had a great year but started to show his diminished speed during the playoffs. He is a great leader and an inspiration to the team. If Jimmie Ward and the Niners can’t come to an agreement, perhaps an option would be to move Sherman to Free Safety. Sherman should remain a starting CB but the Niners must look for his replacement now.
  • DL Soloman Thomas has yet to live up to his #1 draft pick expectations. This will be a crucial training camp for Soloman with the real possibility that he may not make the 2020 roster.

Off season needs:

  • A very speedy WR to stretch the field allowing Garoppolo options to either go deep or find open receivers in the mid-level.
  • A shut-down CB who ultimately will replace Sherman.
  • Another Edge Rusher.
  • A Left Tackle if Staley retires and Coleman isn’t the guy.
  • A power RB.
  • A stout Guard.

With respect to this year’s draft, the Niners have the following picks:

Round 1 (own)
Round 5 (own)
Round 5 (via Broncos in Sanders trade)
Round 6 (own)
Round 7 (own)
Round 7 (via Lions in Eli Harold trade)

With a very deep draft class, I am hoping that the Niners trade down from their #1 pick to accumulate more picks. Also, Lynch/Shanahan should look to see what they may be able to get in terms of additional draft picks for guys like Dee Ford, Richard Sherman, Dante Pettis and Soloman Thomas.

Whatever they do, I have utmost confidence in Lynch and Shanahan to make this great team even better!!!

Niners Had Magical Season, but Chiefs are Goin’ to Disneyland

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On the biggest stage in football, Patrick Mahomes showcased why he is the best QB in football and overcame a 20-10 Niner lead in the 4th quarter. With 7 minutes left in the game, the Chiefs were in a 3rd down and 15 to go and the game was in the balance on this play. Mahomes completed a 44 yard pass to Tyrek Hill and the comeback was on. They scored 3 TD’s in a span of 5 minutes while shutting down the Niners to secure the Lombardi Trophy in yet another come-from-behind victory which have now become expected instead of being improbable.

As painful as the loss was for the Niners and the Faithful fans, they had a truly great and magical season. They vaulted from a last place 4-12 team last year to make it into the Super Bowl this year. And, in this Super Bowl, they looked like the dominant team for three and a half quarters until Mahomes performed his magic.

When a team loses the big game, the media becomes relentless in laying blame on why they lost:

  • Shanahan blew another 4th quarter lead in the Super Bowl.
  • Shanahan should have called time out before halftime to give his team time to score.
  • Garoppolo proved why he isn’t an elite QB.
  • Garoppolo should have thrown to Kittle more often.
  • Garoppolo couldn’t throw the big pass in the big moment by overthrowing Sanders and missing a potential game winning TD.

In any NFL game, there are always 2 or 3 plays that determine the outcome. Mahomes made those plays and the Niners didn’t. I don’t lay blame on Shanahan or Garoppolo or any one Niner for the loss. They stayed true to what got them to the Super Bowl. If Mahomes had missed on that 3rd and 15 play and if Garoppolo had connected with Sanders on his long pass, then the media would have been blaming Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes for not being able to win the big game. And they would be praising Shanahan and Garoppolo for leading a losing team to a Super Bowl winner in one year.

The fact is that the Niners have become a really good team with young talent on this roster at almost every position. They will remain a very good team for the foreseeable future. Of course, the same can be said for the Chiefs, Ravens, Seahawks and the team that I believe is on the rise, the Arizona Cardinals. All of these teams have young scrambling QB’s who are threats throwing or running. Russell Wilson my not be young but he still plays like he’s young and he is the master that Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray model their games after.

It’s also a fact that the Niners have had their greatest challenges playing these teams having these new breed QB’s. This is the one area that they need to focus on along with the rest of the teams in the league. In the past, the NFL teams have figured out how to play the running QB’s. This may happen again but I must say that these young dudes are very special as they all are not only good with their arms and well as their legs, but they are also very smart and can make the right decisions in a split second. Very difficult to contain…

I’m holding my head high as a Niner fan as I know that Lynch and Shanahan have already built a winning team that will keep winning. As a Niner Faithful, thank you for a magical year !!!

Niners Goin’ to Super Bowl LIV !!!

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All week long, we heard that Matt LaFluer and his Packers will completely change their game plan to prevent the week 12 thrashing at the hands of the 49ers, 39-8. Kyle Shanahan also pounded into his 49ers players that the results will be much different and that they would have to earn the right to go to Super Bowl LIV. They were both right… In week 12, the score was 23-0 at halftime… In the NFC Championship game, the score was 27-0 at halftime…

It was like the Niners played the Vikings in consecutive weeks. The Vikings wore their white, green and gold uniforms this week instead of their purple uni’s. And like last week, the Niners simply pounded the rock running 42 times out of their 50 plays for 285 yards averaging 6.8 yards per play. Raheem Mostert ran 29 times for a franchise best 220 yards scoring 4 TD’s. His performance was second only to Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson’s NFL record 248 yards back in 1986 vs the Dallas Cowboys. And like last week, the O-Line dominated the Packer’s front seven. Even though the Packers knew what was coming, they were over-powered and had no answers. Shanahan’s game plan was to exploit the Packer’s 27th ranked run defense and it worked beautifully. He had planned to balance the run/pass plays calls but as the game went, there was no need to pass as the run game kept working.

Jimmy Garoppolo threw only 8 times for the entire game and completed 6. He threw only 2 times in the second half and completed both passes. His totals were 77 yards with a QB rating of 104.7. The running game was so effective, Nick Mullens could have played and the result would have been the same.

In my mind, there were two key plays early in the game which shaped the game’s outcome. The first one came in a scoreless game with the Niners on the Packers’ 36 yard line facing a 3rd and 8. The Packers geared up their Defense for what seemed like an obvious pass play with Jimmy G. in shotgun formation. Instead, Shanahan called a draw play to Mostert who rambled in for the first TD score of the day. The second key play took place when Shanahan trusted Robbie Gould with a 54 yard Field Goal extending the lead to 10-0. If Gould had missed, the Packers would have had great field position. Just shows how much confidence Shanahan has in his players.

Raheem Mostert exemplifies the type of players that John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have brought onto this team. Since 2015, undrafted Raheem had been cut by six teams… The Eagles, Dolphins, Ravens, Browns, Jets and Bears before joining the Niners in 2017. Shanahan liked his toughness, not as a running back, but as a Special Team’s gunner. Even this year, he was 3rd on the running back depth chart behind Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman. He got the majority of the workload in this game only after Coleman got injured with a separated shoulder. But in recent games, it was clear that Raheem was getting most of the carries as Shanahan began trusting him. Raheem made a list of the six cut dates and looks at this list before every game as a reminder that nothing is given to him and that he must earn everything.

Raheem is not the only story on this Niner team:

  • Nick Mullens (backup to Jimmy G.) was undrafted.
  • Matt Breida was undrafted.
  • Jeff Wilson (4th on the running back depth chart) was undrafted.
  • Justin Skule (filled in when Joe Staley was injured) was drafted in the 6th round.
  • Azeez Al-Sharir (filled in when Kwon Alexander was injured) was undrafted.
  • Dre Greenlaw was drafted in the 5th round.
  • Elijah Lee was drafted in the 7th round.
  • Mark Nzoecha was drafted in the 7th round.
  • Marcell Harris was drafted in the 6th round.
  • Ben Garland (starting Center after Weston Richburg was injured and out for the year) was undrafted. Richburg was having an All-Pro year until his injury but Garland has stepped in and the team has not skipped a beat.
  • Sheldon Day was drafted in the 4th round.
  • Kevin Givens was undrafted.
  • Julian Taylor was drafted in the 7th round.
  • DJ Jones was drafted in the 6th round. He was injured and out for the year, but during the first half of the year, DJ was playing at an elite level at Defensive Nose Guard.
  • Kentavious Street was drafted in the 4th round.
  • Kendrick Bourne was undrafted.
  • Richie James was drafted in the 7th round.
  • George Kittle was drafted in the 5th round.
  • Levine Toilolo was drafted in the 4th round.
  • Ross Dwelley was undrafted.
  • Daniel Brunskill (filled in for Mike McGlinchey while he was injured) was undrafted.
  • Anthony Zettel was drafted in the 6th round.
  • Ronald Blair was drafted in the 5th round.
  • Kyle Juszczyk was drafted in the 4th round.
  • Richard Sherman was drafted in the 5th round.
  • K’Wuan Williams was undrafted.
  • DJ Reed was drafted in the 5th round.
  • E-Man Moseley was undrafted.
  • Mike Person was drafted in the 7th round.
  • Robbie Gould was undrafted.

The veteran players all say that this is the best and closest knit locker room that they have ever been on. The list of players who were drafted in the later rounds or undrafted all have something to prove and all of them work together in unison to make the team chemistry something special. Ahkello Witherspoon is a great example of how close this team is. Last week, Shanahan benched Ahkello after he had a poor start and inserted E-Man Moseley. He also pulled Witherspoon late in the Seattle game after he was being torched by DK Metcalf. Instead of sulking, Ahkello went to Shanahan and asked if he could play on special teams so that Moseley can focus on playing Corner Back. Another example are the Wide Receivers. They not only pull for one another, they pull for the entire team. When a team throws only 8 passes for an entire game, you expect some/all of the receivers would complain about the lack of plays they make. On this team, Samuel, Sanders, and Bourne made plays all day long by blocking downfield for Mostert. And All-World Kittle loves to block much more than catch passes. Everyone plays for the team and not for themselves on this roster. That is a big reason that cry-babies like Antonio Brown do not interest Lynch nor Shanahan.

It was only fitting that during the post-game ceremonies that Jed York handed the NFC Championship trophy to Mike Shanahan as Honorary Captain who then presented the trophy to his son Kyle. After being so critical of Jed for so many years, he grew up to be a great owner after he hired John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan to run football operations, then got out of the way. Now, one can see the similarities between the then Eddy DeBartolo/John McVay/Bill Walsh team to the now Jed York/John Lynch/Kyle Shanahan team.

Lastly, Kyle Shanahan’s history has a lot to do with the make-up of this current Championship team. He was hired/fired from multiple teams.

  • Kyle was with the Texans from 2006-2010 as their Receivers coach for the first two years and their Offensive Coordinator for the last two years.
  • In 2010, he joined his father Mike, in Washington as their Offensive Coordinator. On that coaching staff, Mike Shanahan also had Matt LaFleur (now the Packer’s Head Coach) and Sean McVay (now the Rams Head Coach). Sean’s Grandfather is John McVay, the former GM of the 49ers. Although the Redskins had an “All World Coaching staff”, in 2013, Mike and his entire coaching staff were fired as they all wanted Kirk Cousins to be their starting QB while the owner wanted Robert Griffin III to start. Now it’s clear to understand why the Redskins have been a failing organization for so long.
  • In 2014, Kyle was hired as the Offensive Coordinator of the Browns and served under Mike Pettine (now Defensive Coordinator for the Packers). Kyle quit after one year as he disagreed with the Browns management’s decision to draft Johnny Manziel instead of Jimmy Garoppolo. And, like the Redskins, it is clear why the Browns have been a failing organization for so long.
  • In 2015, Kyle was hired as the Falcons’ Offensive Coordinator. He took an 8-8 team to an 11-5 record and on to Super Bowl VI making Matt Ryan an All-Pro QB. Kyle called a perfect game in the Super Bowl through the first 3 quarters and lead the Patriots 28-3. But, he called some very aggressive plays which didn’t work and allowed the Patriots to come back and win. He was rightfully criticized for his late game play calling but at the same time, his brilliant offensive mind allowed him to be selected as the 49ers Head Coach in 2017.

So, Kyle also has plenty to prove along with his players. They all have had their share of disappointments in their lives and are dead set in leaving those failures behind them.

Bring on Patrick Mahomes and the KC Chiefs!!!

Niners D-ominate Vikings !!! Cousins, “You Like That ???”

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How many ways can one say D-ominate?

  • D-ee Ford is baaaaack
  • K-won is baaaaaack
  • J-aquiski is baaaaaack
  • B-osa was super-human
  • S-herman did what he always does
  • A-rmstead was a monster
  • D-efo was the Hulk
  • W-arner was a beast
  • E-Man Moseley was The Man
  • J-immy Ward was the closer
  • S-oloman Thomas played like a #1 pick
  • D-efence was simply spectacular
  • O-line totally controlled the game
  • K-ittle and J-uice d-ominated with their run blocking all day long
  • P-eriod !!!

So just how dominating was this performance?

  • The Vikings had 7 first downs, the 2nd fewest in NFL Playoff history
  • They had 147 total yards, the 2nd fewest in NFL Playoff history
  • They had Zero 1st downs on the ground and were 2/12 on 3rd downs
  • They had 64 total yards in the 2nd half and had the ball for only 9:25 in the final 30 minutes
  • They had 21 total rushing yards and only 7 in the 2nd half
  • Delvin Cook had 18 yards rushing on 9 carries
  • The Niners ran the ball 47 times, the Vikings had 45 total offensive plays
  • The Niners had 21 first downs, Cousins had 21 completions for 126 net yards (176 total minus 46 yards in lost yards due to 6 Niner sacks)
  • Nick Bosa had 2 sacks… Adam Thielen had 2 catches
  • The Vikings didn’t enter Niner territory in the 2nd half until the final 2 garbage time drives
  • After Sherman’s Interception, the Niners ran the ball down the “stout” Vikings defense throats eight straight times for the game sealing drive. They continued to repeat the same running plays because they knew the Vikings couldn’t stop them. The Vikings knew what was coming but couldn’t make adjustments to stop the Niners. I’ve seen the Niner O-line be good with change-of-direction finesse blocks, but this is the first time that I can recall that they simply mauled their opponent’s D-line.
  • Jimmy Garoppolo threw the ball only 6 times in the 2nd half.
  • Jimmy G had a “pancake block” on the Vikings All-Pro linebacker, Anthony Barr, on a double reverse run by Deebo Samuel. Garoppolo is 25 pounds lighter than Barr but Jimmy’s block put Barr on his ass. His Niner teammates loved it.

Not much else to say, except, “Feels Great, Baby !!!”

Niners #1 NFC Seed !!! Beat LeastMode, Wilson & Hawks…

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In an Instant Classic NFL game, the Niners held on to pull out the biggest regular season win since the Montana/Clark “Catch” back in 1980/81. Rookie Dre Greenlaw laid the wood on the Hawks’ Tight End, Jacob Hollister, and took him down 1 INCH from the Goal Line on the last play of the game. Yes, 1 inch was the difference between the Niners being the #1 seed throughout the NFC playoffs or being relegated to the #5 seed and having to play next week on the road at Philly in the Wild Card game. Instead, they get to rest two weeks and heal their bodies after a rigorous 16 game schedule. Their “bye week” was in week 4 so they have played in 13 consecutive weeks.

This was the first Niner win in Seattle since 2011 as the Hawks have owned the Niners for the better part of the decade. With the resurgence of the Niners this year, the rivalry is back on and future games between these elite teams should give fans more thrilling games. It’ll be hard to top the two games that they played this year with the Hawks pulling out a win in OT at Levi earlier this year and the Niners winning this thrilla’ last night.

The Niners have been in “playoff mode” since that first meeting vs the Hawks at Levi. Since then, they pulled out a last minute win vs the Cardinals, blew out the #2 seed Packers, lost to the #1 AFC seed Ravens on a field goal on the last play of the game, beat the #3 seed Saints in NOLA 48-46 in another Instant Classic game, lost to the Falcons on a TD that they scored by 1 inch at the end of the game, beat the Rams in another thrilla’ on a field goal on the last play of the game, then this classic game. As Duane Kuiper, broadcaster for the SF Giants, coined… “TORTURE” !!!

Every NFL game has its share of controversial penalties/non-penalties and play calls. Last night’s game was no different but it seemed that those events took place at the end of the game:

  • With about 3 minutes left in the game, the Niners were leading 26-21 and had the chance to run out the clock with a game ending drive. On 2nd down they ran a sweep with Deebo Samuel. Ben Garland, the Niners Center, pulled out and ran downfield to block a defender. Deebo was tackled but there was no way that Garland could have known that so he blocked a Hawk and was called for a 15 yard personal foul penalty. If not for that controversial call, the Niners could have held the ball for another set of downs and potentially run out the clock.
  • With 22 seconds left in the game, the Hawks had a 1st and goal on the Nines’ 1 yard line. Wilson spiked the ball to stop the clock. Then for some inexplicable reason, Pete Carroll was late in sending in LeastMode for the game winning Hawks score so they were called for a delay of game penalty. The difference between 2nd and goal from the 1 yard line and 2nd and goal for the 6 yard line was the difference in the outcome of the game.
  • With 15 seconds left in the game, Wilson threw a 3rd down incomplete pass to Hollister in the end zone with Fred Warner wrapping him up. No penalty was called and even a booth review confirmed that no penalty should have been called.
  • Then, with 9 seconds left in the game came that now storied 4th down tackle by Dre Greenlaw on Hollister on the 1 inch line. Game over…

The entire Niner team deserves game balls as they all played one heck of a game. The usual gang had their outstanding games (Garoppolo, Kittle, Juszczck, Samuel, Sanders, Mostert, Bosa, Buckner, Armstead, Warner, Greenlaw). But others, especially in the trenches, came up huge. The D-line have been decimated with injuries so Kevin Givens and Anthony Zettle were called up for this game. While their stat lines weren’t impressive, they played key roles in the D-Line rotation and the end result was that the Defense held the Hawks to 0 points in the first half and 21 for the game. The O-line was outstanding with Ben Garland filling in for the injured Weston Richburg and Daniel Brunskill filling in for the injured Mike Person. My game ball goes to Joe Staley who dominated Jadeveon Clowney holding him to 0 sacks and only 1 tackle. Joe is the only player who was on the squad that last won in Seattle back in 2011. He went through a tortuous 8 years of losing prior to this year and almost retired in 2017. But Shanahan laid out a plan that Joe liked so he stayed. A wave of emotions hit him after the victory and he cried tears of joy.

When one looks at the season that Jimmy Garoppolo had, nobody can question that he is one of the top QB’s in the game today. In last night’s game, he was 18-22 for 285 yards and did not throw an incomplete pass in the 2nd half. His passer rating was 118.8. His stats for the season:

  • 3,798 yards (4th in franchise history)
  • 69.1% completion (3rd in franchise history)
  • QB rating of 102.0 (only behind Montana and Young)
  • 13 wins and joins Montana, Young, and Alex Smith as the only other QB’s having 13 win seasons

Lastly, for fun, let’s do a comparison between this team and Bill Walsh’s team in his first 3 years:

  • In Walsh’s first 3 years with the Niners, they went 2-14, 6-10, and 13-3 and won the first ever Niners Super Bowl.
  • In Shanahan’s first 3 years with the Niners, they went 6-10, 4-12, and 13-3 and have become the #1 seed in this year’s NFC playoffs.
  • When the Niners won their first Super Bowl, they drafted 3 key rookies who became starters immediately (Ronnie Lott, Carlton Williamson and Eric Wright).
  • This year, the Niners drafted Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel, Mitch Wishnowski, and Dre Greenlaw whom are all key starters on this year’s team.

Let’s see if the Walsh/Shanahan comparison carries on…

Niners Beat Rams in Thrilla – Showdown with Hawks Up Next

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If you want to work-out and race your heart, tune in and watch a Niner game. They are sure to give you a hard pounding 3 hour work-out. In their 12-3 season, their three loses came on the last play of the game:

  • Lost to the Seahawks in OT on a field goal after the Niners had a chance to win with a field goal in OT.
  • Lost to the Ravens on a field goal on the last play of the game after the Niners couldn’t convert on 4th and one late in the 4th quarter. A first down would have given them a great chance to run the clock out and secure a win.
  • Lost to the Falcons on a play at the end zone where Julio Jones crossed the plain of the goal line by inches with 2 seconds left in the game.

Last Sunday, the Rams came into town with their playoff lives on the line. They came out with a great game plan where they rolled Goff out consistently on miss-direction plays. The Niners simply could not stop them as they took a 21-7 lead. Robert Saleh made the in-game adjustments and held the Rams to 10 points the rest of the game while the Niners scored 27 with the winning 3 points on the final play of the game.

The game turning play came just before half-time when all world LB Fred Warner scored on a pick-six as he read a Goff sideline pass, made the interception, almost fell and ran 54 yards for the pick-six.

If that wasn’t enough, the Rams tied the game with about 3 minutes left in the game on a field goal. In their final drive, the Niners faced two 3rd and 16 situations that they had to convert, else they would have had to punt and give the Rams enough time to drive and win the game. They had been zero for 20 on 3rd and 15+ yards this season. They converted both situations into 1st downs and kept their game winning drive alive. Jimmy Garoppolo separated himself from being a good QB into a great QB on those two plays. The first conversion was a Garoppolo bullet to Kendrick Bourne down the middle. The second conversion came with 58 seconds left in the game when Jimmy G. found E-Man Sanders wide open down the field for a 46 yard gain over Jalen Ramsey to the 24 yard line. What made that play extra special was that Garoppolo held the ball until the very last split second and actually had his throwing arm hit while he was releasing the ball. Garoppolo was under siege all night long as the Rams came to play and sacked him 6 times. Two of the sacks came in that last drive creating those 3rd and 16 situations. After the long completion to Sanders, Tevin Coleman ran 9 yards and Jimmy G. took a knee centering the ball for Robbie Gould’s game winning field goal.

It was indeed a “Thrilla in Santa Clara.”

Next up is the game of the year vs the Seahawks up in Seattle for the West title. Btw, how many games of the year have the Niners played this season… The first game vs the Seahawks, the game vs the Packers, the game vs the Ravens, the game vs the Saints, and now the 2nd game vs the Seahawks. The Seahawks lost their two powerful running backs in their loss to the Cardinals but the Niners have had 15 players on IR this year. Injuries are part of the game so it is Next Man Up for both teams in this show-down. It should be another Thrilla…

Niners Lose to Falcons – Still Control Their Destiny

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It wasn’t a trap game nor a lack of effort that caused the Niners to lose to the Falcons, it was an inspired Falcon team playing for their coach’s job who simply outplayed the Niners on Sunday. It was Matt Ryan finding an open Julio Jones all day long including the game winning TD. It was Grady Jarrett who pummeled Mike Person all day long and constantly pressured Garoppolo.

The Niners did play hard and the trio of Arik Armstead, Jimmy G., and George Kittle had comparable games to Jarrett, Ryan, and Jones. The difference is that the Falcons made fewer mistakes and all of the Niners miscues came at critical points in the game. On offense, Matt Breida’s fumble killed a promising drive that could have allowed the Niners to take control of the game. The long pass interference penalty on Julio Jones in the end zone allowed the Falcons to get back in the game and position themselves for the win. The dropped ball by Kittle toward the end of the game after his catch took a potential first down away which would have allowed the Niners to potentially run out the clock.

Kyle Shanahan said before the game, “This is their Super Bowl. If we don’t play like this as a Super Bowl game, we will get our asses kicked.” This turned out to be prophetic.

Zooming out to the bigger picture, nothing really changed as a result of this loss. The Niners still control their own destiny to secure the #1 seed in the NFC. If they beat the Rams at home this weekend and beat the Seahawks in Seattle next week, they will be the #1 seed and host playoff games for the first time since the Harbaugh years. They secured a playoff slot even though they lost to the Falcons but there was no celebration in the Niner locker room as they hold themselves to a championship standard and they did not play championship football on Sunday.

Niners Win in NOLA – They Aints Done

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In the game of the year and an instant classic, the Niners win a shootout against the Saints at their place in front of a frenzied and raucous crowd, 48-46. The Saints scored on their first four drives while the Niners scored on three of their first four. After it was over, the Niners had scored on all but three drives and the Saints on all but four drives. It was a game where the saying “whoever has the ball last, wins” was reality. The Saints scored with 53 seconds left in the game to move ahead 46-45 and failed on a two point conversion. In the days of Montana and Young, Niner fans had the “no problem” confidence that they would drive in the last minute and pull out a victory. This was a signature moment for both Garoppolo and Shanahan as they did mount the last minute victorious drive and give Niner fans confidence that the glory days may be here once again.

Jimmy Garoppolo’s stat lines were great (26/35 passing, 349 yards, 4 TD’s and 1 INT) for passing rating of 131.7. Drew Brees’ stats were equally impressive but he was playing at home and played his usual HOF game. This was the fourth consecutive game were Garoppolo has completed at least 70% of his passes with a passer rating of over 110. If he hits those marks this week against the Falcons, he will tie both Russell Wilson (2015) and Patrick Mahomes (2018) as the only QB’s in NFL history who have achieved those statistics in a single season. What was so remarkable was that Jimmy G. kept his composure under a very loud and hostile crowd and played with utmost confidence.

Kyle Shanahaan’s play calling was at its best. He called so many plays where the formation was the same but the plays were different depending on how the Saints defense lined up. He also employed the same plays but reversed left/right. A good example was the key play of the game, fourth and two with 39 seconds left in the game, where Superman George Kittle caught the ball going toward the left sideline, then pushed the defender down and sprinted down field with three other defenders trying to drag him down (one by his face mask) for another 10 yards. That same exact play was run on the right side earlier in the game resulting in another key first down keeping that drive alive. Additionally, on that last Kittle play, the crowd was so loud that Garoppolo couldn’t distinguish if Shanahan had called play 14 or 15 on his wristband. As they broke the huddle and lined up, Shanahan called timeout as he called play 15 and they lined up in play 14 formation. Shanahan later said that there is a big difference between the two plays.

I give the game ball to both Garoppolo and Shanahan this week for their play and play calling. Having said that, there were so many other players who played so well, they were equally deserving. George Kittle had the catch and run of the year. He won the “Angry Run of the Week” on the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football show. The trio of WR’s (E-Man Sanders, Deebo Samuel, and Kendrick Bourne) had great games with E-Man catching a TD while also throwing a TD pass and Bourne catching 2 TD’s and Deebo catching some clutch third down plays. They have separated themselves and will play most of the snaps down the stretch. Raheem Mostert had another great game as well as Kyle Juszczyk. The “next man up” award this week goes to Ben Garland who came in at the Center position when Weston Richburg went down with a season ending knee injury.

What makes this Niner team so strong is that they keep finding different ways to win. This week, the Defense was offensive but luckily, so was the Offense.

While the Niners are on top with an 11-2 record, their injuries keep piling up and while the “next man up” philosophy has been working so far, they simply can’t afford any more injuries down the stretch.

  • CB Richard Sherman went out with a hamstring and be out a few weeks.
  • SS Jaquiski Tartt broke his ribs vs the Ravens and is week-to-week.
  • DE Dee Ford has had a hamstring condition for over a month that he re-aggravated vs the Ravens. He will be out until the play-offs.
  • DT Julian Taylor suffered ligament damage to his elbow and may be ready to play vs the Rams.
  • NT D.J. Jones suffered a significant season ending ankle injury. This is a huge blow as he was simply outstanding against both the run and pass.
  • LB Kwon Alexander tore his pectoral and was placed on season ending IR on Nov 5. His loss was really felt in the Ravens loss and in the poor defensive performance vs the Saints.
  • C Weston Richburg was playing at a very high level this year calling the line plays until he suffered a season ending knee injury vs the Saints.
  • DL Ronald Blair was having his best season as a rotational edge rusher until he suffered a season ending injury vs the Seahawks.
  • TE Garrett Celek was placed on IR with a back injury.
  • WR Marquise Goodwin was placed on IR with knee and ankle issues.
  • DE Damontre Moore was placed on IR with a broken arm.
  • WR Trent Taylor was placed on IR with a foot surgery.
  • WR Jalen Hurd was placed on IR with a back injury.
  • RB Jerrick McKinnon missed his second consecutive year with a torn ACL.
  • CB Jason Verrett was placed on IR with knee issues.
  • OT Shon Coleman was placed on IR with a fractured fibula and dislocated ankle.
  • CB Tim Harris was placed on IR with a groin injury.

The final three games of the regular season are against teams that are playing their best football. The Falcons at home, the Rams at home and the Seahawks in Seattle which will most likely determine the Western Divisional winner. Shanahan continues to rightfully say weekly, they haven’t won anything yet as their divisional rivals continue to play well and win. They just completed the toughest three game schedule in NFL history as they beat the Packers (10-2), lost to the Ravens (10-2) and beat the Saints (10-2). Bring on the Falcons, Rams and Seahawks !!!