Last year, experts ranked the San Francisco 49ers amongst the worst teams heading into the season.
Playoffs were out of the question, and many predicted just minimal improvements for the team.
Instead, the 49ers shocked the league by going 13-3 and representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.
They had a high-powered offense led by the run game and played stifling defense.
The 49ers were on the precipice of winning their sixth Lombardi trophy but succumbed to the Kansas City Chiefs.
They were a mere seven minutes from winning it all, but let the title slip through their fingers.
Now, they head into the 2020-21 season with the expectations of finishing the job.
— 49ers Webzone (@49erswebzone) September 8, 2020
Despite their odds, ESPN’s Nick Wagoner explained why the franchise remained confident in their championship aspirations.
“Rare is the team that can lose a Super Bowl, then return the next year and win the Lombardi Trophy,” he said. “In fact, it has only happened three times. But the Niners believe they can do it in large part because they return almost all of their starters and coaching staff in a season when continuity might be more valuable than ever.”
Though history is not on their side, there is a slim possibility that the 49ers can become the fourth team to accomplish this feat.
They remain loaded on both sides of the ball and have a mix of veteran leadership and youthful talent.
Plus, San Francisco has an excellent front office and coaching staff led by John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan.
The pieces are there to make another run, but only time will tell if the 49ers can overcome the obstacles to come.
If the 49ers are to win it all, it will be the offense that will have to make some strides.
It seems strange to expect more from a team that finished third overall with 29.6 points per game.
However, Jimmy Garappolo needs to show a little more consistency with his decision making.
Though he had a successful 2019 campaign, he still needs to eliminate some boneheaded throws.
Otherwise, the unit remains strong in all facets of the game.
Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are two young receivers that will have to make big plays.
Trent Williams will have to show that he is still a capable player after missing all of last year.
The running back corp is amongst the most versatile and skillful groups in the whole NFL.
George Kittle is the best tight end in the league and will dominate no matter where he lines up.
Only 2 tight ends have ranked in the top-10 in PFF receiving and run-blocking grade since 2018:
George Kittle and Dallas Goedert pic.twitter.com/bFH92TJ1x1
— PFF (@PFF) May 27, 2020
Plus, with Shanahan at the helm, the 49ers have a huge advantage in playcalling and schematics.
With a few minor adjustments from their QB, San Francisco has a chance to lead the league in scoring.
However, it is the defense that remains the strength of this team.
The 49ers gave up star lineman DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts but immediately replaced him with rookie Javon Kinlaw.
With the 14th overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers select…
Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina pic.twitter.com/jYTdsFR2qU
— PFF (@PFF) April 24, 2020
Defensive rookie of the year Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, and Arik Armstead round out one of the league’s most talented defensive lines.
They generate pressure and accumulate sacks at a healthy rate and wreck the gameplans of opposing offenses.
Both Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander are tackling machines and anchor a solid linebacker corps.
And the secondary, led by ageless wonder Richard Sherman, will look to shut down any and all receivers.
Defense wins championships, and this will likely be the case if the 49ers hoist the Lombardi by seasons end.