The San Francisco 49ers aren’t slowing down. The team returned from their Week 4 bye to face the Cleveland Browns, coming off of an impressive 40-25 win over the Baltimore Ravens. You wouldn’t know it from Monday’s result, the 49ers bludgeoning the Browns all over the football field en route to a 31-3 statement win. The team now sets its sights on a short week to prepare for their most important game of the season, an NFC West face-off against the Los Angeles Rams.
But in the meantime, here’s our stock report after the 49ers’ first 4-0 start since 1990:
Stock up: Playoff hopes
The 49ers were considered a question mark and long-shot to make the playoffs before the beginning of the season. Four games later, and they’re now a favorite. For The Win’s Nick Schwartz authored a piece on playoff chances Tuesday using multiple simulators. According to those, the 49ers have an 80.4% chance to make the playoffs, up 11.5% percent from last week. In addition to playoff chances, Schwartz’s numbers give the 49ers a 10.6% chance of making it to the Super Bowl. Better place your bets now, folks, if that’s your thing.
Stock down: Special teams
Normally among the best in the league, Monday’s matchup was a down night for the 49ers special teams. Kicking ace Robbie Gould finished 1-of-4 on field goals, pushing a 47-yarder right, coming up short on a 52-yard attempt and was blocked on a 32-yard try. Garrison Sanborn, the 49ers’ newly-signed long snapper, struggled to place the ball. In addition to Gould, rookie punter Mitch Wishnowsky only managed 44 yards per punt to the Browns’ 56. Wishnowsky bobbled one punt and barely got the kick-off before a defender closed in. Finally, returner Richie James struggled with decision making, letting punts hit the ground in open field to bounce further downfield on more than one occasion.
Stock up: Ground game
The 49ers own the league’s most potent rushing attack through the first five weeks. The backfield of Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert, and Jeff Wilson Jr. have averaged 200 yards rushing through the 49ers’ four games, the best in the NFL. The Browns found that out the hard way, the 49ers churning them up on 40 carries for 275 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 6.9 yards per carry. Breida broke off an 83-yard touchdown untouched in the offense’s first play of the game. He totaled 11 carries for 114 yards against Cleveland. Tevin Coleman added 16 carries for 97 yards and a 19-yard touchdown.
Stock down: Injuries
The 49ers have played four games and lost three starters to injury. Left tackle Joe Staley suffered a fractured fibula in his left leg against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon sprained his foot against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3. Against the Browns, fullback Kyle Juszczyk suffered a strained MCL in his left knee. All three players are expected out at least another three weeks, with Juszczyk’s injury considered a four to six-week recovery. The 49ers have managed to absorb the injuries to Staley and Witherspoon well so far, but Juszczyk’s unique role in the offense and versatility will prove challenging to replicate for Shanahan.
Stock up: Offensive line
The 49ers’ front five on offense has been a pleasant surprise so far this season. The unit has paved the way for the team’s success on the ground and should be praised for their part in producing one of the league’s best rushing offenses. The Browns’ defensive front is among the NFL’s best, and the 49ers’ offensive line handled them in both the run and pass game. The offensive line has done a good job of keeping quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo upright, as well. The unit ranks second per Football Outsider, only giving up five sacks through four games, with a sack rate of 2.7% - the best in the NFL.
Stock down: Wide receivers
The 49ers’ group of receivers has been an unimpressive bunch through the first four games. Rookie Deebo Samuel got off to a strong start through the first two weeks but has committed costly drops in the last two games. The same can be said for Dante Pettis, who dropped a would-be touchdown pass from Garoppolo against the Browns. The 49ers quarterback was noticeably angered after the play. The 49ers’ leading pass-catcher is tight end George Kittle with 23 receptions, nearly twice that of Samuel, who leads all wideouts with 12 catches for 150 yards.
Stock up: Defense again
The 49ers defense put on its most dominant display of the season on Monday. The Browns’ offense features quarterback Baker Mayfield, running back Nick Chubb and receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. The star-studded attack could only manage three points against Robert Saleh’s surging group. A ruthless pass rush led by rookie Nick Bosa forced four turnovers against the Browns, forcing Mayfield into throwing two interceptions and two fumbles. The 49ers’ offense has been among the best so far this season, almost an expectation under Shanahan. The defense, on the other hand, has been a surprising development this season that gives the 49ers a chance to make a real push into the postseason in 2019.