Nine weeks of football will be complete after Monday night’s game, and the San Francisco 49ers are the only undefeated team left in the NFL. The offensive MVP of the first half was George Kittle. The star tight end has doubled up the next leading receiver, Deebo Samuel, in both yards and receptions through eight games. Will that change in the second half of the season? Jimmy Garoppolo is fresh off his best game of the season, Emmanuel Sanders looks like the real deal, and there is always a chance one of the running backs takes off the last eight games. Let’s talk about the top candidates for the 49ers offensive MVP for the second half of the season.
Garoppolo now has a No. 1 receiver and what do you know, he looks better than ever. It’s been since 2002 when the 49ers had a quarterback make the Pro Bowl. He’ll need to string together a few more four-touchdown performances, but the schedule allows Jimmy G to do so. Here is the list of pass defenses per DVOA the 49ers face the next eight games:
Green Bay: 8th
New Orleans: 11th
Los Angeles Rams: 14th
For all the talk of San Francisco has a tough schedule to end the season, more and more of the games, if you look ahead, seem winnable for the 49ers. I’ll take Kyle Shanahan against one top-10 passing defense over eight games every day of the week.
An eight-game sample size gives us an idea of how Shanahan wants to use the running backs. The touches for both Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman are close. Breida has 113 touches and is averaging 5.5 yards per touch. Coleman has 93 touches and is averaging 4.6 yards per touch. Breida has 198 more yards from scrimmage in ten more touches. I don’t think Breida will ever get the credit he deserves for how much of an impact he has on this offense. The difference in yardage is why I’m listing Cheetah here.
Here are those same teams, but now using their rushing DVOA, and against DVOA versus running backs against the pass:
Seattle: 23rd rush/6th RBs
Arizona: 27th/29th RBs
Green Bay: 22nd/15th
New Orleans: 7th/10th
For starters, the more you dig through numbers like “DVOA against running backs,” the more you find out how many stats the 49ers are No. 1 in. Secondly, for the 563rd time, football is a game of matchups, and I don’t expect the Niners to go undefeated, but there aren’t many teams that they don’t match up against. More importantly, San Francisco is a tough matchup for most of the teams they’ll face. That’s all that matters.
Because Breida can make a couple of players miss on any given touch, I have a difficult time seeing him come up short of 1200 yards from scrimmage for 2019. The offensive line is good for providing one or two gaping holes a game. It’ll come down to how much Coleman’s role plays a factor, and if Shanahan leans on the heavier backs as the weather gets colder. If I’m Shanahan, the weather could be 85 degrees or -2 degrees, Breida is getting the ball.
More of Manny
Emmanuel Sanders has as many catches in two games with the 49ers than any other receiver on the roster not named Deebo Samuel. Sanders isn’t far off in yards, and his two touchdowns are tied for the team lead. Think he’ll have an impact these next two months? I knew he was good, but I wouldn’t have guessed Sanders would mean this much to Jimmy G and the offense this soon.
We’ve gone through the opposing pass defenses, and how they are against the run and running backs, let’s check out each upcoming defense the 49ers will play have done against No. 1 wideouts per DVOA. Remember, Sanders, beat Patrick Peterson like a drum.
Green Bay: 11th
New Orleans: 8th
The Ravens acquired Marcus Peters, and Marlon Humphrey has done a nice job all season. The Rams went out and traded for Jalen Ramsey, so that’ll be a difficult matchup as well. Marcus Lattimore is no slouch, either. That said, who would have guessed Sanders would have the type of success against Peterson last Thursday night?
Sanders has Shanahan in his corner, which means he’ll line up all over the formation, go in constant motion, and, most importantly, get the ball. In two games, Sanders has 14 targets. He’s going to get the ball, and he should get the ball. He’s proven to be a reliable target. The question becomes, will either of these three do enough to be San Francisco’s offensive MVP for the next two months?