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49ers’ midseason stock report

Who’s up and who’s down after San Francisco’s first half of the 2019 season?

NFL: Carolina Panthers at San Francisco 49ers Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers are undefeated. They’re the NFL’s biggest surprise, emerging white-hot after a 4-12 2018 that landed them the draft’s No. 2 pick. Now Kyle Shanahan and crew is the eye of every team in the NFL as the 49ers push toward a playoff berth and a possible first-round bye. After Thursday night’s win against the Arizona Cardinals, the team’s using a long week to prepare for their primetime matchup against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night at Levi’s Stadium.

Let’s take a look at the 49ers through the midway point of the season after eight straight wins:

Stock up: And there was one

The 49ers are now the only undefeated team in the NFL. It was a title shared by the New England Patriots, but their loss on Sunday night to the Baltimore Ravens left San Francisco as the lone team yet to lose a football game in 2019. It’s a title that testifies toward the quick turnaround orchestrated by general manager John Lynch, coach Kyle Shanahan and the players that have risen to the occasion. The team now faces their steepest challenge of the season in the Russell Wilson-led Seahawks, who own one of the NFL’s best offenses so far this season.

Stock down: Defensive perception

The 49ers defense is a juggernaut. Robert Saleh’s squad has allowed an average of just 12.8 points and 241 yards per game, ranking second and best in the league, respectively. It’s a dominant group that looked very human on Thursday against the Cardinals. Running back Kenyan Drake gashed the 49ers for 110 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries. He also caught four passes for 52 yards. The defense struggled to tackle or adapt to the ground and screen game the Cardinals favored. It was likely an encouraging performance for Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, along with an NFL that’s eager to learn how to get past the 49ers. On the other hand, Saleh’s defense was given a head start on fixing a flaw that may have been more costly against Seattle on Monday.

Stock up: Garoppolo, the game manager

Shanahan hadn’t asked Garoppolo to carry the offense over the course of the team’s first seven games of the season. The 49ers quarterback averaged a little over a touchdown and 200 yards per game through the first half of the season, with the team’s ground attack leading the way. The steady performances prompted some, who likely look at box scores more than watch games, to label Garoppolo as a “game manager,” a term 49ers fans are familiar with after the Alex Smith era. Jimmy G smashed that perception on primetime, completing 75% of his passes for 317 yards and four touchdowns against the Cardinals. Garoppolo authored a slew of highlight plays on Thursday night, proving that he can be whatever Shanahan needs him to be on any given game.

Stock down: The storm approaches

This isn’t a knock on the 49ers in the way that most stock hits usually are. We’re simply acknowledging that the team’s path to the playoffs is about to get a whole lot more difficult. The combined record of the teams faced over the first half of the season is currently 22 wins and 43 losses. Over the second half? 40-23. The Seahawks (twice), New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Rams, and Ravens all await the 49ers over the next month. Brace yourselves.

Stock up: Reinforcements

The 49ers are undefeated. They don’t need any help, but they’re getting it anyway. Left tackle Joe Staley, right tackle Mike McGlinchey and fullback Kyle Juszczyk are expected to make their return to the starting lineup against the Seahawks. Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon is expected to be right behind them. An 8-0 team is getting better, but that’s no knock on those that have filled in. Left tackle Justin Skule, right tackle Daniel Brunskill and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley have all been excellent, easing the 49ers’ worries in regards to the depth at those positions. One caveat: the 49ers lost starting linebacker and defensive heartbeat Kwon Alexander against the Cardinals, suffering a torn pectoral. The loss gives rookie Dre Greenlaw a chance to prove that he, like Skule, Brunskill and Moseley before him, can successfully fill the void left by Alexander.