Bill Barnwell of ESPN went through all the playoff teams and told us how each team is better and worse than we think, as well as a quietly important player and a past Super Bowl comparison. Barnwell believes the 49ers downfield passing attack is what makes them better than you think. Per Sports Info Solutions, Jimmy Garoppolo has completed 59% of his passes that were at least 20 yards down the field. The next closest quarterback is Gardner Minshew, at 49%. Garoppolo also has the highest touchdown percentage on these throws, ahead of Patrick Mahomes. Some of it is Garoppolo’s ball placement, other times it’s Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, then other times it’s the receivers making a play, like Deebo Samuel below:
This release is crazy. Deebo made the CB stumble in four steps.— KP (@KP_Show) January 2, 2020
“Win early so you dont have to win late.” pic.twitter.com/AYVn9EoI6V
Barnwell believes the 49ers are worse than we think due to struggles in the running game. The 49ers are 20th in first-down rate and 13th in rushing DVOA. I’m fascinated to see how the touches are divided now that its the playoffs. To me, it’s a no-brainer. Since Week 12, 49ers running back Raheem Mostert is ninth in the NFL in rushing, tied for first in yards per attempt, second in touchdowns and fifth in rushes that have gone for ten or more yards. Mostert has done this on at least 30 fewer carries than everyone in the top-five. Just give him the ball and use Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman as the change of pace backs.
The most important player listed is Emmanuel Moseley, for obvious reasons. Moseley came off the bench and performed well in the fourth quarter, including a crucial pass breakup on the goal line against D.K. Metcalf. Moseley played well in the first matchup against Seattle. If he is starting opposite of Richard Sherman, we’ll have a bullseye on his back, no matter the opponent. Let’s say the Vikings advance past the Saints and come to Santa Clara. Think they’ll test Moseley with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen?
Playoff chances and comparison
According to ESPN’s FPI model, they give San Francisco a 73% chance to advance to the conference championship, a 49.5% chance to advance to the Super Bowl, and an 18.7% chance of winning it all. Those are the third-best Super Bowl odds, according to the model. In August, if I told you the 49ers were a coin flip to make the Super Bowl, you’d probably ask where you would sign.
As for the comparison, I’ll let Barnwell take the reigns:
Past Super Bowl comp: It’s anathema to compare the 49ers to the Seahawks, but the 2013 Seahawks team that won the Super Bowl went 13-3 and took on the NFC as the top seed in the conference. This year’s 49ers are 13-3 and will be the top seed in the NFC. Wilson was still relatively inexperienced and entered into that second season with 393 career pass attempts. Garoppolo has spent more time in the NFL, but he entered the season with 361 career pass attempts. That Seahawks team led the league in defensive DVOA and was seventh in offensive DVOA. This 49ers team was second in defensive DVOA and seventh in offensive DVOA. I’ll stop here.
As much as it pains you to be compared to a Seahawk, you’re also being compared to a Super Bowl champion. I’ll take that.