Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

CBS Sports lists 49ers among NFL’s most overrated teams ahead of 2021 season

Jul 12, 2021 at 3:12 PM--

Some fans seem to relish the idea of their favorite team entering a season as an underdog. If you are one of those fans and cheer for the San Francisco 49ers, you will love Tyler Sullivan's recent feature for CBS Sports. The writer named the Bay Area squad in his list of the NFL's most overrated teams ahead of the 2021 season.

Yes, San Francisco earned just six wins last season. However, as almost anyone will tell you while defending the team, the roster endured a historic number of injuries in a bizarre 2020. In fact, the 49ers were the second most injured team over the past two decades. Only the 2016 Chicago Bears had players miss more games in a single season.

The 49ers are tied for the sixth-best odds to win Super Bowl LVI, per MyBookie. They are tied for the fifth-best odds, per DraftKings. Sullivan feels head coach Kyle Shanahan's team could easily win a championship ... if everything goes right. That is rare, which appears to be one reason why Sullivan lists San Francisco among his overrated teams.

There are other reasons, of course.

"While there is plenty of talent to like on this roster, there are some rather large questions," wrote Sullivan. "First, what's the deal at quarterback? San Francisco made waves this offseason by trading up to the No. 3 overall pick to eventually select North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, signaling that he is the future under center for the franchise. Despite making that monumental move, the team still hung on to former franchise QB Jimmy Garoppolo."

Right now, the plan is to have Garoppolo start Week 1 of the regular season, allowing Lance as much time as he needs to absorb Shanahan's playbook and acclimate to the speed of the pro level. Lance started just 17 games in college and played in just one since January of 2020.

With Garoppolo on the roster, there is no need to rush Lance onto the football field. At least, that is the thinking among the coaching staff. The problem is that Garoppolo has missed 23 games over the past three seasons due to injuries and has made it out of September injury-free as a starter just once.

"While the ideal situation for San Francisco may be for Garoppolo to play and play well in 2021 and then hand off the starting job to Lance in 2022 after a year of seasoning, that may be too tall of an ask," Sullivan continued. "When healthy, Garoppolo has shown that he can lead a team to the Super Bowl. The problem, however, is that he's never healthy. He's only played one full season in the league to this point (which just so happened to be the year San Francisco advanced to Super Bowl LIV). With that in mind, Garoppolo's durability is hardly something you can take to the bank. If he does go down, the Niners may throw Lance into the deep end a bit earlier than they may want."

Shanahan hasn't ruled out the possibility of starting a rookie quarterback. However, the coach has also stated that it would be difficult for Lance — or any inexperienced passer — to beat out Garoppolo.

"I thought Jimmy's had as good of an OTAs as he's had since he's been here," Shanahan said last month, per Kirk Larrabee. "He's very on point from a mental and physical standpoint. I know Trey's really going to have to be on it to come in and seriously push him."

A healthy Garoppolo might be able to guide San Francisco back to the big game. However, Sullivan feels that would be a tall order for Lance.

"Finally, it's also worth pointing out that San Francisco lost defensive coordinator Robert Saleh this offseason," Sullivan adds, "and no longer has veteran corner Richard Sherman, who was playing at an All-Pro level during that Super Bowl run a few years ago."

The three other teams on Sullivan's list were the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, and Los Angeles Rams.

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