LAS VEGAS — Two years ago on Halloween, the Patriots traded Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco. It’s evident there are too few true franchise quarterbacks in the NFL, but New England actually had three on its roster at the beginning of the 2017 season.
Garoppolo was acquired to be the future of a franchise spinning its wheels in a cycle of losing. He was out of Tom Brady’s shadow and under the guidance of coach Kyle Shanahan, an offensive whiz kid. It seemed the 49ers had struck gold.
Two years later, San Francisco finally is putting a serious scare into the rest of the NFC. The 49ers are rolling at 7-0, but it’s a dominant defense, not Garoppolo, leading their resurgence.
“I think the biggest surprise has got to be the 49ers,” Westgate SuperBook director John Murray said. “I don’t know how it could be any other team.”
The NFL regular-season wins market is heavily played all spring and summer, so the numbers should be sharp by September. At the midpoint of the season, it’s obvious most bettors and oddsmakers underrated the 49ers, who were tagged with a win total of eight at the Westgate and 8 1/2 at William Hill.
“I was high on the Niners,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said. “I did expect good things because I like the coach, GM and quarterback. I did not think their defense would be this good, so I guess that’s the surprise.”
San Francisco has defeated only two teams with winning records — the Rams and Panthers — yet its 51-13 victory over Carolina on Sunday had to convince any remaining skeptics. And there were plenty of skeptics, because sharp money poured in on Panthers as 4 1/2 -point underdogs.
The 49ers rushed for 232 yards while their defense totaled three interceptions and seven sacks.
Garoppolo had a solid day, completing 18 of 22 passes for 175 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. His numbers this season are modest — nine TD passes, seven interceptions and the league’s No. 18 passer rating (93.5).
A knee injury sidelined Garoppolo three games into the 2018 season. The 49ers finished 4-12 and were 10-22 in Shanahan’s first two years. Finally, the puzzle pieces are all in place, and the defense built by general manager John Lynch ranks No. 2 in scoring behind the Patriots.
New England and San Francisco are the NFL’s only undefeated teams through eight weeks, and only half of that statement is a surprise heading into November.
The 49ers’ odds to win the Super Bowl have dropped from 30/1 in the preseason to 6/1 today at William Hill.
The week prior to the 2017 season opener, the Patriots traded Jacoby Brissett to Indianapolis. Two years later, Brissett has 14 touchdown passes for a 5-2 team. The Colts’ win total was lowered from 10 to 7 1/2 after Andrew Luck’s stunning retirement in late August.
“You didn’t really know how big the drop-off was from Luck to Brissett,” Bogdanovich said, “but Brissett is more than serviceable and the Colts look like a playoff team.”
While the 49ers and Colts are the biggest overachievers, Jon Gruden also has earned high grades on the midseason report card.
“The Raiders are a team we are surprised by. They are much better than we thought,” Murray said. “Gruden has done a great job with such a brutal schedule.”
After the Antonio Brown fiasco in training camp, the Raiders appeared to be a lost cause. But Gruden just successfully navigated a five-game road trip — a nominal home game versus the Bears was played in London — and Oakland is halfway to its season win total of six with a three-game homestand coming up.
The prop on Green Bay to make the playoffs was a pick ’em, yet the Packers are 7-1 and primed to top their win total of nine. Aaron Rodgers has found his groove in a new offense and is tied for second in the league with 16 touchdown passes.
In early September, the Westgate listed Rodgers as the third choice to win MVP at 12/1 odds. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson each were at 20/1, and the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson was a 50/1 shot. One of those four is likely to win the award unless the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, the 4/1 preseason favorite, returns from injury and finishes with a flourish.
Without a doubt, there has been no bigger flop than the Browns, the public’s hottest bet of the summer. Cleveland had a win total of nine but is 2-5 with a clueless coach, Freddie Kitchens, and a trash-talking quarterback, Baker Mayfield, who has twice as many interceptions (12) as touchdown passes (six).
“I thought the Browns were overvalued coming into the season, but I didn’t expect them to be 2-5,” Murray said. “I bet the Browns under their win total. I didn’t think it would be this bad.”
The Bears, 3-4 and headed under their win total of nine, are bad news, too. The Falcons are 1-7 and dramatically underachieving according to their win total of 8 1/2 .