Don’t look now but the 49ers have some early-season momentum. They’re coming off a Week 1 victory in Tampa Bay, 31-17, that included a pair of pick-sixes and just 10 points allowed by the new-look defense.
It was their first victory in the Eastern time zone since 2014 (you read that correctly) and their first road win since the 2017 season finale in which the Rams sat most of their starters. The 49ers went 0-8 on the road last season.
Let’s swing through this week’s installment of our fantasy and betting advice for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals after the team spent the week in Youngstown, Ohio, rather than return to the Bay Area.
49ers defense: The tide could be turning for San Francisco. Sunday’s game was the first time it truly felt like the defense carried the water since Kyle Shanahan became head coach. Adding Nick Bosa and Dee Ford in the offseason paid immediate dividends while forcing Jameis Winston into three interceptions and a 45.4 passer rating, the worst among all quarterbacks in Week 1. The 49ers defense, thanks to their two defensive touchdowns, led all fantasy defenses in standard scoring. Should Bosa play after missing practice time with an ankle injury, it could be a tough day for Andy Dalton and the Bengals’ patchwork offensive line.
TE George Kittle: It doesn’t take PhD in Fantasy Theory to know starting one of best tight ends in football is a good idea. But Kittle could be particularly useful early in the season for the 49ers while dealing with injuries and inconsistencies elsewhere. Consider: Kittle in Week 1 had 10 targets while Jimmy Garoppolo’s didn’t target anyone else more than three times. Plus Kittle had two touchdowns negated by questionable penalties, even as the Buccaneers knew he would be a focal point of the offense. Start Kittle unless the apocalypse comes. And maybe even then.
RB Matt Breida: Seahawks running back Chris Carson had receiving and rushing touchdowns in the opener against the Bengals while logging 80 yards from scrimmage. Breida will be San Francisco’s primary running back while Tevin Coleman is expected to miss multiple games because of an ankle sprain. Breida wasn’t particularly effective in Tampa Bay (37 yards on 15 carries, no touchdowns), but he’s still worth playing in deeper leagues because he should get a slew of touches on the ground and through the air.
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: It’s clear the 49ers signal-caller has a ways to go to get comfortable in regular season action following his ACL tear. He decision-making wasn’t great Sunday, with his pick-six as the obvious example, and Shanahan didn’t seem to trust him to push the ball downfield. When he did, he was inaccurate, missing on passes to opener targets that could have dramatically changed the game. Until Garoppolo looks comfortable and throws accurately, it’s hard to start him while his receiving corps is still trying to figure things out. Speaking of ...
49ers receivers: Rookie Deebo Samuel had just three catches for 17 yards in his debut, and had a costly fumbled just before halftime that cost San Francisco a chance at a field goal. Marquise Goodwin, Kendrick Bourne, Richie James Jr. and Dante Pettis all had just one catch. Until someone solidifies himself, it’s hard to feel confident about any of these players from a fantasy perspective, particularly against a defense that allowed just 232 yards Week 1.
Game prediction against the spread
Our deepest apologies for writing in this space last week to take the Buccaneers. Our view of that game was colored by the 49ers’ recent ineptitude on the road and in the Eastern time zone. If you thought beforehand the 49ers would have two pick-sixes and three interceptions after having just two INTs all of last season, then there’s a beautiful ocean front chateau in eastern Wyoming with your name on it.
San Francisco is entering Sunday as 1.5-point underdogs, which dropped from 2 Thursday after John Lynch indicated Bosa was on track to play, and with even odds on the money line.
We’re not going to make the same mistake twice. The 49ers defense should continue to play well in Cincinnati, particularly if Bosa suits up, because it’s familiar with the scheme from new coach Zac Taylor, who used to coach quarterbacks with the Rams. The scheme mirrors Shanahan’s.
Additionally, Andy Dalton is still the Bengals quarterback. Yes, he had a personal-best 418 yards last week in Seattle, but did so against a defense in transition (and Cincy only managed 20 points). We’ll take the 49ers, 24-20.
Record this year: 0-1.