Niner Noise looks around the league to see what experts say about the San Francisco 49ers in Week 4 NFL power rankings after Jimmy Garoppolo’s season-ending ACL injury.
There’s no other easy way to say it, but the San Francisco 49ers‘ prospects for a 2018 playoff push all but evaporated the moment quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was diagnosed with a season-ending ACL injury following the team’s 38-27 Week 3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Niners, now 1-2 on the young season, are forced to turn to second-year quarterback C.J. Beathard, who ranked next to last in qualifying passer rating his rookie season a year ago (69.2).
OK, so Beathard might wind up being better than what he displayed last season. He’s got a full year’s development under his belt, and San Francisco’s offensive weapons are a bit more upgraded in 2018 than a year ago at this time.
That said, the 49ers defense hasn’t looked good. And the overall level of expectation surrounding head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad has taken a serious hit in the wake of arguably the worst news Niners fans could have experienced this season.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise most analysts dropped San Francisco down pretty far in their NFL power rankings heading into Week 4.
Let’s take a look at what they’re saying.
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com — 31st (-11)
"The news couldn’t have been any worse for the 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo’s knee injury, as well as the 1-2 start, probably makes it a wrap for the Niners’ season. The defense has already endured its struggles through three weeks, letting the Lions move right down the field two Sundays ago, then failing to silence the Patrick Mahomes Experience in Kansas City. Now the reins will be handed back over to C.J. Beathard, who went 1-4 with a 68.7 passer rating in his five starts last season. He’s a young player, so you never know how much upside is lurking under those pads. Next up: at Chargers. Oh, boy."
ESPN Power Panel — 26th (-8)
"The 49ers are 6-2 when Jimmy Garoppolo starts in the past two seasons, averaging 27.1 PPG. They are 1-10 with 17.0 PPG when anyone else starts at QB."
The MMQB Staff, Sports Illustrated — 28th (-10)
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports — 29th (-7)
"Their season is over with the loss of Jimmy Garoppolo. They have to look ahead to building for 2019."
Nate Davis, USA Today Sports — 31st (-6)
"Gold rushers now on pace to extract zero silver linings from this season in wake of Jimmy Garoppolo’s devastating knee injury."
Matt Verderame, FanSided — 26th (-13)
"Jimmy Garoppolo being lost for the year is a crushing blow."
Yeah, pretty much.
Garoppolo’s injury essentially destroys the Niners’ hopes for a productive season. There are some silver linings, however. If the 49ers’ long-term plan is to eventually trade off Beathard to a quarterback-needy team in coming years, the chance to increase his stock value between now and that point suddenly takes center stage.
On top of that, San Francisco is still full of holes on both sides of the ball, made apparent by how both the offense and defense has played over the first three weeks.
There’s a lot that could happen between now and the end of Week 17, sure. But the easy money is on the Niners getting what promises to be a much better NFL Draft pick in 2019, which should help bring in better much-needed talent.
In the meantime, 49ers fans are going to spend the rest of 2018 doing what they’ve done for the past few years — pinning hopes on a better next season.