For the first time since 1990, the San Francisco 49ers have a shot to go 6-0 with a win against the Washington Redskins this weekend. Nevertheless, the Redskins present a clear and present danger for the Niners, win or lose.
Heading into Week 7, the 49ers enjoy the second-best offense and top-five defensive unit, but the team simply cannot rest on their laurels in this East Coast showdown.
Coming out of Maryland with a win carries almost as many implications for San Francisco as losing to the Redskins.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will square off against his former employer for the second time in three years. This pending meeting is already evincing signs of the bad blood between Shanahan and the Redskins front office.
According to NBC Sports, Shanahan took a jab at his old bosses in a presser earlier this week.
"I’ve moved on with my life in many other ways and I think my family has also. I think it’s pretty easy not to make it personal. The guys it’d be personal with don’t play in the game."
With regard to his experience in San Francisco, Shanahan added:
"It’s one of the more fun groups and higher-character groups that I’ve been around."
It was no secret Shanahan had his eye on the then-Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins as an instrumental piece on which to launch his rebuild of the storied 49ers legacy. But when the Redskins front office put a second franchise tag on Cousins in 2017, the move stymied Shanahan’s strategy to sign him.
Thankfully, all of that is now in the past where it belongs. So let’s focus on what really matters today: What are the odds for either team in Week 7?
Again, the 49ers are having a stellar year, while the Redskins struggles are real. Currently, San Francisco is a 10-point favorite, courtesy of Action Network. I sought to find out, how do home underdogs and road favorites perform, historically?
The Redskins are 12-13 as home dogs since 2014, or 48 percent against the spread. They have just about a 50-50 shot at winning. Those old wounds tell me they will be taking this particular game very seriously. Don’t be surprised to see the Redskins operating at full speed.
On the flip side, the Niners are traveling to the East Coast, not necessarily an easy feat for teams traveling the opposite side of the country.
The good news for San Francisco, the 49ers are 9-4 as road favorites since 2013. Moreover, they have covered the spread higher than any other team in the league in that same span with an 8-4-1 record, or 66.7 percent of the time.
Essentially, the odds look good for the 49ers. However, I foresee possible danger lurking whether the Niners win or lose in Week 7.
First, the contrarian view: What’s the biggest risk of winning?
Letting off the gas. Being lulled into a false sense of entitlement or misplaced sentiment of grandeur.
To very loosely paraphrase what Shanahan said a couple of weeks ago, if the 49ers are to win in Week 7, all it proves is the team can go 6-10.
Finishing Week 7 at 6-0 would be incredible, but I agree with Shanahan: This is where the real work begins. Much more remains to be done, and this is where the going will get much tougher. More on that later.
What happens if the Niners lose?
A loss for a team that is favored by 10 points against a team in disarray would surely bring out the naysayers. They would have their ammo; their, “I told you so” moment. Despite what the 49ers have accomplished thus far, there are still several voices echoing disbelief in the team.
Remember those old wounds? A Redskins victory would be the salt in Shanahan’s wounds.
Ego aside, a Niners loss would have other implications.
More importantly, the 49ers would likely slip into second place in the NFC West behind divisional rival, the Seattle Seahawks, especially if the Seahawks defeat the Baltimore Ravens in Seattle this week.
This is vital because the 49ers schedule is about to hit a steep ramp. In fact, this might be the easiest game for the Niners until Week 15. This is what the 49ers have coming up:
- Week 8 vs. the top-nine rated Carolina Panthers.
- Week 9 vs. divisional rival Arizona Cardinals who play historically tough against the Niners.
- Week 10 vs. another tough divisional opponent, the Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium.
- Week 11 vs. the Cardinals again, this time at Levi’s Stadium.
- Week 12 vs. the Green Bay Packers at Levi’s Stadium.
- Week 13 vs. the Ravens in Baltimore where the 49ers seek their first win in that city since playing the Baltimore Colts in 1969. The Niners are 2-4 overall against Baltimore.
- Week 14 vs. the New Orleans Saints in the Mercedes Benz Superdome, with quarterback Drew Brees likely at the helm.
- Week 15 vs. Shanahan’s old squad, the Atlanta Falcons. The 49ers lead the series 47-31-1 overall, 28-11 at home, and seek to go 2-0 at Levi’s Stadium.
- Week 16 vs. the Los Angeles Rams with newly acquired cornerback Jalen Ramsey on what is likely to be the Rams’ revenge game at Levi’s Stadium.
- Week 17 vs. the Seahawks in Seattle where the 49ers are 7-15 on the road and where they recorded their last victory in 2011.
None of this is to suggest the 49ers can’t win some of those upcoming games. There’s only two or three one could safely argue might be a reach for the Niners. But it would be great to start the second half, the most grueling half, of the season at 6-0.
The action starts this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. Let’s do this, Niners fans!