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NFL Power Rankings, way-too-early edition: Can 49ers, Kyle Shanahan rebound from that Super Bowl?

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Only three teams have overcome a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to win a Super Bowl. Which means only three teams have blown a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl.

One was Super Bowl XLIX, when the Patriots beat the Seahawks on Malcolm Butler’s interception. The other two heavily involved Kyle Shanahan: Super Bowl LI and the Atlanta Falcons’ infamous 28-3 blown lead, and then last Sunday in Super Bowl LIV.

The 2019 San Francisco 49ers’ legacy will be as a very good team that had a Super Bowl championship slip away. Multiply that for Shanahan, who was the offensive coordinator for that Falcons team that lost Super Bowl LI and will have to answer questions about it for the rest of his life. Shanahan will live with being on the losing end of two Super Bowl collapses until he wins a championship. If he ever does.

At some point the 49ers and Shanahan have to put Super Bowl LIV behind them and move on to the 2020 season. It won’t be easy.

The 49ers are talented and seemingly set up for a nice, long run, but so were the 2018 Los Angeles Rams. The Rams missed the playoffs last season, and who saw that coming? The NFL moves fast.

Super Bowl hangovers are real. Of the first 53 Super Bowl losing teams, 16 didn’t even make the playoffs the following season. From the 1999 Falcons through the 2008 Patriots, eight of 10 Super Bowl losers missed the following year’s playoffs. Seven of those teams posted a losing record. Only the 1971 Cowboys, 1972 Dolphins and 2018 Patriots lost a Super Bowl, then won it the next season. The 49ers went 13-3, got the No. 1 seed in the NFC, rolled through both NFC playoff opponents and answered every question about their legitimacy. On paper, you can’t come up with a good reason the 49ers will fall off. Yet, we see it regularly.

The 49ers are still the early favorite to win the NFC at BetMGM. The Baltimore Ravens were No. 2 in Super Bowl future odds behind the Kansas City Chiefs, though by Tuesday the 49ers were tied with the Ravens in those odds. There’s still plenty of reasons to believe in the 49ers. But it won’t be easy to rebound from one of the most devastating Super Bowl losses of all time.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan walks off the field after Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan walks off the field after Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Sadly, we’re seven months from the beginning of the next NFL season. There will be some earth-shaking moves between now and then. We don’t even know where Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback in NFL history, will be playing in 2020. But it’s never too early to take a look at the NFL Power Rankings as we enter the long offseason (with each team’s 2019 regular-season record and current Super Bowl LV odds at BetMGM):

32. Washington Redskins (3-13, Super Bowl LV odds: 100-to-1)

An elite pass rusher can transform a defense. It would be prudent for Washington to answer the phone when teams call about the No. 2 overall pick. But unless a team is making an offer they simply can’t pass up, they need to draft Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young and be happy with him the next decade.

31. Cincinnati Bengals (2-14, Super Bowl LV odds: 100-to-1)

There are a lot of reasons to wonder if Justin Herbert, not Joe Burrow, will be the No. 1 pick. Burrow is coming off arguably the greatest single season for a quarterback in college football history, and did it in the SEC. Will the Bengals get enamored with Herbert’s physical tools and pass on the Ohio-raised Burrow?

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10, Super Bowl LV odds: 60-to-1)

The situation in Jacksonville is messy. They’re practically stuck with Nick Foles and his big contract, perhaps as a backup to Gardner Minshew II. For some reason they retained Doug Marrone as head coach. For a team coming off two straight double-digit loss seasons, they are in a shockingly bad salary-cap situation. Fortunes come and go fast in the NFL (the Jaguars, on the doorstep of a Super Bowl at the end of the 2017 season, know that too well) so it’s not hopeless, but Jacksonville needs to figure out a plan.

29. Miami Dolphins (5-11, Super Bowl LV odds: 100-to-1)

Prepare for almost three months of Tua Tagovailoa-to-Miami talk. It seems like a fit. But we need to see Tagovailoa recover from his hip injury before we get a good handle on his draft stock. Miami, with a bunch of extra draft picks and a load of salary-cap space, faces a critical offseason.

28. Carolina Panthers (5-11, Super Bowl LV odds: 60-to-1)

The Cam Newton question will be a big one. Moving on from a former MVP who will be just 31 years old on opening day next season is impossible unless there’s a strong backup plan in place. And it’s hard to figure out a better option for the Panthers than Newton, even if he’s not quite the same dominant dual threat anymore.

27. Detroit Lions (3-12-1, Super Bowl LV odds: 60-to-1)

The Lions are in a great spot at No. 3 in the draft. Assuming Chase Young goes second overall — which he should, the Redskins should not overthink that — then two of Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert will be available. The Lions can move down, collect a boatload of picks, and still get a difference maker in the first round.

26. New York Giants (4-12, Super Bowl LV odds: 80-to-1)

The Joe Judge hire was the biggest risk of the coaching carousel. It was curious that the Giants, who had back-to-back failures hiring Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur, wouldn’t make a safer hire. Judge could be a fantastic head coach, but we just don’t know.

25. New York Jets (7-9, Super Bowl LV odds: 60-to-1)

It’s just hard to get too excited about the Jets with Adam Gase in charge. He has shown practically nothing as a head coach, and the breakouts of Ryan Tannehill, Kenyan Drake and DeVante Parker once they were free of Gase should be another red flag. But we’ll see. If Gase is as good as the Jets think, Sam Darnold should have a big 2020.

24. Cleveland Browns (6-10, Super Bowl LV odds: 30-to-1)

It’s hard to know what to make of the Browns. A year ago, they seemed like a team on the rise. Then Freddie Kitchens had a bad year, Baker Mayfield struggled badly, and the outlook is a lot different now. Maybe new coach Kevin Stefanski can turn it all around, but now this is a total unknown.

23. Arizona Cardinals (5-10-1, Super Bowl LV odds: 80-to-1)

In 2018, Patrick Mahomes won an MVP in his second season. In 2019, Lamar Jackson won an MVP in his second season. It’s unlikely that NFL offensive rookie of the year Kyler Murray (who probably shouldn’t have won that award, but voters love quarterbacks) will make that kind of leap and be the 2020 MVP. But he certainly showed enough as a rookie to feel pretty good about his future.

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray won NFL offensive rookie of the year. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray won NFL offensive rookie of the year. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9, Super Bowl LV odds: 60-to-1)

There’s been no news about Jameis Winston and his future with the Buccaneers. Maybe that’s a sign that the Buccaneers plan to move on. It’s still hard to give up on a 26-year-old former No. 1 overall pick who threw for 5,000 yards, even with those terrible interceptions. It’s especially hard when your best option is what, squeezing another season out of Philip Rivers before he retires? This is not an easy problem to solve.

21. Los Angeles Chargers (5-11, Super Bowl LV odds: 30-to-1)

It’s hard to say much about the Chargers without knowing who their quarterback will be. Are they really moving on from Philip Rivers? If so, who is their starter in 2020? If they make the right decision, there’s certainly enough blue-chip talent on the roster to rebound in a big way next season.

20. Las Vegas Raiders (7-9, Super Bowl LV odds: 30-to-1)

It’s going to be weird seeing “Las Vegas Raiders” for a while. I’m not ruling out the Raiders making a step in 2020. They got a lot out of their rookie class and have the cap space to add some key pieces. But, like a few other teams, it’s tough to say before their 2020 quarterback plans are revealed.

19. Atlanta Falcons (7-9, Super Bowl LV odds: 30-to-1)

For the second straight year, the Falcons are a really weird evaluation. They were awful early in the season. They were a lot better than anyone realized in the second half, saving Dan Quinn’s job. Does any of that late momentum carry over? It didn’t from 2018 to 2019, so who knows.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8, Super Bowl LV odds: 20-to-1)

I continue to be surprised that most people seem to believe without hesitation that Ben Roethlisberger will return and not lose anything. That’s certainly possible, and I think it’s reflected in those relatively low Super Bowl odds. It’s also possible that a 38-year-old quarterback coming off major elbow surgery will never be the same. I’m not sure why the latter possibility isn’t getting more attention.

17. Chicago Bears (8-8, Super Bowl LV odds: 30-to-1)

We already know where this is going: It’s all about Mitchell Trubisky, or how the Bears want to play the quarterback position in 2020. You’ll hear a lot of Marcus Mariota talk but spoiler alert: Mariota would just be the next guy Bears fans complain about.

16. Indianapolis Colts (7-9, Super Bowl LV odds: 30-to-1)

You can tell yourself an optimistic story with Jacoby Brissett. He had no offseason to prepare as a starter. He still played quite well before a knee injury. His post-injury numbers plummeted. If you wanted to believe Brissett could be a solid quarterback with an offseason as the starter and hopefully better health, it’s not crazy. But it seems everyone has given up on that possibility already.

15. Denver Broncos (7-9, Super Bowl LV odds: 60-to-1)

Of all the Super Bowl longshots, the Broncos might have the best value. They lost a lot of close, heartbreaking games over last season. They looked energized when Drew Lock took over at quarterback. There’s a good core of young offensive players and Vic Fangio can coach defense. Lock is still an unknown, but if he improves upon what he did late in 2019 then the Broncos are going to be a surprise.

14. Minnesota Vikings (10-6, Super Bowl LV odds: 20-to-1)

The Vikings coming up short in 2019 was rough because now they enter salary cap hell for 2020. Spotrac has the Vikings projected to be $12.3 million over the cap. It’s the worst salary-cap situation in the league heading into the offseason, by far. Difficult decisions are going to have to be made. This was a team that loaded up for a run in 2018 and 2019, and it didn’t happen.

13. Houston Texans (10-6, Super Bowl LV odds: 30-to-1)

Any team with Deshaun Watson has a shot to be special. I think he’ll win an MVP in the next few years, and maybe even in 2020. But the support for Bill O’Brien, and even increasing his power within the organization after a bad playoff collapse, shouldn’t make anyone feel great about Houston’s future.

12. Tennessee Titans (9-7, Super Bowl LV odds: 30-to-1)

The Titans are likely going to spend a lot of money to find out if Ryan Tannehill’s fantastic 2019 season was legit, or if he was a one-year wonder. The tougher call is what to do about Derrick Henry, considering expensive long-term contracts for running backs rarely pay off. With the right moves this offseason the Titans could be a very interesting team in 2020, if Tannehill can repeat his 2019.

11. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7, Super Bowl LV odds: 20-to-1)

The Eagles have as much pure talent as anyone. There are some holes and injuries have affected them, but this is a talented team. So why have they underachieved for two straight seasons? Did we overrate coach Doug Pederson after his fantastic 2017 season?

10. Los Angeles Rams (9-7, Super Bowl LV odds: 20-to-1)

The Rams are clearly better than their 2019 results. But it’s also fair to wonder if the championship window is closed, now that Jared Goff is taking up way too much of the salary cap for what he produces. And pretty soon they’re going to feel the effect of trading so many draft picks for immediate help.

9. Dallas Cowboys (8-8, Super Bowl LV odds: 12-to-1)

If there’s a non-playoff team that could take a big leap in 2020, it’s probably either the Rams or Cowboys. That assumes Dallas gets Dak Prescott under contract and he’s not holding out with the franchise tag. They also face an interesting decision on Amari Cooper (I wouldn’t pay what he’ll command). If the Cowboys make a few right moves in the offseason, they could be a Super Bowl contender. The talent is there.

8. Buffalo Bills (10-6, Super Bowl LV odds: 30-to-1)

The Bills would be a very popular offseason team had they not collapsed in the wild-card round against the Texans. But there are a lot of reasons to like what Buffalo is building, starting with the defense. Josh Allen has his flaws, but he made a lot of improvement in 2019. The Patriots still loom in the AFC East, but a major story for 2020 will be if the Bills can finally break New England’s dominance in the division. Buffalo is set up to challenge the Patriots better that than just about any other AFC East team over the past decade or so.

7. Seattle Seahawks (11-5, Super Bowl LV odds: 15-to-1)

Seattle often beats the advanced metrics. They’re a team that does things unconventionally and still has success. Russell Wilson is a big reason. But it’s really hard to imagine there won’t be some pullback in 2020, after the Seahawks 10-2 in regular-season games decided by seven points or less. That has to regress.

6. Green Bay Packers (13-3, Super Bowl LV odds: 20-to-1)

The rather long odds on the Packers indicates that Las Vegas also wasn’t buying the Packers’ 13-3 record. This was a good team that caught a lot of green lights to make it to 13 wins. But there’s a good foundation here, with one glaring need: Green Bay needs targets for Aaron Rodgers. A heavy majority of their offseason resources need to go into finding receivers and tight ends to give Rodgers an option other than Davante Adams.

5. New England Patriots (12-4, Super Bowl LV odds: 12-to-1)

It still makes the most sense for all parties involved for the Patriots to bring back Tom Brady. But that’s far from a certainty. The most fascinating question of the offseason is, who is the Patriots’ quarterback on opening day if it’s not Brady?

4. New Orleans Saints (13-3, Super Bowl LV odds: 10-to-1)

The Saints have been fantastic for three seasons and didn’t make a Super Bowl. Drew Brees’ future is the big question, but assuming he’s back, there’s no reason to believe the Saints can’t be a contender again. But at some point, Brees won’t be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL anymore.

3. San Francisco 49ers (13-3, Super Bowl LV odds: 8-to-1)

You can already see a significant overreaction to Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers at one point Sunday had a 95.4 percent chance to win a Super Bowl, according to ESPN’s win probability model. Garoppolo didn’t come through in the fourth quarter, but it doesn’t mean the 49ers can’t win with him. Clearly they can win a Super Bowl with Garoppolo; they were practically one play away from that. Garoppolo is the same quarterback he has always been: Good enough to win big with a great team around him, and that’s what the 49ers had last season.

2. Baltimore Ravens (14-2, Super Bowl LV odds: 8-to-1)

It’s laughable when anyone says the league will figure out Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense. There’s no magic here. It’s a good, sound offense with a ridiculously talented dual-threat quarterback. The Ravens are here to stay and while they’re not swimming in salary-cap space, they have enough ($26.6 million currently, according to Spotrac) to make some moves and improve in the short term.

1. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4, Super Bowl LV odds: 4.5-to-1)

It’s hard to repeat. The Chiefs are about to spend the offseason hearing about how a generation of fans had had their hearts broken until the 2019 team broke the drought. The 2018 Eagles can speak to how difficult it can be to refocus after that. But the Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes, and maybe that makes them hangover-proof.

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