The 49ers lost so many key players in a devastating offseason personnel purges that nobody knows whether or not they can even be a .500 team in 2015, or if they own our pick vs. Vikings.
Minnesota will welcome back Peterson following a suspension that forced him to miss almost all of last season with the hope that he can be the final piece in a puzzle that turns them back in to playoff contenders in the NFC North. Their season begins in San Francisco where the betting line for that game has shifted significantly since it opened with the 49ers listed as a 3.5-point favorite.
How Has The Betting Line Moved?
Open: San Francisco -3.5
We’ve seen plenty of action on the Minnesota Vikings since this line opened as these two teams are viewed as moving in opposite directions. The 49ers continue to trend downwards while the Vikings look like a team that could surprise – especially with the growth of Teddy Bridgewater and the return of Adrian Peterson.
3 Key Storylines
49ers Personnel Losses: When Jim Harbaugh stepped down in San Francisco and took the head coaching job at Michigan the consensus was that there would be an adjustment period for the franchise. However, nobody could have predicted at the time what followed with the 49ers losing a ridiculous amount of talent including linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland, defensive linemen Justin Smith and Ray McDonald, cornerback Chris Culliver, running back Frank Gore and wide receiver Michael Crabtree and while they did their best to fill in some holes in the draft and free agency the reality is that no team can afford to lose that much talent in one offseason without taking a step back. New head coach Jim Tomsula knows the remaining players well and is the type of master motivator that can the most out of their potential but nobody is considering the 49ers a Super Bowl contender the way they did heading in to each of the last few NFL seasons.
Peterson Leads A Reloaded Offense: Last year at this time everybody was wondering what Peterson would have in store for a Minnesota team that appeared to have the potential to at least challenge for a Wild Card spot in the NFC. Fast-forward to 2015 and everybody wants to know how he will perform after missing nearly all of last season. Some experts think the time away from the game will hurt his overall instincts and abilities as a pure running back while others will argue the time off was a blessing in disguise so his body could recover and he could be fresher this year. The bottom line is that expectations are high and with Peterson joining second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the Vikings backfield everybody is looking forward to seeing what this offense can do this season.
Kaepernick Set To Shine: It wasn’t that long ago that ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski was claiming that San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick could become the greatest quarterback of all-time and while that might not ever become the case the reality is that a lot will be expected of him in his fifth NFL season. Kaepernick threw for a career-high 3,369 yards and 19 touchdowns along with a career-high 639 rushing yards with another score on the ground. The 49ers added veteran wide receiver Torrey Smith to replace Crabtree while both receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis will be back in the mix. San Francisco might not contend for a Super Bowl this season but if they are going to contend for a playoff spot they will need Kaepernick to take another step forward and shine in 2015.
Bet Early Or Bet Later…. And What’s The Play?
Peterson has the potential to be great again and Bridgewater should take another step forward, but Minnesota still has some major question marks on the defensive side of the football and it won’t be easy to go to San Francisco and win in Week 1 on the road. Kaepernick and the 49ers offense have the potential to improve and while the defense was ripped apart by personnel losses, they still have enough pieces to be pretty good. The 49ers opened as 3.5-point NFL odds favorites but that changed in a hurry and the line has gone all the way down to the pick’em. We probably would have liked the Vikings too when they were getting more than a field goal but with that betting line down to a pick’em we feel more comfortable taking Kaepernick and San Francisco at home.
NFL Pick: San Francisco PK (-110) at Bookmaker