49ers

49ers, Titans advancing to Super Bowl LIV would hurt Vegas sportsbooks

49ers, Titans advancing to Super Bowl LIV would hurt Vegas sportsbooks

If early reports are any indication, it seems that everyone and their mother thinks Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers will be spending a week in South Florida for Super Bowl LIV come early February.

San Francisco opened as significant favorites over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game, and NFL talking heads are already anointing the Niners the best team remaining in the playoffs.

While the oddsmakers in Vegas are giving the 49ers a pretty healthy advantage, that does not mean that those inside the sportsbooks around the country will be rooting for the Niners in Sunday’s contest.

“All along, Frisco has been no good (for the book) because it’s a West Coast team and we’ve got so many books up north and they were already good with (quarterback) Jimmy (Garoppolo),” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Back East, we’re really good with the 49ers. The Chiefs and the Packers are both good.”

In addition to San Francisco, the AFC's sixth-seeded Tennessee Titans -- architects of back-to-back shocking playoff upsets over the New England Patriots and top-seeded Baltimore Ravens -- would spell bad news for the oddsmakers if they were to wind up taking down the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC title game and advancing to Super Bowl LIV.

“Any time a team like Tennessee comes out of the blue, there’s always a chance you can get hurt,” Bogdanovich said. “Back East, we get bludgeoned by the Titans. Anyone but the Titans is what we’re rooting for.”

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So a 49ers-Titans Super Bowl matchup would mean big trouble for those who set the odds in Sin City. But if you’re a 49ers fan, a strong run defense going up against Derrick Henry and the Titans sounds a lot more appealing than having to outduel reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and the high-powered Chiefs offense.

Start getting those bets in now, 49ers fans.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday)

Also tune in at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 5:30 p.m.

NFL Draft 2020: Baylor's Denzel Mims believes his skills match with 49ers

NFL Draft 2020: Baylor's Denzel Mims believes his skills match with 49ers

INDIANAPOLIS -- General manager John Lynch believes the 49ers have built a culture that is attractive to veteran players who have their choice where to play.

Under coach Kyle Shanahan, they also have built an offense that makes young skill players want to play for the 49ers, too.

There is no shortage of talented wide receivers in the 2020 draft class, and the 49ers figure to take advantage of the abundance of talent at some point. There are receivers to fit every profile. The 49ers could certainly use a player who is big, fast and a threat in the red zone. Oh, yeah, he also has to be a willing blocker.

Baylor receiver Denzel Mims fits the profile of a player whom the 49ers covet for their offense. And Mims believes he would be a perfect match for the 49ers’ offense, too.

"I love it. I feel like I fit in good with that type of offense,” Mims said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “They want to block. I'm going to go block. If they want me to catch the ball. I'm going to go catch some balls. Whatever they want me to do, I'm going to go do it."

Mims has the size at 6-foot-2 7/8 and 207 pounds. He ran a blazing 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Shanahan values fluidity and change of direction, and Mims has that, too. His time of 6.66 seconds in the three-cone drill was nearly 3/10th of a second faster than anyone else at the combine.

He also produced on the field. In his final three seasons at Baylor, Mims averaged 60 receptions for 967 yards and nearly 10 touchdowns.

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Shanahan always has considered the team’s wide receivers a big part of the running game with an importance placed on their willingness and ability to block. Mims checks that box, too.

"I had seen that it would separate my game from a lot of receivers in this league, and, so, I took pride in it,” Mims said. “And I knew that if I were elite at that, then I'd be an elite receiver.

"I take blocking very serious. I feel like you have to run the ball in this game. You can't just pass every single down. And, so, if I open up the blocking game, it will open up the passing game. And, so, if I block for my teammates, then they'll block for me and the quarterback so I can get the ball.”

Mims does not shy away from contact. He said his favorite route is the slant, which he works the middle of the field and has the ability to make a defender miss for a big gain.

Kyle Shanahan explains why Dante Pettis was not 49ers' punt returner

Kyle Shanahan explains why Dante Pettis was not 49ers' punt returner

INDIANAPOLIS -- No punt returner in the history of college football was as dynamic as Dante Pettis.

But in two seasons since the 49ers traded up to take him in the second round of the 2018 draft, Pettis has gotten only 11 opportunities to return punts.

All of Pettis’ chances came during his rookie season. While his play time at wide receiver dwindled to non-existent over the second half of the recently completed season, he was not even able to make a contribution special teams.

Why? Coach Kyle Shanahan said it was as simple as this: Richie James was better.

“We didn’t think he was our best guy,” Shanahan said of Pettis at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Pettis set the NCAA record with nine punt returns for touchdowns. After Pettis visited the 49ers, the club selected him with the No. 44 overall draft pick. As a rookie, he fumbled twice while averaging just 3.0 yards on nine returns. He also sustained a knee injury on an early season return against the Los Angeles Chargers.

In 2019, James was reliable. He was fifth in the NFL in return yards and did not have a fumble on 33 punt returns while averaging a respectable 8.0 yards per return.

Shanahan said he wants Pettis to put up a battle to compete with James for the job in 2020. He said he has expressed that expectation to Pettis, too.

“He knows that,” Shanahan said. “I think he’s got a chance to be (the punt returner). But we felt more comfortable with Richie. And I hope Dante tries to take that job from him.

“It’s his decision. He’s got to show it. I guess, it comes down to my decision, but he should make it for me.”

Pettis averaged 17.3 yards on 27 receptions and caught five touchdown passes as a rookie. But his production dropped off in his second season, as he caught just 11 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. He will be fighting for a spot on the 2020 team.

Shanahan said he wants Pettis to be on a mission during his second offseason to come back as a stronger, better and more-focused player. He said Pettis took a “documented” step back in his second season.

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Shanahan said second-year players who struggle after promising rookie seasons can go either way.

“They keep being like that, and they usually filter out,” Shanahan said, “or it’s a wakeup call for them and they come back and you see It in April. They treated January to April so much different than the year before, and then it usually changes their career.”