The 49ers couldn't have started any stronger last season. They reeled off eight straight wins before a nail-biting, last-second overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 10.
Expecting another 8-0 start by San Francisco isn't exactly realistic. To compete for another NFC West title, however, the 49ers will need another strong start. Luckily for them, Jimmy Garoppolo has owned the 49ers' first opponent of the 2020 regular season.
Dating back to his time with the New England Patriots, Garoppolo is 3-0 against the Arizona Cardinals. He has thrown for 1,005 passing yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions while completing 74.78 percent of his pass attempts.
The Cardinals gave the 49ers a real scare in Week 9 last season, but Garoppolo played about as well as a QB can. As Kyler Murray showed the world how dangerous he can be, Garoppolo was too much for Arizona's defense to handle. Garoppolo finished the game completing 28 of his 37 pass attempts for 317 passing yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions to lead the 49ers to a 28-25 road win to preserve their perfect season.
He wasn't quite as dominant in the 49ers' Week 11 36-26 home win over the Cardinals, but Garoppolo did throw a career-high 424 passing yards to go along with four touchdowns, two interceptions and a 75.56 completion percentage.
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This certainly doesn't mean the 49ers are guaranteed to come out on top when they welcome the Cardinals to Levi's Stadium in Week 1 this season. The Cardinals are on the rise after Murray won Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Arizona gave him one of the best receivers in all of football by acquiring DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans.
The Cardinals also drafted perhaps the perfect George Kittle stopper by adding Clemson's do-it-all linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons with the No. 8 overall pick this year.
To keep it short and simple, the NFC is loaded with teams that became stronger through free agency and the draft. The Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints are offensive juggernauts. The Green Bay Packers had an odd draft strategy, but still have Aaron Rodgers. The Minnesota Vikings are strong, the Philadelphia Eagles find ways to win and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers added some guys named Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.
Then there's the Seattle Seahawks. When Russell Wilson is your starting quarterback, you always have a chance. The Seahawks' December schedule also is much easier on paper than the 49ers, meaning San Francisco needs a strong start even that much more.
Garoppolo has dealt with an offseason full of questions after crumbling late in Super Bowl LIV. Getting off the ground running with a win over the Cardinals is exactly what he needs to quiet his doubters and what the 49ers need to chase the No. 1 seed in the NFC yet again.
If history means anything, it certainly is on Jimmy G's side.