Alex Didion

49ers' Kyle Shanahan best coach left in NFL playoffs, Nick Wright says

49ers' Kyle Shanahan best coach left in NFL playoffs, Nick Wright says

In order to become the No. 1 seed in the NFL, a team can’t have more than one or two weaknesses along its roster.

The 49ers didn’t show many during their impressive run to finishing the season atop the NFC, steamrolling to a 13-3 record, with all three losses coming down to one or two critical plays.

You’d especially be hard-pressed to find a single weakness that showed itself during San Francisco’s commanding 27-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round, as the 49ers’ defense took absolute control and the offense ran the ball down Minnesota’s throat.

Outside of Jimmy Garoppolo not being among the elite tier of NFL quarterbacks, the team doesn’t have a clear-cut weakness, as far as Fox Sports One’s Nick Wright is concerned.

[RELATED: Rodgers' greatest revenge was making 49ers' toil in QB hell]

While Wright isn’t the biggest fan of Jimmy G, he had high praise for Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan, saying the 49ers "might have the best coach" of the four teams remaining in the NFL playoffs.

The sportsbooks around the country seem to agree with Wright, as they’ve made San Francisco heavy favorites for Sunday’s NFC title game at Levi’s Stadium against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

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.

MLB execs view A's Sean Murphy, Nick Allen as top defensive prospects

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USATSI

MLB execs view A's Sean Murphy, Nick Allen as top defensive prospects

In a league where the home run has become the most efficient form of scoring runs, defensive play in baseball has lost some of its luster.

While web gems always make for a nice addition to the summertime highlight reels, elite defensive players continue to be valued lower than those who present a stronger offensive presence.

The A’s, however, feature some of the best defense MLB has to offer. In addition to finishing tied for third as a team in fielding percentage (.987), first baseman Matt Olson and third baseman Matt Chapman won Gold Glove awards, Chapman's second-consecutive time receiving the honor.

Looking to the minor leagues, MLB.com’s Mike Rosenbaum put together a list of the top fielding prospects from each position, primarily based on an executive poll from all 30 MLB teams. Oakland was well-represented, with two of its younger players being named in catcher Sean Murphy and shortstop Nick Allen.

Murphy, the A’s No. 3 prospect (MLB.com), made the list despite playing just 53 games this past season. Rosenbaum noted that Murphy registered two of the hardest-thrown balls on base-stealing attempts, including one at 87.4-mph that would have ranked fourth-best in MLB.

Allen, meanwhile, was noted by Rosenbaum to have been “perhaps the best defensive player in the 2017 Draft.” Allen is listed as Oakland's No. 6 prospect by MLB.com.

“Yeah, I call him the magic man,” Stockton Ports manager Webster Garrison said about Allen (h/t The Athletic). “I mean, it’s fun to watch him play. Good hands, strong arm, lots of range out there and he positions himself.”

[RELATED: A's acquire speedy veteran Kemp in trade with the Cubs]

Not only are the A’s already a great defensive team, but there are more elite gloves coming up through Oakland’s farm system.

The future is looking bright for manager Bob Melvin and Co.

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.”

[RELATED: Shanahan happy Browns didn't hire Saleh as their head coach]

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.