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Column

Sports in a pandemic

As I sit and watched the Cincinnati Reds game on Sunday in my man cave, I began thinking what is to come for die-hard sports fans.

We have had the luxury of watching the NBA playoffs in a bubble. And there have been some great games.

I’m not a huge hockey guy, but I know what the NHL playoffs are like.

The MLB will get through the season despite having what most people think is an incompetent commissioner. They haven’t done things right all of the time during this pandemic but it’s been good enough to get games in.

We will get to watch some NFL football soon, too. If things work out.

College football for some fans will kick off soon. The Iowa State Cyclones will get to play games but won’t have fans in the stands for the opener.

The Iowa Hawkeyes are not playing this fall ... yet.

There’s still a chance we get Big Ten football at some point. It won’t be until November it looks like. But the pandemic changes things daily. You just never know what will happen.

It will feel weird. The rankings won’t mean as much with two of the biggest conferences not playing. The Heisman will be trimmed down to just three leagues unless a small-school guy emerges.

The College Football Playoff will feature four teams from three leagues. That’s almost a guarantee.

As we begin the NFL season, my favorite team seems to be once again good enough to make a Super Bowl run.

The 49ers came out of nowhere so to speak last year, going 13-3 after picking second in the NFL draft the year before.

Jimmy Garoppolo is back at quarterback. George Kittle has been signed to a long-term deal and the defense welcomes back Nick Bosa, Fred Warner and Richard Sherman. Trent Williams joins the squad this year at left tackle, too.

There are other guys. But those are the team’s best players. Last year’s team made the Super Bowl without Jerick McKinnon catching passes out of the backfield and without Trent Taylor lining up in the slot.

The defense was without Dee Ford for a lot of the year and Kwon Alexander got hurt for a long stretch.

If the team is healthy, I think they can run it back with another chance to claim its sixth Super Bowl title.

The key player for the offense is going to be Williams. The Niners traded for the elite left tackle in the offseason after long-time Niner Joe Staley retired.

By all accounts, Williams is better at this point in their careers and he will make the offense even better.

The book on Williams is that he’s an elite blocker in the passing game so Jimmy G will appreciate that.

It’s safe to say that I’m looking forward to the NFL season. I am looking forward to seeing McKinnon in a Kyle Shanahan offense.

Watching Brandon Aiyuk as a rookie receiver will be fun because he does exactly what Shanahan likes. He’s really good after the catch.

I also think this team will run it a lot, hopefully with Raheem Mostert doing most of the work. He got started late last year but was so good in the playoffs.

And I can imagine we’ll see Shanahan break out three tight end sets with Kittle, Jordan Reed and rookie Charlie Woerner on the field at the same time.

That could be a matchup nightmare as most teams will play that lineup to run the ball but then Shanahan can counter with Reed in the slot running a wide receiver route.

And they have a fourth tight end and the best fullback in the league to really make things interesting.

This is all based on health though. And we know McKinnon, Taylor and Reed have been hurt a lot recently. Maybe I will get to see these guys on the field for most of the year.

I saw a prediction the other day that had the 49ers going 8-8. That’s just ridiculous to me. This roster is almost the same as the roster that went to the Super Bowl last year.

They lost one elite defensive lineman but drafted his replacement and replaced Emmanuel Sanders with Aiyuk. Throw in McKinnon, Taylor, Reed and Williams and the other offense is better.

The defense won’t be any worse in my opinion. I would put the three linebackers up against any other team in the league as a unit and the defensive line is still great even without DeForest Buckner.

It’s hard to go 13-3 every year but I don’t see them being anything worse than 10-6. That’s good enough to get into the playoffs most year and that’s all they have to do to have a shot another Lombardi.

It’s football season. And I’m ready for it.

Contact Troy Hyde at
thyde@shawmedia.com

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