Related Week 5 Results:Leganes 0-0 GironaBarcelona 6-1 EibarValencia 5-0 MalagaAthletic Bilbao 1-2 Atletico MadridReal Madrid 0-1 Real BetisSevilla 1-0 Las Palmas La Liga champions Real Madrid continued their indifferent start to the season following a shock 1-0 loss to less fancied Real Betis in a Matchday 5 clash at the Santiago Bernebeu.Zinedine Zidane’s men went into the game on the back of two successive draws (against Valencia and Levante) but were boosted by the return of star forward Cristiano Ronaldo but that didn’t help their finishing prowess in front of goal as they (Ronaldo inclusive) squandered the chances created against the well organised Real Betis team.The Los Merengues eventually paid for their lacklustre display as Antonio Sanabria scored for Quique Setien’s side in added time to hand his side the maximum points at stake.With the loss, Real Madrid lost further grounds to arch rivals Barcelona in the race for the La Liga title with seven points now separating them from the leaders. The European champions also failed to score for the first time in 74 games since the goalless draw with Manchester City during the 2015/16 season.
The 49ers have made a terrific turnaround this season, but I don’t expect them to advance far in this year’s NFL playoffs. I see San Francisco falling short of Seattle in the NFC West, earning the fifth seed and beating the NFC East champ before getting knocked out by New Orleans or Seattle.I realize from personal experience that, while unlikely, it is possible for a 4-12 team — which the 49ers were last season — to experience a fantastic turnaround, have a great playoff run and win the Super Bowl. That was precisely what occurred in 1999, when I painfully watched the Rams beat my Titans in Super Bowl 34 after my first season as Tennessee’s president. I salute the efforts and leadership of Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan for what they’ve accomplished in elevating the franchise in this third year on their watch. Perhaps they’ll surprise me and reach the promised land by delivering the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship since 1994 and sixth overall to tie the Patriots and Steelers.I just don’t see a repeat — or close to it — of the 1999 Rams 20 years later with these 49ers.Jeff Diamond is a former president of the Titans and former vice president/general manager of the Vikings. He was selected NFL Executive of the Year in 1998. Diamond is currently a business and sports consultant who also does broadcast and online media work. He makes speaking appearances to corporate/civic groups and college classes on negotiation and sports business/sports management. He is the former chairman and CEO of The Ingram Group. Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffdiamondNFL. The 49ers’ defense is having a terrific season, and the unit is capable of leading a playoff run. I’ll cut them some slack for allowing Ravens QB Lamar Jackson to rush for 101 yards last week since he has done that all year. It’s a San Francisco defense led by a trio of first-round picks on the defensive line — Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa and DeForest Buckner — along with a fine trade acquisition by general manager John Lynch in defensive end Dee Ford.This quartet has combined for 31 of the team’s 45 sacks, the second most in the league. The 49ers’ defense also has leadership and Super Bowl experience in the secondary with loquacious corner Richard Sherman.NFL PLAYOFF PICTURE:Scenarios for 49ers, others in Week 14Along with my concerns about Garoppolo’s lack of playoff experience in a potential road playoff game, the 49ers’ kicking game reminds me of what became the Bears’ undoing last year. After Chicago’s great season, it fell to Philadelphia in the wild-card round when kicker Cody Parkey double-doinked the potential game-winner (after he had a shaky regular season). Which is ironic, because long-time Bears kicker Robbie Gould is the 49ers kicker who is struggling this season, fighting through injuries and having made just 14 of 22 field-goal attempts.Part of my reluctance to embrace the 49ers as a final four team, much less Super Bowl bound, is a relatively soft schedule that catapulted them to an 8-0 start while facing only two winning teams, the Steelers and Rams (both currently 7-5).They’re coming back to earth in a recent tough stretch that began with the overtime defeat at home against the Seahawks in which Gould was out and his replacement Chase McLaughlin missed a potential game-winner. A comeback win over Arizona was followed by the current three-game stretch against division leaders — Green Bay (win), Baltimore (loss) and Sunday’s matchup of 10-2 teams in New Orleans.WEEK 14 NFL PICKS:Against the spread | Straight-up predictionsI am liking the 49ers more after their convincing win over the Packers followed by the three-point road loss to the red-hot Ravens. A win in New Orleans followed by a victory in the season finale in Seattle might change my playoff projection for San Francisco, as it would then finish as a top two seed with home playoff games forthcoming. But I don’t see that scenario unfolding.It is interesting to see that last week’s 49ers-Ravens game and this week’s 49ers-Saints game both remained as 1 p.m. ET starts with neither game moved to Sunday night or even a later afternoon kickoff. That tells me the NFL office and the networks are not enamored with the star power — and thus potential ratings impact — of this 49ers team despite its stellar record. St. Louis that season was led by a small school quarterback from Northern Iowa in Kurt Warner, which was similar to Jimmy Garoppolo’s background at Eastern Illinois. Warner also was in his first full season as an NFL starter, and that will be the case for Garoppolo if he stays healthy the rest of the way.This year’s 49ers are different in that it’s their defense that’s most impressive as opposed to the 1999 Rams and their “Greatest show on Turf” offense. Despite Warner’s Super Bowl MVP heroics that season, Garoppolo’s maiden playoff voyage does give me pause.NFL PLAYOFF PICTURE:Mapping out 49ers, Seahawks in NFC WestGaroppolo is having a solid season with a 101.2 passer rating, but he has thrown too many interceptions (10 so far) for my liking. He works behind a solid offensive line and has one of the league’s best fullbacks in Kyle Juszczyk, but he doesn’t have a Hall of Fame running back behind him.Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert are a fine trio, but there’s not a Marshall Faulk among them. Likewise, the receiving corps is talented with George Kittle deserving of a Pro Bowl nod, rookie second rounder Deebo Samuel appearing to be a rising star and Emmanuel Sanders still productive while past his prime. But that Rams team was more explosive with a pair of multiple-time Pro Bowl receivers in Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt.San Francisco ranks as the league’s sixth best unit in total yards, and their 32:39 average time of possession is No. 2. But I don’t see them being able to keep pace with Russell Wilson- and Drew Brees-led offenses unless their No. 1-ranked defense gives them short fields via lots of turnovers. 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