It’s too early to predict how many games the 49ers will win next season and if they’ll make the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
It’s only April 22. The draft is five days away. We’ll have a much better sense of who the Niners are and how they’ll finish the season once they start training and practicing.
But waiting stinks. And this past Thursday the NFL released the 49ers schedule. So, for fun, let’s go through it week by week and pick which games the 49ers might win.
Week 1: versus the Carolina Panthers. This game would have been an automatic loss a year ago. The Panthers were coming off a Super Bowl appearance, their defense was great and Cam Newton was the league MVP. But in 2016, the Panthers record was 6-10, the defense fell apart and Newton was one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league – worse than Colin Kaepernick. This offseason, the Panthers lost their most important coach – defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. He’s now the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. The 49ers will win this game.
Week 2: at the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks have a run-first offense that can’t run the ball because they haven’t replaced Marshawn Lynch and their offensive line is terrible. This team is getting worse. But they still have a great coaching staff, a great defense and they’re playing this game at home. The Niners will lose this one.
Week 3: versus the Los Angeles Rams. As bad as the Niners were last season under Chip Kelly, their record would have been 16-0 had they played the Rams every week. The Rams quarterback, Jared Goff, seems incapable of running an NFL offense or reading an NFL defense. And their running back, Todd Gurley, seems uninterested in contact as he tiptoes toward the hole. The Niners will sweep the Rams next season.
Week 4: at the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals is similar to the Panthers. Both won at least 13 games in 2015 and lost at least eight in 2016. The Cardinals in particular seem on the verge of total collapse. Their quarterback is the corpse of Carson Palmer – he’s 37 – and they have not developed a young replacement. They will be lucky to win six games this season. But they’re playing this one at home, and they still have a good defense. The Niners will lose.
Week 5: at the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts are a bad team with a good quarterback – Andrew Luck – who had shoulder surgery this offseason. The Colts are beatable. But this game will be the 49ers’ second road game in a row and it will start at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time. Call this a scheduled loss for the Niners.
Week 6: at the Washington Redskins. The Redskins are another bad team with a good quarterback. Washington lost both of its starting wide receivers this offseason and their offensive coordinator – Sean McVay. Plus, they fired their G.M., Scot McCloughin. The Redskins are a league-wide joke. When I first saw the Niners’ list of opponents, I thought the Niners would win this game. But then the official schedule came out and I saw this will be the Niners’ third road game in a row. Brutal. Another scheduled loss, and a three-game losing streak.