It feels weird and wrong to write an 0-4 team should win its next game, but that’s what I’m doing, folks. The winless 49ers should beat the 1-3 Colts on Sunday. Here’s why.
1. The Colts are worse than the 49ers.
How, you’re asking? The Colts actually won a game, unlike the 49ers. This is true, but the Colts beat the Browns, which is no big accomplishment. And the Colts beat the Browns by just three points. During the other three games, opponents outscored Indianapolis by 68 points.
The Niners have been outscored by only eight points the past three games. They’re less bad than the Colts. In this case, less bad is almost good.
Without looking at the Colts roster, how many players on it can you name? Five? Maybe six? They have the great Frank Gore, three-time-Pro-Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, rookie free safety Malik Hooker, Vernon Davis’ little brother Vontae and … that’s about it.
The Colts roster is full of nondescript players. Their offensive line is horrible. Their defensive line is horrible. Their linebackers are horrible. They’re a rebuilding team that hasn’t even begun to rebuild. They’re still in the demolition phase.
They’re as bad as they were the season before they drafted Andrew Luck, the season they won only two games. Luck practically is their entire team, and he’s out with a shoulder injury.
The Niners will face the Colts backup quarterback — Jacoby Brisett. He has started only five games during his career. The Niners should play well against him. They played well last week against Carson Palmer, who’s better than Brissett.
The Colts are the worst opponent on the 49ers schedule.
2. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has a ready-made game plan to stop the Colts offense.
Saleh doesn’t have to work hard or be creative this week. He just has to watch last week’s game between the Colts and Seahawks and copy the Seahawks defensive game plan.
The Seahawks laid it all out for Saleh when they beat the Colts 46-18. The Seahawks and 49ers run the exact same defensive scheme – Saleh used to coach for Seattle. Everything Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll does, Saleh can steal and apply to his players.
Saleh can steal the blitzes and pressure schemes Carroll used to hit Brissett 11 times and sack him three times. Saleh can steal Carroll’s coverages that shut down the Colts only weapon in the pass game, T.Y. Hilton. And Saleh can steal Carroll’s play calls that held Frank Gore to just 3.8 yards per carry.
There’s no shame in stealing from a mentor. Mike Holmgren famously stole from Bill Walsh during 1989, Holmgren’s first season as the 49ers offensive play caller. That season the Niners played the Bears at Candlestick, and Holmgren called virtually the same sequence of plays Walsh called against the Bears when the 49ers played them the previous season. Holmgren’s offense scored two touchdowns and the 49ers won 26-0.
3. The 49ers offense has significant matchup advantages over the Colts defense.
For starters, the Colts can’t stop the run. They gave up 194 rushing yards last week to the Seahawks. Carlos Hyde should have a big game.