Grant Cohn: An early prediction of 49ers' record
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.
Week 7: versus the Dallas Cowboys. Forget about it. The Cowboys won 13 games in 2016 and should be the favorite to win the NFC next season. The Niners losing streak will extend to four games.
Week 8: at the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles finished last in the NFC East last season and at one point lost nine games during an 11-game stretch. Recently, the Eagles signed Torrey Smith to upgrade their offense, which shows how bad their offense is. Smith is terrible. The Niners cut him this offseason. The losing streak should end here.
Week 9: versus the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals aren't good enough to sweep this series next season. They'll beat the Niners in Arizona, but lose this game in Santa Clara.
Week 10: versus the New York Giants. Another forget-about-it game. The Giants record was 11-5 last season, and they improved this offseason by signing wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The Niners will enter their Bye week two games under .500.
Week 11: Bye.
Week 12: versus the Seattle Seahawks. Even at home with an extra week to prepare, the Niners aren't good enough to beat Seattle. Maybe they'll beat the Seahawks in 2018.
Week 13: at the Chicago Bears. With seven losses, the Niners probably will have to win all of their remaining games to make the playoffs as a Wild Card team. Can they run the table? They certainly can win this game against the Bears whose starting quarterback, Mike Glennon, hasn't started a game since 2014. The Niners will make the Bears wish they had kept Brian Hoyer this offseason.
Week 14: at the Houston Texans. A road game against a team that made the playoffs last season and will have their best defensive player – J.J. Watt – who missed last season with a back injury. Tough matchup. But the Niners will win because Houston's quarterback – Tom Savage – is even worse than the Bears quarterback. Savage has started just two games in three seasons. He's a nobody. The Niners will make the Texans wish they had kept Hoyer offseason 2015.
Week 15: versus the Tennessee Titans. Tennessee is another mediocre team from the AFC South. The Niners are mediocre, too, but they will have home-field advantage in this game. I'm picking the Niners.
Week 16: versus the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville won three games last season. Their quarterback, Blake Bortles, waits until he's losing big in the fourth quarterback before he starts playing well. He's the king of garbage time. Easy win for the 49ers.
Week 17: at the Los Angeles Rams. The Niners will be playing for a possible playoff berth and the Rams will be playing for nothing. They will be planning their vacations. The Niners will finish the regular season on a five-game winning streak.
Will nine wins be enough to make the playoffs? Who knows? We can't see that far ahead. From where we're standing now, the playoffs may be on the 49ers horizon.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat's website. You can reach him at email@example.com.