With the season opener just days away, we asked the 49ers Webzone staff to predict the number of wins for the San Francisco 49ers in 2017. The team is at the onset of a roster rehaul that has seen most of the players from a year ago ousted. Over half of the 49ers roster, which consists of 14 rookies, have three or fewer years of NFL experience.
It’s a young team learning a complex scheme and nobody expects a massive improvement overnight. However, improvement is expected and all of the 49ers Webzone staff sees the team exceeding last season’s embarrassing result.
Answers from our staff are shown below in the order in which they were received.
Predicted wins: 6
Since I wagered $20 for the 49ers to win the NFC West and another $20 for them to win the Super Bowl, I want them to go 19-0.
But, that’s a fool’s errand.
This year, the 49ers will triple last year’s win total and end up 6-10. I expect a much more competitive team than we’ve seen in the last few years. Their defensive line is going to anchor the defense and secure a few close games this season. Rest assured, those 10 losses won’t make you want to butter your Monday morning toast with Prozac.
Those six wins depend on key players staying healthy – Carlos Hyde, Brian Hoyer, Joe Staley, NaVorro Bowman and Eric Reid – and players like Matt Breida, D.J. Jones, and Victor Bolden stepping up and making big plays when needed.
Predicted wins: 5
Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that this 49ers team is going to make a push for the playoffs. However, due to the offensive system and the heavy investment in our defense over the past three seasons, five wins is a very believable number given our schedule. The 49ers have a tough schedule this season for sure, but they still get to play the Los Angeles Rams twice and nothing really points to the Rams being much better than last season. The 49ers swept the series last season with arguably a worse team than the upcoming 2017 squad, at least on the defensive side of the ball.
How do the 49ers get three additional wins? Aside from Christmas Eve against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the schedule presents two winnable games in back to back weeks in October. There is a high likelihood the 49ers could play the Colts without Andrew Luck on October 8th. Although given Indianapolis’ offensive line problems and that our pass rush should be strength this season, I’d lean in favor of the 49ers in this game anyway. The following week at the Washington Redskins could be a game the 49ers steal simply because the Redskins could have trouble scoring points this season with a revamped receiving core. Even if the 49ers drop the Washington game, the Chicago Bears still loom on the schedule in early December, and given the Bears’ current state of affairs that is also a winnable game. Although I’d still like to understand how the 49ers draw three straight years at the Bears in the worst part of the year.
Predicted wins: 6
The phrase “brick by brick” was fully emphasized this offseason as the 49ers moved on from established veterans (Jeremy Kerley, Ahmad Brooks) in favor of younger players. The majority of the final 53-man roster consists of players with fewer than three years of experience.
It’s a transition year under new head coach Kyle Shanahan but I think schematically, fans are going to enjoy a more competitive team in comparison to what we saw last year — the 49ers had a historically bad run defense allowing 165.9 rushing yards per game along with the worst ranked passing offense at 182 passing yards per game. There is no way that’s happening again.
This youthful 49ers squad will go through its share of growing pains but I think, as we review the season, we’ll see how much of a difference coaching makes. Of course, the offense will also be contingent upon the health of Brian Hoyer, Carlos Hyde, and Marquis Goodwin, who have all struggled with injuries in the past. The 49ers’ over/under win total is currently 4.5 games but I think they’ll be competitive enough to surprise people with two more additional wins.
Predicted wins: 6
Kyle Shanahan is widely considered one of the best offensive minds in all of football. His game planning and play calling will make a huge difference on offense. Brian Hoyer, who has previous experience in Shanahan’s offense, will bring a steadying, veteran presence to the quarterback position. The wide receivers look to be greatly improved, with ultra dependable possession receiver Pierre Garçon and lightning quick Marquise Goodwin complimenting each other quite nicely on the outside. Questionable starters at both guard positions on the offensive line along with poor run blocking as a whole could cause the ground game to struggle.
The front seven is a group of players the 49ers have invested in heavily. Four first-round picks drafted in the last three years should all have a chance to shine. Sprinkling in a veteran run stopper (Earl Mitchell) and a very accomplished pass rusher (Elvis Dumervil) gives the group depth and experience. A plus pass rush would help offset concerns over a shaky secondary. Cornerback Rashard Robinson has been very inconsistent during the preseason and new free safety Jimmy Ward has barely practiced during training camp.
Predicted wins: 6
The 49ers will be vastly improved on both sides of the ball this season. But the Niners are still a long, long way away from a double-digit year in the win column. Keep in mind, San Francisco has installed two entirely new schemes — offense and defense — and has a slew of young talent still in development. The schedule might be easier than last year, but it’s not a cakewalk.
The good news, though, is San Francisco will be much more competitive over the course of the season. We shouldn’t see too many of those blowouts experienced last year.
Predicted wins: 5
The 49ers will win five games in 2017. However, the Niners will be better than many analysts have projected and will be more competitive on a week-to-week basis than in years past.
The 49ers will finish the season with a meager number of wins due to a variety of factors, including the team’s recent youth movement, and the growing pains associated with the implementation of new offensive and defensive schemes. The Niners also have a subpar offensive line, an unproven pass rush and a number of other roster questions.
However, the 49ers’ largest hurdle in 2017 is their early-season schedule. Over the first half of the season, the 49ers play just three games at home; against the Panthers and Cowboys, and on a short week against the Rams. Of their five away games, three are cross-country games with 10 a.m. starts. Their remaining two away games are against teams with lengthy home winning streaks against the 49ers (the Seahawks with six and the Cardinals with three).
Once the 49ers reach the easier portion of their season, the team will surely have a different personnel makeup. Will the oft-injured Hoyer still be healthy enough to play? Or if the 49ers are no longer contenders, will Shanahan hand the reigns over to Beathard in order to see what the team has in the rookie quarterback?
If the 49ers’ games were reversed in order, I imagine the team would end the season with at least six wins. Unfortunately, given the layout of their schedule, the Niners will likely end the season with five wins or fewer.
Predicted wins: 7
A lot of people expect the 49ers to surprise this season. Head coach Kyle Shanahan brings pedigree to the coaching staff and is a bonafide play-caller, something the 49ers have lacked for a long time. Shanahan also brings a true West Coast offense back to The Bay and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has the team back to its 4-3 hybrid from the 1980s dynasty period. With a talented roster, there are reasons for optimism.
But let’s not get overly optimistic. Looking at the schedule, the 49ers open vs. Carolina in a tough Week 1 game that could give them their first opening day loss since 2010. With six games against the NFC West, their division doesn’t seem kind. At best they win three games there, maybe upsetting Arizona or Seattle once or twice along the way. The NFC East won’t be kind either and with teams like Tennessee, Houston, and Chicago late, it could be a rough final month on the brink of a playoff push.
With some good fortune, the team could finish as high as 10-6. It could also be as bad as 4-12 with their poor offensive line. It’ll probably be somewhere in the middle. As long as the 49ers improve, which they will, 2017 will be a big win for this franchise.