San Francisco 49ers
2016 Record: 2-14, Fourth Place in NFC West
The Niners gutted everything this offseason, following a 2-14 record and historically bad numbers on the defensive side of the ball.
With head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch in place, San Francisco’s rebuild is going to take some time. But a number of key moves have already meant the 2017 49ers will look vastly different than last year’s bunch.
Lynch was more active in free agency than his predecessor, former GM Trent Baalke, was over the previous two offseasons combined.
And while the Niners still lack elite-level talent on either side of the ball, sings are at least pointing to the red and gold finally beginning to trend in the right direction.
The 49ers didn’t hesitate to cut, or let walk, a number of underachievers from last year’s crop. Gone are quarterback Colin Kaepernick, wide receiver Torrey Smith, safety Antoine Bethea and a slew of others.
In came quarterback Brian Hoyer, who will start in 2017, and offensive additions like wideouts Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk should be an interesting component, and the Niners’ underachieving offensive line should see improvement with Pro Bowl center Jeremy Zuttah in the mix.
The 49ers also had one of the better NFL Draft classes, capped off by selections of Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas (No. 3 overall) and linebacker Reuben Foster (No. 31 overall) in Round 1. But don’t sleep on cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (No. 66 overall) and tight end George Kittle (No. 146 overall) either.
San Francisco did draft a quarterback, C.J. Beathard (No. 104 overall), but he won’t see the field this season, in all likelihood.
|Sun||September 10||4:25PM ET||Carolina Panthers||preview|
|Sun||September 17||4:25PM ET||@||Seattle Seahawks||preview|
|Thu||September 21||8:25PM ET||Los Angeles Rams||preview|
|Sun||October 1||4:05PM ET||@||Arizona Cardinals||preview|
|Sun||October 8||1:00PM ET||@||Indianapolis Colts||preview|
|Sun||October 15||1:00PM ET||@||Washington Redskins||preview|
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|Sun||October 29||1:00PM ET||@||Philadelphia Eagles||preview|
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|Sun||November 26||4:05PM ET||Seattle Seahawks||preview|
|Sun||December 3||1:00PM ET||@||Chicago Bears||preview|
|Sun||December 10||1:00PM ET||@||Houston Texans||preview|
|Sun||December 17||4:25PM ET||Tennessee Titans||preview|
|Sun||December 24||4:05PM ET||Jacksonville Jaguars||preview|
|Sun||December 31||4:25PM ET||@||Los Angeles Rams||preview|
Unlike last season, in which the 49ers were tied for the league’s toughest schedule, the Niners have the 20th toughest calendar in 2017.
That said, this year won’t be easy. This season kicks off with five road games over the first seven weeks, including three trips to the Eastern Time zone. And those midseason home games against the Cowboys, Cardinals and New York Giants don’t figure to be easy wins at all.
The schedule gets slightly easier towards the end of the season, but not by much.
Even with the plethora of new faces in Santa Clara, the Niners are still going to have a tough time winning five or six games this year, let alone getting back to 8-8 or better.
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It is possible, however, the 49ers post a .500 record within the NFC West though. Winning two games over the Rams is a real possibility, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see San Francisco take the home contest against Arizona.
Just don’t expect the Niners to end their losing streak against the Seahawks this season. Maybe next year. Just not 2017.
The most plausible best-case scenario would be a third-place finish this season. And the 49ers manage to stay in games and remain competitive over the course of 60 minutes each contest.
If that happens, the Niners surely are trending in the right direction.