Niner Noise takes a look at how offseason shoulder surgeries for Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck could directly affect the San Francisco 49ers’ early season success or failure.
When the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts announced offseason should surgery for their quarterbacks — Cam Newton and Andrew Luck, respectively — the thought was they would be ready to go by the start of the 2017 regular season.
However, neither has participated in training camp practice or either team’s first preseason game.
And while both are expected to begin getting reps and practice soon, questions remain about the availability for either to start the season.
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The health of both these players could go a long way into how well the early part of the season goes for the San Francisco 49ers.
While the last few seasons have seen the 49ers struggle to a combined 15-33 record, strangely they have a 3-0 Week 1 record since 2014. Those wins came against the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, and Los Angeles Rams, as they outscored those teams by a combined total of 76-20.
Now granted, two of those games were at home, with the road game at Dallas. However, for a team that was an underdog in each of those games and, by all accounts, a team in transition, that record carries a little weight.
The 49ers open the season at home versus Carolina, and Newton’s availability to date is still undetermined. Should Newton not be able to play, Derek Anderson becomes the starter.
Anderson had two touchdowns, five interceptions and a 67.6 passer rating in 2016 in spot duty for Carolina.
That doesn’t exactly send fear into the opposition.
Even if Newton starts game one, there is a good chance that due to his lack of practice time and preseason snaps, he will be rusty. This could open the door for the Niners to steal yet another season opener.
The Niners follow that game by going to visit the Seattle Seahawks, home against the Rams, at the Arizona Cardinals and at the Colts.
The Rams will be starting Jared Goff, their second-year QB who played in all of seven games last season, throwing five touchdowns and seven interceptions with a 54.6 completion percentage.
If the Niners can generate a pass rush with their bolstered front seven, and their offense can generate some points, that is a very winnable game.
A road game at Arizona, while a division opponent, will more than likely favor the Cardinals. That leaves a Week 5 matchup in Indianapolis.
Earlier this offseason, Colts owner Jim Irsay seemed much more encouraged with Luck’s recovery from shoulder surgery. Now, however, there is no timetable for Luck’s return. Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, Luck misses the first few games of the season, there is a strong possibility he would be rounding into form when the Niners come to town.
With former GM Ryan Grigson’s poor drafting and lack of substantial offseason moves the past few seasons, the Colts are predicted to have no better than an 8-8 record.
Should Luck not be able to play, Scott Tolzien could very well be under center for the matchup against San Francisco. Again, that doesn’t seem to be an insurmountable task, even for the rebuilding 49ers.
While all this is just conjecture and forecasting, it does make for an interesting discussion on just how much confidence a young Niners team could potentially gain from winning three of their first five games to start the season.
If both Newton and Luck are healthy and playing well, the 49ers chances against them do take a dramatic hit.
But if they struggle or are unavailable to play, we could very well see these young Niners surprise a few teams this season.