49ers 2020 NFL schedule: Too-soon win/loss predictions
Week 5: Oct. 11 vs. Dolphins, 4:05/1:05 PM
After the first few weeks of the 2019 season, most football fans were pretty sure that the Miami Dolphins were going to go down as one of the worst teams in NFL history. They lost their first four games by a combined score of 163-26.
And then they started to put up more of a fight, improving as the season went along before ending with a 5-11 record.
The Dolphins boasted the NFL’s worst defense by DVOA (plus-22.1 percent) and were just 27th on offense (minus-13.9 percent), and yet they were able to show that they weren’t the league’s doormats and still scored the quarterback they wanted all along, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.
Miami also improved its offensive line (USC OT Austin Jackson, Lousiana OG Robert Hunt and Georgia OG Solomon Kindley) and various positions on defense (Auburn CB Noah Igbinoghene, Alabama DT Raekwon Davis and Texas safety Brandon Jones) in the draft. It also added cornerback Byron Jones and defensive end Shaq Lawson in free agency.
Still, the Dolphins improvements may not show in terms of record, even with their division likely as open as it’s been in years.
Look for the 49ers to notch another victory in Week 5 at Levi’s.
Record: W, 5-0
Week 6: Oct. 18 vs. Rams (Sunday Night Football), 8:20/5:20 PM
With the Cardinals improving, there may have been some changes in terms of the final standings in the NFC West. The Los Angeles Rams might be the team that finds themselves falling due to Arizona’s rise.
The 49ers second Sunday Night Football contest in three weeks sees the Rams traveling up to Levi’s Stadium to take on the defending division champs.
The Rams, who fell hard after a loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII, finished the followup campaign with a 9-7 record while ending up just 3-3 in the division. San Francisco will be hoping that 2020 won’t see a fall to a similar fate.
It’s easy to argue that the Rams are now a worse team heading into 2020, despite still having All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald on their defense. But they lost pass rusher Dante Fowler, linebacker Cory Littleton and kicker Greg Zuerlein in free agency, not to mention how much worse quarterback Jared Goff was in 2019.
The 49ers finished 2019 with a 5-1 division record, which was key to their division championship. I expect much of the same in 2020, continuing with a home victory over the Rams.
Record: W, 6-0
Week 7: Oct. 25 at Patriots, 4:25/1:25 PM
After three straight home games, the 49ers take their longest trip of the season, flying to New England to take on the Patriots, a team that is suddenly a bigger unknown than they’ve been in a long time.
By the looks of it, the Patriots are going to roll out second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham as their starter in 2020, with former 49er Brian Hoyer serving as backup and insurance.
Having played in just three games and attempting four passes as a rookie, Stidham, a two-year starter at Auburn, seems to have Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s support heading into the season. And while this game comes at close to the mid-point of the season and the 49ers will be coming from across the country, whether or not Stidham is up to the task is unknown.
The Patriots did end the season as Football Outsiders’ top defense by DVOA (minus-25.5 percent), led by NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore, who’ll return for his fourth season in New England in 2020.
Another solid defensive season could keep the Patriots in games next year with the offensive a major unknown quantity, and it may just make this Week 7 matchup a close one. But the 49ers should have the advantage as a team, leading to yet another victory on the young season.
Record: W, 7-0
Week 8: Nov. 1 at Seahawks, 4:25/1:25 PM
And now we come to the fiercest of the 49ers inter-division foes: the Seattle Seahawks.
After two incredible matchups last season, both of which came down the final seconds before a victor was known, the Niners/Seahawks rivalry appears to be back to the timbre it struck during the Jim Harbaugh years.
Much like last year, the two teams will match up first in the middle of the season, but this time the trip to CenturyLink Field in Seattle comes first.
The funny thing about the Seahawks, since quarterback Russell Wilson took over as the starter, is it doesn’t seem to matter who Wilson’s supporting cast is year to year. They always seem to be in the NFC West race and are often among the NFC’s best teams.
And this offseason they don’t seem to have improved much, as they continue to ignore the offensive line and have seen their defense decline since the Legion of Boom era.
But you should still expect both games against the Seahawks to be hard-fought battles between two teams who seem to genuinely dislike one another.
Unfortunately, after years of not beating the Seahawks at home, I expect Seattle to get back to their winning ways at the Link. And for the second straight year, they’ll knock the 49ers off their undefeated perch.
Record: L, 7-1