Sometime next week the NFL will likely be releasing the 2012 NFL schedule. They have not announced a specific time yet, but in the past it has been early in the week before the draft. It is hard to get particularly accurate projections before the draft, but that won't stop us from attempting to project out some possible results.
Earlier today, Mike Sando put together a post about how we could bank on the 49ers winning fewer games in 2012. By the numbers, 19 teams have won 13 or more games from 2004 to 2010 and all 19 finished with fewer wins the next year. 2004 is notable because the Patriots of 2003 and 2004 repeated with 14 wins each season. Since moving to the 16-game schedule in 1978, 61 teams have finished 13-3 or better, and only five finished with the same or better record the following year.
Each season comes with much different circumstances and contexts, but given how good a season 13+ wins can be, it is not surprising that few teams repeat. And with the league moving to more and more parity, it is going to be a difficult task in coming years.
As the 49ers head into 2012, they will face an improved NFC West. And yet it remains a division with enough question marks that dropping to 11 or 12 wins, or even 10 wins for that matter, should still put them in a position to claim the division crown. The 49ers could put together another strong season and finish with fewer wins, but it does not mean things have "gotten worse." It is worth noting just as a matter of keeping things in perspective coming off a crazy 2011 season.