The San Francisco 49ers have hit their bye week a shade over the halfway point in their schedule. Through nine games, the team is 3-6, coming off a 17-16 win over the Atlanta Falcons. According to basic strength of schedule, they had the second most difficult schedule of the first nine weeks. Their opponents .545 win percentage is second only to the Dallas Cowboys' opponents, which is .568.
Prior to Sunday's game against the Falcons, Football Outsiders took a look at the second half of their schedule, and listed it among the eight "easiest" remaining schedules. Now that we are into the bye week, I thought we'd take a quick look at the rest of the 49ers schedule. They already defeated the then 6-2 Atlanta Falcons. While the Falcons had a solid record entering the game, their performances have been frequently subpar, even in many of their victories. They still won six of those games, but they are not nearly as good as their early 5-0 record might have otherwise indicated.
Here are the remaining seven games on the 49ers schedule. I put in my current prediction, along with a few thoughts on the game or team in question. Based on these predictions, the 49ers would finish the season 7-9. That seems like too many wins, but this final seven-game stretch includes some very winnable games. I am not overly comfortable with the two divisional wins, but anything is possible when division rivals square off. I have also included a poll at the bottom.
Week 11 - at Seattle Seahawks (4-4)
Even with both teams struggling, this is a big one for the 49ers. Obviously there is the rivalry nature, but more important is the Blaine Gabbert factor. The 49ers new starting quarterback put together a nice little performance against the Atlanta Falcons, and will get a another start after the bye. The Falcons defense is pretty weak, and while the Seahawks defense is not what it once was, it is still a much stiffer test for the 49ers offense. If Gabbert can put together a decent performance against them up in Seattle, 1) I'll definitely give him more credit, and 2) it could be enough to lock him into the starting role the rest of the season, if that is not already the case.
Week 12 - vs. Arizona Cardinals (6-2)
The Cardinals are a tough team to figure out. They won their first three with relative ease, but have been all over the place since then. They lost at home to the St. Louis Rams, and on the road to a Pittsburgh Steelers team quarterbacked by Michael Vick and Landry Jones. They are good enough to win the NFC West, but I'm not sure how much they can do beyond that. They've got a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but they can't seem to consistently put it together.
The 49ers were stomped down in Arizona, but this could be a potential upset in the making. If Carlos Hyde is back in the lineup, an upset is a very real possibility. If Hyde is not back, I think this ends up a loss. I'll lean towards a win for now, but of all the predictions in this article, this one has the least of my confidence.
Week 13 - at Chicago Bears (3-5)
As recently as a couple weeks ago, I would have said this was a likely 49ers win. But the Bears are suddenly showing signs of life. People disagree on Jay Cutler's improvement this year, but I think he is starting to look like a better quarterback with Adam Gase as his offensive coordinator. He will still make some truly idiotic decisions, but he is a tough QB to face. A Gabbert-Cutler "showdown" is a tough one to predict, particularly because we don't know what this 49ers defense will show on the road.
Week 14 - at Cleveland Browns (2-7)
This is another one that will depend in part on injuries. The Browns have struggled without Josh McCown, but could have him back for this one. Of course, if they want to figure out what Johnny Manziel can do for them long-term, the best bet is to just play Manziel the rest of the season. It will be interesting to see what decision they make, but for now, the 49ers are the better team, even on the road.
Week 15 - vs. Cincinnati Bengals (8-0)
There is a possibility the Bengals head into this game with a 13-0 record. I think they end up losing at least one game before then, but given how the Bengals are playing, an unbeaten record in Week 14 is not out of the realm of the possible. They host Houston, travel to Arizona, host St. Louis, travel to Cleveland, and then host Pittsburgh. There is probably at least one loss in there, but all five are very winnable games.
Week 16 - at Detroit Lions (1-7)
Prior to Week 9, this looked like a battle for one of the top draft picks. The 49ers now sit at 3-6, and as these predictions show, I think they are going to win a small handful of games the rest of the way. Looking at the Lions schedule, they may not win another game this season. Coming off a Week 9 bye, they travel to Green Bay, then host Oakland, Philadelphia, and Green Bay, travel to St. Louis and New Orleans, host the 49ers, and then travel to Chicago. They could sneak in a win or two, but I would not be surprised to see them go 1-15.
Week 17 - vs. St. Louis Rams (4-4)
This is a tough one to figure out. The Rams narrowly lost in overtime against Minnesota, having come into the game on a two-game win streak. Those wins were against the 49ers and Browns, so make of that what you will. Gurley and that defense are strong, and Tavon Austin is coming around, but Jeff Fisher seems to remain an Achilles heel for that team. Either team could emerge victorious from this game, and I would not be surprised.