The San Francisco 49ers are currently 1-10, and hold the second pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. However, they enter a critical two-game stretch these next two weeks that could drop them at least a couple spots.
The 49ers travel to face the 2-9 Chicago Bears this weekend, and then follow that with a home game against the 3-8 New York Jets. Both teams are particularly bad right now, with injury issues crushing the Bears, and ineffectiveness getting the Jets. The 49ers have been underdogs every game this season, but they are only a one-point underdog in Chicago, and will probably be favorites against the Jets. And to be perfectly honest, I think there is a very strong chance they win both of these games.
Earlier this season I mentioned that I thought the 49ers could manage a win in their back-to-back home games against the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I was way off, in part because of how bad the 49ers are, and in part because the Saints and Bucs are better than I initially thought.
However, with the season three-quarters of the way complete, there is no doubt the Bears and Jets are bad. Matt Barkley might surprise us this weekend, but with injuries and suspensions on the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers might just be able to outscore the Bears. And while the Jets did hang tough with the New England Patriots this past weekend, and lost a 9-6 game to the Los Angeles Rams the week before, I just don’t see things going well for them on the road.
Earlier this week, Mike Sando put together his projections for how all eight divisions would finish up the 2016 regular season. He had the 49ers finishing 3-13. For comparison, he had the Cleveland Browns finishing winless, the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars finishing 2-14, and the Jets joining the 49ers at 3-13. That would drop the 49ers to the fourth or fifth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, depending on how strength of schedule shakes out.
The 49ers could very well find ways to lose the next two games, and potentially finish the season 1-15. However, I think the most likely outcome is winning one or both of the next two games, and then losing the final three to the Falcons, Rams, and Seahawks. The Rams game is winnable, but on the road, with Jared Goff showing some signs of life, I don’t think they pull that one out. 3-13 puts them in solid draft position, but given where they stand now, I imagine some folks will be a bit disappointed with that kind of finish.
If the 49ers do manage two more wins this season, I am curious how Jed York would view that in terms of the next step for this organization. Chip Kelly has his offensive philosophy, but they still lack a lot of the talent needed to successfully rebuild this thing. Would a couple wins give York a false hope that in reality sets things back further? Or will we see some recognition that change at the top is needed?