The 2016 NFL schedule was released Friday evening, and naturally that means it is prediction time. I ran through the games and had a fairly optimistic 7-9 record prediction. Plenty will disagree, and ESPN writers are among those. ESPN had their various NFL team writers put together projections for their respective teams. Paul Gutierrez covers the 49ers, and he has the team going 4-12, with wins against the Rams in Week 1, against the Cardinals in Week 5, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7, and against the New York Jets in Week 14.
I decided to go through the predictions provided by the 13 ESPN writers representing the 49ers opponents. I pulled out their predictions for the time(s) their team faces the 49ers. Upon review, the 49ers finish 0-16. I ran through this a year ago, and the writers had the 49ers finishing 4-12. The opposing ESPN writers did a decent job on it. Let's hope they're not as close this year!
This certainly does not tell us a lot, particularly given that we are still two weeks away from the 2016 NFL Draft. Rosters will change and injuries will happen. Plenty is going to change between now and each of these games. We'll get to see what Chip Kelly can do with the 49ers offense, and then what Jim O'Neil does as the 49ers defensive coordinator. There's plenty to figure out.
On to the predictions, linked to each article.
There's something great about the NFL reigniting this rivalry upon the Rams' return to Los Angeles by having these two teams meet on Monday Night Football. The Rams lost to the Niners in the 2015 season finale, but they should be healthy and ready to atone for that loss in the opener.
Only three seasons ago, the 49ers walked off the field at Bank of America Stadium with a 23-10 playoff victory. The Niners looked poised to remain one of the best teams in the NFC, and quarterback Colin Kaepernick was rated ahead of Cam Newton. Now the 49ers are a mess, the Panthers are the team on the rise and Newton is the reigning NFL MVP.
Chip Kelly will make his first trip to Seattle as an NFL head coach. In 2014, Carroll's Seahawks went to Philadelphia and beat Kelly's Eagles 24-14. The 49ers are rebuilding and could be double-digit underdogs in this game.
The Cowboys had success against Chip Kelly when he was in Philadelphia but they also looked foolish. But the Cowboys will be better suited than most teams this time to handle the pace of play.
There's no rest for the weary in the NFC West. Four days after hosting the Rams, Arizona is off to San Francisco for its first prime-time game of the season. A short week and Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense could be a recipe for disaster, but Arizona has seen Kelly's scheme before.
The Eastern time zone has not been kind to the 49ers of late. The Bills, having taken a gut punch last year as well as a shot to the ego of Rex Ryan, simply have a better defense.
The Bucs are 2-12 all time at San Francisco and have won there just once since 1980 (in 2010.) The 49ers aren't very good, though, and even the long road trip won't have much of an impact on the Bucs.
Week 8: BYE
I don't love this cross-country matchup for the Saints, either. But if I don't sneak in a win here, I'll be projecting an awfully long drought. It will be interesting to see what the 49ers look like under new coach Chip Kelly. It will be even more interesting to see who's playing quarterback for them.
With two weeks to gear up, Arizona will recover from its first loss of the season to find its winning ways again. Even after half a season in Kelly's new, up-tempo offense, the Niners can't get by Arizona.
Brady has never played a regular-season game in San Francisco, as a result of him missing the 2008 season with a torn ACL. That will be a fun storyline of the week. Win.
The Dolphins play against their third consecutive team from California. However, they get the benefit of a West Coast team making the long trip to Miami, and the Dolphins take advantage.
The Niners pulled a rabbit out of the hat at Soldier Field last year to win 26-20 in overtime. The Bears will be better equipped to avoid another late collapse this time.
There's nothing worse than having to make a West Coast trip on a short week. Will the Jets face Colin Kaepernick? Blaine Gabbert? Jared Goff? The 49ers are starting over under new coach Chip Kelly, so this is a good chance for the Jets to steal one on the road -- and they will.
Let's hope the Falcons and Quinn learned from last year's poor game-management decisions in a loss to the lowly 49ers.
The Rams cling to faint postseason hopes by completing the sweep of the Niners on Christmas Eve. In the process, they reach eight wins for the first time in five years under Fisher and the first time since 2006 overall.
The Seahawks ring in the New Year at Levi's Stadium. They finish the season with three straight wins.