The San Francisco 49ers finished 5-11 last season, and there are reasons to think things could have actually gone a lot worse. Football Outsiders recently published their annual Almanac (available here), and their chapter on the 49ers looked at why there is an argument to be made that the 49ers were the worst team in football last season.
The 49ers finished last in DVOA (-27.5%) and estimated wins (4.1). They played in a league low six close games that were within one score in the fourth quarter, because most of their losses were not competitive. The main reason this team finished 5-11 instead of holding the No. 1 pick at 2-14 really came down to the outcome of three field goals. The Bears (Week 13) and Rams (Week 17) both missed game-winning field goals against the 49ers, while the Falcons (Week 9) kicked a field goal from the 1-yard line when they needed a late touchdown in a 17-16 upset. If anything, San Francisco actually overachieved by winning five games.
They won those three games, so that’s in the past, but in trying to figure out where this team is from last year to this year, those close wins have to be factored into the discussion. Furthermore, Pythagorean expectation points to a team that over-performed. Based on point totals, this was a 3.8-win team. We all agree they were not good, but this just provides a little more detail.
Last year, FO had the 49ers with 6.8 wins in their mean projection. This year, they have the 49ers at 5.4 wins. FO releases their percentages for various possible events. They had the 49ers with a 19.9 percent chance of making the playoffs, a 41 percent chance of winning 5-7 games, and a 20 percent chance of winning fewer than five games.
This year, FO gives the 49ers a 6.7 percent chance of making the playoffs, a a 45 percent chance of winning 5-7 games, and a 37 percent chance of winning fewer than five games. For those looking for some glass half full information, they give them a 16 percent chance of winning 8-10 games, and a 2 percent chance of winning 11+ games.
We know how to best sum this up: