NFL teams are working their way through phase two of the offseason workout program, and OTAs will get going in the next couple weeks. There is a long way to go until the start of the 2017 regular season, but that does not mean people can’t offer up record predictions!
SI.com NFL writer Jonathan Jones put together predictions for all 32 NFL teams. He has the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers leading the way at 13-3, with the Pittsburgh Steelers next at 12-4. On the other end of the spectrum, he has the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, and Chicago Bears all finishing 2-14.
A 2-14 record seems a bit extreme, but for a team making such drastic changes, most anything is on the table. Maybe not Super Bowl contender, although I imagine a few folks here would disagree with that kind of pessimism! But for the most part, a lot of possible results could be on the table with this team.
Jones is pleased with the top of the 49ers draft, but his biggest concern is Kyle Shanahan being the offensive play-caller and head coach all at once.
Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch got six-year contracts because it’s clear turning around this franchise is going to take some time. Lynch knocked his first draft move out of the park when he robbed Chicago of picks to trade down one spot and still get his guy (and then get Reuben Foster later). What concerns me the most about this team before the season starts is that Shanahan will be the offensive play-caller and head coach in his first year at the helm. That’s a lot of responsibility for a rookie.
That is going to be a tricky task for him to tackle. He has extensive experience as a play-caller, and he probably knows a thing or two about what it’s like being a head coach in working with and talking to his dad. However, having all the responsibility officially on his shoulders, it is going to be something to see how he is able to handle the various responsibilities.
Jones also offered up one pivotal game on each schedule. For the 49ers, he pointed to Week 12 vs. the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers will be coming off a bye week after two straight home games against the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants. Jones had this to say about that game:
I highly doubt the 49ers will find many wins in the first half of the season, so staying competitive in some of those early games would be more pivotal in reality than for our purposes. How the team responds to its Week 11 bye and the ensuing game against the Seahawks could be more revealing. Is this a team that will be energized heading into December with things to build on, or are they going to lie down?
That back stretch of the season will be important, regardless of the 49ers record. They close with games against the Bears, Texans, Titans, Jaguars, and Rams. All five are winnable at this point. Whether the 49ers are in contention or not, a strong finish is there for the taking. The Seahawks game is the week prior to the start of that closing stretch. It is at Levi’s Stadium, and while the Seahawks will be sizable favorites, the 49ers have a much better chance at being competitive in it than if it was up in Seattle. It makes those six weeks after the bye particularly fascinating.