The San Francisco 49ers return to training camp in less than two weeks, and we have a few more ways to break down the team’s schedule for 2017!
The most basic schedule assessment is strength of schedule based on previous year records. We know exactly how each team did in 2016, but with various roster additions and departures, every team is going to be different in 2017. And we have seen how quickly teams can get better or worse in a new year.
Late last month, Pro Football Focus offered a unique take on strength of schedule. They took a look at each NFL team and assessed how difficult or easy they would be for a quarterback. They call it QB strength of schedule, and they used a color-coded chart. Red indicates the toughest matchups, followed by orange. Yellow and white are neutral, with yellow a bit more difficult. Light green is a bit easier, and dark green marks the easiest opponents. Additionally, “[c]olors were assigned only partly by schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed in 2016. Equal weighting was given to offseason player and coach movement, win total forecasts, PFF grading, and known offensive approaches.”
It’s a subjective approach, but it offers a more interesting look than basic strength of schedule based on previous year record. You can look at the full table here, separate from the article.
According to this measurement, Brian Hoyer has a tough schedule of defenses in 2017. He faces four red teams, including the Seattle Seahawks twice, the New York Giants, and the Houston Texans. Washington, Philadelphia, and the Los Angeles Chargers all face five red teams. The 49ers don’t face a dark green team, and have only two games against light green teams. Those games happen to be back-to-back in Weeks 5 and 6 when they travel to face the Indianapolis Colts and Washington. Carolina, Arizona (twice), and Jacksonville are orange teams.
On the other side of the ball, the 49ers are listed as a light green team, meaning easy, but not easiest. The Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers, and Washington all are listed as light green. The dark green teams are the Detroit Lions, New York Jets, New Orleans Saints, and Cleveland Browns.
The 49ers defense features enough questions that it is not entirely surprising they show up as an easier defense to face compared to much of the league. PFF ranked the 49ers dead last in defensive front seven, but did acknowledge there was potential with the group. It is a young group, with players also returning from injury. If that group can take a step forward and the 49ers young cornerbacks show progress in 2017, this defense is suddenly not looking like such an easy matchup for opposing quarterbacks. A lot of it will depend on how the pass rush comes along, but it’s an interesting group.
The 49ers defense looks like a group that could take a step forward just based on the volume of talent added. The offense made plenty of changes as well, but it feels like things might be a little more slow coming along. They’re facing a whole mess of potentially strong defenses. There is potential for more than just a couple wins, but if they struggle to get wins, I feel like it will be more because of the offense and defense.