The San Francisco 49ers have done nothing short of invoking fan optimism with their 5-0 finish of 2017. Unfortunately, with that record putting them at 6-10 they wound up last place in the NFC West. Eric Edholm at Pro Football Weekly gathered the 49ers along with all the other NFL teams to finish last in their respective divisions and ranked as the best ‘worst to first’ teams. They had the 49ers ranked at number one, or the team with the best chance to go from worst to first in their division:
The schedule is daunting out of the gates. They face only one team in the first eight contests that had a losing record last season, and that was the 7-9 Packers, who get Aaron Rodgers back. Three of the first four and four of the first six are away from home, and that Packers Monday night game is followed with a short-week game against the vaunted Rams. That duo also kicks off the stretch from Week 6 to Week 13 in which the 49ers will be in prime time for five of those seven games — we should have an idea how for real they truly are after that span.
The 49ers will have regular tests throughout the season in 2018. There’s also no ignoring the roster the Los Angeles Rams built, but the 49ers have Jimmy Garoppolo. There’s still a comparison to be made to the 2017 Rams. Tony Sparano took over the Miami Dolphins in 2008 and led the team to an 11-5 record which won them the AFC East. The very next year, the Dolphins went 7-9. Now, the rosters are different (the Dolphins team Sparano inherited went 1-15 the previous year), with the Rams having an underachieving roster before McVay’s arrival, but the same can be said: Rams coach Sean McVay will have to replicate the success he had a season ago, and the league could figure the Rams out real quick.
That leaves the 49ers to continue riding the momentum they took to the offseason. The same argument above could be said for Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan, but with Shanahan successfully coordinating offensive systems for several different franchises (while being elbows deep with the one he has as head coach of the 49ers), he may find a way to adjust as the league adjust to them.
Do you think the 49ers have the best chance of going worst to first?