Pro Football Focus went through simulations carried out by their research and development team in an attempt to capture the high and low-end win projections for each team. The article states they used the 90th and 10th percentiles to determine the worst-case scenario as teams who perform outside of those expected outcomes will be the biggest stories by the end of the year.
10th percentile outcome: 7-9
How they get there: Deebo Samuel’s foot injury is a problem that drags into the season, and the 49ers are without not just Emmanuel Sanders, but now both of their top two weapons at wide receiver from a season ago. They still have George Kittle, but the absence of Samuel puts considerable pressure on rookie Brandon Aiyuk ─ who has just one college season of high-level play under his belt ─ to be “the guy” at wide receiver. In turn, the 49ers offense becomes more one-dimensional, relying more on the run game than they would like to. Defensively, neither Emmanuel Moseley nor Ahkello Witherspoon takes full command of the No. 2 spot outside, which gives opposing offenses a weak spot to target.
90th percentile outcome: 12-4
How they get there: A devastating pass rush and top-notch coverage play spearheaded by the second phase of Richard Sherman’s Hall of Fame career once again results in one of the best defenses in the NFL. Offensively, Kyle Shanahan continues to confuse the league’s defensive coordinators, and Jimmy Garoppolo continues to get more and more comfortable in his system. San Francisco’s strategy of collecting after-the-catch monsters (Kittle, Samuel, Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings) along with versatile, position-fluid players such as Samuel and Jalen Hurd results in a group of receivers that fits Shanahan’s scheme like a glove.
Deebo’s foot injury will be a wait and see. I’m hoping he doesn’t try and rush back and there injury lingers. I’ve seen so many tweets from 49ers fans saying, “we have the deepest wide receiver group in the NFL,” and that is pure projection. Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd haven’t accomplished enough to earn that label. They’ll have an opportunity to show their skills early on in the season, however. Luckily, Kyle Shanahan is calling the plays on offense.
If Moseley takes a step back, then the defense will struggle. Moseley was incredibly promising in 2019, and, assuming the defensive line is healthy, his aggressiveness in coverage and ability to understand routes make it hard to imagine Moseley struggles in 2020. Cornerback charting is the most fickle from year to year, and offenses will target Moseley at will if he struggles.
Defensively, will the loss of Joe Woods lead Robert Saleh to revert to the coverages San Francisco relied on the year before? Can Dee Ford Stay healthy? Was Arik Armstead a “one-year wonder?”
Offensively, can Jimmy Garoppolo raise his game? Will the receivers step up? Can Trent Williams stay healthy? There are plenty of questions surrounding the 49ers, but the team is so stacked with talent that even a few hiccups throughout the season shouldn’t prevent the Niners from winning double-digit games.