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Six predictions for the 49ers heading into the regular season

The return of a rivalry? An unknown MVP? Will the health issues continue?

San Francisco 49ers practice

In two days, the NFL will return. Some of you are excited for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, while others have stated that you’d be nervous no matter who the San Francisco 49ers would face. Before we get into breaking down these matchups for Week 1, I have six predictions for the Niners this season. Some will read as bold, others may come off as common sense, while others may be tough to swallow.

The 49ers and Cowboys rival returns in 2020

For the first time since their rivalry in the 90s, both San Francisco and Dallas are predicted to be two of the best teams in the NFL. The 49ers are coming off a Super Bowl run, while the Cowboys added talent on both sides of the ball and are poised for a playoff run themselves.

Both teams play each other this season, but we’ll have to wait until December to see the matchup. ESPN predicted the two teams would meet in the playoffs, which is something I could see happening. This season is the year that the rivalry returns. Two of the NFL’s best markets are predicted to win over 10 games and meet in the playoffs. That has to be a dream for the NFL. If that happens, I’d expect to see an annual matchup between them for the next few years.

Kwon Alexander makes the Pro Bowl

Last year, there was no doubt that Fred Warner should’ve been a Pro Bowler. While the game itself doesn’t mean anything, it does mean something to the players. This year I believe Warner will be an All-Pro. I also think his running mate will make the Pro Bowl. Both Warner and Alexander will be on the field virtually every snap this season if healthy.

Alexander will benefit from Javon Kinlaw holding blocks and the defensive line keeping him clean. That’ll allow Alexander to rack up tackles. In the passing game, I believe Kwon will continue to excel in coverage and have enough pass breakups and interceptions by seasons end to get a Pro Bowl nod.

Raheem Mostert receives MVP votes

In a Kyle Shanahan offense? Yes. After an offseason of wondering whether Mostert will start, he’ll be among the league leaders in rushing yards and contribute just enough in the passing game to garner MVP attention. Big plays that lead to touchdowns will help. The only thing holding Mostert back is his play-caller and the potential of being banged up.

Mostert’s skill set is the perfect marriage in Shanahan’s offense, and more opportunities will present an opportunity for him to gain respect nationally. This summer, where Mostert requested a trade, will be something we all look back on and laugh.

Injuries will continue to haunt the Niners

I’m never going to project injuries for specific players, but it’s difficult to imagine the 49ers getting through the season without a couple of key starters going down. Thankfully, the depth is good enough to where San Francisco can withstand an injury just about anywhere. That doesn’t mean there will be a dip in play, though. I’ll let you take a guess where these injuries occur. My guess is one of the injuries will be a deciding factor on whether that player returns to the roster next season.

Aiyuk emerges as the team’s top wide receiver

Your instant reaction is, “what about Deebo?!?” This isn’t a slight on Samuel. It’s more of a hat tip to Brandon Aiyuk. I watched how the 49ers used Samuel as a rookie during training camp. I saw how they used Aiyuk in this training camp. It isn’t comparable. Aiyuk was used all over the field. From jet sweeps to deep bombs. The biggest difference was that Aiyuk is winning at every level. He looks comfortable over the middle with defenders around him, but he can also run by you.

Sure, Aiyuk will need to become more consistent, but that’s true for any rookie. Don’t be surprised if Aiyuk leads all wide receivers on the team in yards. If not this season, it’ll happen in 2021.

The 49ers make another midseason splash with a trade

This final prediction could have been about Nick Bosa leading the team in sacks and receiving Defensive Player of the Year votes, or Jimmy Garoppolo being in the top-five of touchdown passes, but those are too easy.

I think the 49ers make another trade before the deadline this year to bolster their roster. Not that they need any help, but injuries and uncertainty won’t leave John Lynch and the front office much of a choice. I think the trade happens on defense this time, specifically, in the secondary. The 49ers have roughly $18 million in cap space, and they’ll need that cash to sign their 26 unrestricted free agents next offseason. Lynch will focus on the now and make a move without sacrificing the future too much as he tries to put the Niners over the hump as the team shoots for their sixth Super Bowl win in franchise history.