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49ers bold predictions gone wrong

A look back at what we missed and hit on during our preview before the season started

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Last year after the season ended, we looked back at some of the bold predictions made before the season and looked at where we were correct and where we whiffed before the season started.

So we’re not just throwing you know what at the wall and hoping it sticks; we’ll do the same this year. Before the start of the 2021 regular season, the big question was when we’d see rookie quarterback, not if.

QB Projections gone wrong

We asked you would Jimmy Garoppolo be the starter come Week 11, and 59% of you said yes. Lance threw a touchdown pass and had two rushing attempts during Week 1. He came in for an injured Garoppolo during the second half of Week 4 against Seattle and would start the next game against the Cardinals. Aside from mop-up duty against the Jaguars in Week 11, Lance’s only other start came during Week 17.

Here’s what I said:

My answer to the poll question is “no,” despite the 49ers’ last-place schedule. The Lance we saw in August won’t be the Lance we see three months from now. The more he plays, the more Shanahan realizes he gives the team the best chance to win.

I have Jimmy G completing 68% of his passes with a yard per attempt of 7.5, but the turnovers and miscues won’t stop, which leads us to Lance.

Shanahan will lean on a quarterback with more variance. Lance will complete closer to 64-65%, but he’s closer to nine yards per attempt and, by doing so, opens up running lanes for the backs and allows Brandon Aiyuk to morph into a legitimate No. 1 receiver.

Shanahan came close to starting Lance, but after the Bears win, Jimmy never looked back. Lance only completed 57% of his passes with a 5/2 TD/INT ratio. Jimmy completed 68% of his passes, with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

The offense will be better than the defense

Another swing and a miss. I thought the team speed for the 49ers would overwhelm opposing defenses and lead to the team lighting up the scoreboard. That didn’t happen. Explosive plays were routine, but the consistency was hard to come back.

Statistics would beg to differ, as the 49ers finished fifth offensively in DVOA, sixth in EPA per play, but 12th in success rate. The former numbers are skewed thanks to big plays. The Niners finished 14th in third-down percentage and points per play.

There were too many talented players to be mediocre and inconsistent at times. So the last sentence of my prediction couldn’t have been any further from the truth:

The line should finish top-10, and the skill players are the best they’ve been under Shanahan. I’m bullish on the 49ers’ offense and would go as far as to say that they’ll be on par or better than the defense this year. It may take a month or so to figure everything out, but this unit is the real deal and will be the reason this team wins in the playoffs.

The defense and special teams were the reason the 49ers were a quarter away from another Super Bowl appearance. As they tended to do down the stretch, the offense couldn’t come through when they needed to the most.

Season predictions

The 49ers didn’t escape the injury bug entirely as Jason Verrett, Raheem Mostert, Mike McGlinchey, and Javon Kinlaw all missed the majority of the season. It’s a testament to the depth on this roster that the Niners strung together the late-season stretch that they did.

I predicted 12-5, and over 68% of you believed San Francisco would top 12 wins:

Wins: Lions, Eagles, Cardinals, Colts, Bears, Cardinals, Jaguars, Falcons, Texans, Bengals

Losses: Rams, Vikings, Seahawks,

Toss-up wins: Seahawks, Rams,

Toss-up losses: Packers, Titans

Getting swept by Kliff Kingsbury wasn’t something that I had down on my bingo card — neither was losing to Colt McCoy.

The most surprising loss of the season has to be the Titans. Ignore their record and think about how that game went and who Tennesee was missing.

If this is an end of an era in Seattle, it could also mean the end of arguably the best rivalry in the sport — at least for the past decade.

0-for on bold predictions

They are called bold for a reason, so you have to swing for the fences, but these predictions hardly made it out of the infield:

Fred Warner is higher in the Defensive Player of the Year voting than Nick Bosa

Brandon Aiyuk has more receiving yards than Justin Jefferson from the Vikings

Dee Ford plays a full season and leads the team in sacks

Trey Sermon scores double-digit touchdowns

The 49ers end up trading for a cornerback in the middle of the season

Warner came on strong, but Bosa was more dominant than his rookie year and was in the top-5 for Defensive Player of the Year odds through the final week of the season.

Aiyuk’s slow start to the season hurt his chances to catch Jefferson. The second-year wideout out of Arizona State came on strong during the final playoff stretch, but it was too little too late by then. Aiyuk finished with 826 receiving yards. Jefferson nearly doubled that at 1,616.

So close on Ford.

And Sermon.

The team should have acquired a cornerback midseason but didn’t have the resources or cap space to pull off landing a Stephon Gilmore without restructuring or re-working contracts.