Now that you’ve had a couple of days to digest the 49ers' schedule let’s make some predictions. Vegas is projecting the 49ers to win somewhere around ten games, so keep that in mind.
Marc’s Prediction: 11-6
The 49ers' schedule breaks down pretty easily along the strength of their opponents. The Bears, Falcons, Panthers, and Seahawks (x2) matchups should all be easy wins for the Niners. Four of those games will be on the road, but San Francisco has too much talent to let that justify losses against teams headed for top-10 picks next season.
The Saints, Broncos, Commanders, Raiders, Dolphins, and Cardinals (x2) make the middle-tier of the Niners schedule. Each could be a legitimate postseason contender but also have clear questions around their rosters.
Barring a disastrous season from Trey Lance, San Francisco should be favored in the vast majority of these games. Even with questions about the quality of play the Niners can expect from their quarterback, I still think it’s reasonable to expect them to come out of these games 5-2.
Finally, the 49ers have four games against teams we expect to be in the NFL’s elite: Kansas City, the Chargers, Buccaneers, and the Rams (x2). The Rams are probably the weakest of the bunch, but counting on wins against Sean McVay should never be viewed as a guarantee.
I’ve been in on Trey Lance since the 49ers drafted him. That confidence is letting me bet on pulling the upset in one of these games. The early-season Monday Night Football matchup against the Rams could be the perfect opportunity, but I have my eye on their Week 10 game against the Chargers. San Francisco will be coming off their BYE week, while Los Angeles will be returning from a trip to Atlanta.
Put all that together, and I get an 11-win prediction.
Tyler’s Prediction: 12-5
Looking back at the 49ers’ 2021 record should give us a decent idea as to where the 2022 Niners will end up. The roster turnover at premium positions has been minimal and the most substantial change will obviously be a quarterback.
Handing the reins over to a second-year player with 358 career passes between college and the pros could be a tricky proposition, but when you consider his upside -- a big arm to attack down the field and his athleticism to extend plays or gain first downs on broken plays -- the move becomes a no-brainer.
Thus, in terms of production at QB, the floor necessary last year to win ten games should be an easy hurdle for Trey Lance to clear. With that in mind and perusing the schedule, I’m confident in saying double-digit wins, barring injuries and general bad luck, should be an absolute lock.
To begin with, Trey Lance opens against to of the weaker opponents that the Niners will face all year, the Bears and the Seahawks (isn’t that nice to say??) Then, they'll go back-to-back primetime games against two of the feistier teams on their slate in the Broncos (now with Russell Wilson) and the Rams. I’m willing to be an optimistic pessimist and say 2-2 would be a great start to the season.
A quarter of the way done, the Niners should easily clean up against the Falcons and Panthers on the road, the last times they’ll be in the Eastern Time Zone all year, before facing down the true gauntlet of the season. The Chiefs, Rams, and Chargers are all smack dab in a row. Even a great team would be happy going 2-1 here, and I’m willing to say this team will be great.
After that trial by fire, the Niners could really start to groove down the stretch. All their toughest games will be at home -- the Bucs, Saints, and Dolphins -- (sans one against the Cards, if you even consider them tough), and the rest are short trips against mid-tier teams at best.
However, given the NFL’s parity, I doubt they’d actually finish the season 8-0 and would circle that matchup against the Raiders as a possible spoiler. Throw in some Tom Brady dark magic, and lets make it a round five losses on the season.
Kyle Shanahan will come out of the gates swinging to start the season and show off his shiny new toy under center as the offensive hits the ground running to score 24+ to start the season against two lesser opponents as the 49ers start 2-0 after beating up on the Bears and the Seahawks.
Then, the fun starts. I’m not sure what to expect from the Broncos and what appears to be an average at best offensive line. Their wideouts and receivers should challenge San Francisco, but catching Denver early in the season is a break for the road team.
I think Denver is a touch overrated, and Russell Wilson isn’t going to be the savior, many believe he’ll be. With that said, the Niners lose the next week on Monday Night Football against the Rams in a high-scoring affair to start the season 3-1.
The next four games feature the Panthers, Falcons, Chiefs, and Rams again. The good news is starting the year 5-1 will look great for Trey Lance’s resume. The bad news is that the Super Bowl rematch ends with the same result as does the Rams game for the third game in a row. So the Niners enter the bye week at 5-3 and we have a week to mull over “what’s wrong with the team with the fifth-best record in the NFC?”
The 49ers regroup rebound against the Chargers on Sunday Night Football, then get revenge from last season against the Cardinals in Mexico City.
That momentum comes to a halt as the team puts up a stinker at home against the New Orleans Saints. So, we go from 7-3 and back on top of the world to 7-4, loss to Jameis Winston, wondering if the team should tank the rest of the season.
Mike McDaniel and the Miami Dolphins get the worst end of this as the 49ers refocus and take it out on Miami the next week at home.
Then, there’s that Tom Brady guy. By Week 14, Tampa Bay will be humming and look like the best team in the league. A couple of costly Lance turnovers costs San Francisco at home, and the 49ers fall to 8-5.
San Francisco rebounds on Thursday night in Seattle, even on a short week, but drops back-to-back games against a pesky Washington club and the resurgent Raiders on New Years’ Day.
At 9-7, playing for playoff seeding, the defense puts the clamps on the Cardinals offense in Week 18, and the Niners finish 10-7 in Lance’s first year as a starter.