Before the start of the season, we predicted what the 49ers record would be for 2023. The first-quarter predictions were correct, as the Niners went 4-0 and only had a single one-possession game. We thought it’d be the Giants, though.
Here’s what was said back in May:
The 49ers did not play well at all against the Cowboys in the playoff game and still won rather convincingly, despite what the scoreboard says.
I have the Niners winning both prime time games this quarter against the Cowboys and the Vikings. These games hold more significance since they’re in the NFC, but I have San Francisco falling on the road to the Browns after an emotional win over the Cowboys.
Then, in Week 8, the 49ers run out of gas the week before their bye. Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins walk all over the secondary en route to a week’s worth of overreactions questioning whether San Francisco is a legitimate Super Bowl contender, despite only losing twice in eight weeks.
Week 5 - 49ers 24, Cowboys 21
Week 6 - Browns 23, 49ers 20
Week 7 - 49ers 28, Vikings 24
Week 8 - Bengals 30, 49ers 21
Week 7 - 49ers 28, Vikings 17
Week 8 - 49ers 27, Bengals 21
I’d expect the Niners to harass and humiliate Kirk Cousins on Monday night. On the other side of the ball, Brian Flores’s aggressiveness will leave a porous secondary susceptible to the big play. The Vikings blitz because they cannot rush the passer.
I thought the Bengals would be much better than what they’ve shown. Injuries to Joe Burrow haven’t helped, but the real story is Cincy’s inability to stop anybody. The only reason they beat the Seahawks last week was due to Seattle going 1-for-4 in the red zone.
The Niners have a pair of favorable matchups heading into the bye and should go 7-1.
The 49ers face two teams that are better than some may have predicted, and two teams who they’re all too familiar with during these next five games.
Week 10 - 49ers 24, Jaguars 20
Week 11 - 49ers 27, Buccaneers 17
Week 12 - Seahawks 23, 49ers 21
Week 13 - Eagles 24, 49ers 17
Week 14 - 49ers 30, Seahawks 14
Trevor Lawrence is a star and might be the best quarterback the Niners see during this stretch. Still, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay are competent but aren’t consistent or mistake-free enough to battle with the 49ers for four quarters.
Seattle on the road during a short week in a prime time game in the same spot San Francisco beat them in last year? This year, the Seahawks' defense has been alarmingly good. They have the best run defense from a DVOA standpoint in the NFL. And Seattle finally has cornerbacks to give the 49ers receivers fits. I think the Seahawks steal one on the road.
In between that game, it’s another matchup against the Eagles. Something has been off about Philly this year. Injuries have made it difficult for their defense to be consistent, while Jalen Hurts has come back to earth a bit. But the Eagles are still a dominant running team and that’s an area where the 49ers defense has struggled.
It’ll be a difficult pill to swallow, but the Eagles are victorious, and the Niners lose back-to-back games, falling to 9-3. The season’s over! Fire everybody!!
Then the 49ers come back and look like they’re in playoff mode two weeks later and suffocate the Seattle offense. So, 10-3 after 13 games.
The recipe for beating the 49ers seems to be having a potent ground game or having a tenacious run defense. Of course, if you have a trump card, such as a superstar quarterback or offensive weapon, that’ll make any game competitive. There’s one team in the final stanza who fits this bill.
Week 15 - 49ers 31, Cardinals 20
Week 16 - 49ers 24, Ravens 23
Week 17 - 49ers 31, Commanders 14
Week 18 - 49ers 34, Rams 27
As the season goes along, I believe we’ll see the Niners' defense give up more points than we’re accustomed to. In turn, the offense — barring any unforeseen injuries — will peak heading into the playoffs as San Francisco claims the No. 1 seed.
John Harbaugh’s conservativeness will cost his team in Week 16, while Steve Wilks’s unit gets stingy in the red zone.
Sam Howell throws three interceptions in a rocking chair win on the road on New Year's Eve.
Those pesky Rams will do any and everything they can to spoil the 49ers to win the No. 1 seed. But their defense won’t get enough stops, and Kyle Shanahan’s crew gets a much-needed bye week for the playoffs.
The losses on Thanksgiving and in early December turned out to be the fuel the 49ers needed.
Final prediction: 14-3