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5 bold-ish takes on the 49ers season

Will Brock Purdy finish the season? George Kittle set his personal touchdown record?

Los Angeles Chargers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The 49ers open their 2023 season against an AFC team for the first time since 1999 with a trip to Acrisure Stadium for a tilt against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But looking at Week 1, let’s look at the season as a whole and get bold-ish with it.

Let’s start with one that will be decided by Sunday:

The 49ers will figure out Nick Bosa’s extension before Week 1

Months have turned into days, and the days will soon turn into hours as the 49ers work to extend Bosa’s contract before the season starts on Sunday. It doesn’t seem like the two sides are getting any closer, with Ian Rapoport reporting on Monday that the two sides would need a significant breakthrough for the reigning Defensive Player of the Year to play in Pittsburgh.

I believe that if a deal can be reached on Saturday, Bosa will be game-ready by 10am on Sunday. Bosa has plenty of leverage, and the 49ers have work to do to meet the player’s asking price. I have a hard time believing the 49ers allow their best defensive player to miss any time.

Brock Purdy starts all 17 regular season games*

Blame has been placed on Kyle Shanahan for one reason or another that his quarterbacks can’t finish a season. And that’s not necessarily incorrect - only once has a quarterback started every regular season game under Shanahan (2019) - but it’s been an issue since the days of Dennis Erickson.

Jeff Garcia started all 16 games from 2000 to 2002, but an ankle injury caused him to miss three games in 2003. Since then, the 49ers have had a quarterback start every game in a season just five times - 2006, 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2019. It’s been a rare feat to accomplish for the 49ers.

How Purdy responds to his elbow injury is the headline at quarterback, but there hasn’t been concern about it since he was cleared before training camp.

*This bold prediction is null and void if Purdy misses a late season start because the 49ers have playoff positioning clinched.

George Kittle will have at least nine touchdown receptions

While nine seems arbitrary, it would give Kittle 20 touchdown receptions between 2022 and 2023. In the first five years of his career, Kittle had 20 touchdowns in 67 career games. Even in 2018, when Kittle broke the record for most yards in a season by a tight end, he finished with only five touchdowns.

Kittle’s scoring rate picked up after Purdy took over in early December, scoring seven of his 11 touchdowns last season after Week 13. In 76 career games before Purdy, Kittle scored a touchdown on 6.5 percent of his receptions. In six regular season games with Purdy at quarterback, the tight end scored on 29.2 percent of his receptions.

To be fair, it’s a small sample size and that rate likely won’t hold, but the spike does show there’s a connection between the quarterback out of Iowa State and the tight end from Iowa.

The 49ers will enter November with a record above .500

The 49ers have made a trend out of slow starts. Under Shanahan, the 49ers are 20-26 in September and October, with an 11-11 record in the first two months since 2020. Only twice under Shanahan have the 49ers entered November with a record above .500 - 2019 and 2020 - but the latter season went awry, with a 6-10 finish.

The first two months of the schedule will be tough, including Week 1 against Pittsburgh and two home games against Dallas and Cincinnati, but the 49ers will manage to win at least five of their first eight for the first time since their 8-0 start in 2019.

Deommodore Lenoir establishes himself as the 49ers nickel cornerback of the future

It seems Lenoir will get the first crack at nickel corner after beating out Isaiah Oliver in camp. Lenoir played 172 snaps in the slot in 2022, with 147 of the snaps coming from Weeks 3 through 5 before getting kicked outside after the Emmanuel Moseley injury. Lenoir’s time in the slot didn’t go well, allowing 26 receptions on 30 targets for 253 yards, but he didn’t allow a touchdown.

After a productive season, adding a defensive coordinator specializing in the secondary in Steve Wilks, and the opportunity at the spot, Lenoir could take hold of it and keep it for years.