By Sam McPherson
With a 1-6 record and the bye week right now, the San Francisco 49ers are looking down an ugly chasm. From 8-8 in 2014 to 5-11 last year, the decline continues for the team that made three straight NFC Championship Game appearances from 2011 to 2013. It will be a long time before the 49ers reach such heights again.
Yet the more immediate question at hand is this: How many more games can the 49ers win in 2016? They’ve been outscored by 103 points combined during the current six-game losing streak, and whatever magic that was on display in the Week 1 victory over the Los Angeles Rams has long since disappeared.
Even with the change at quarterback, San Francisco has been outscored 79-33 in its last two games. There don’t seem to be a lot of answers hiding on the bench for this organization, either, in terms of talent waiting to be discovered. Head coach Chip Kelly will try anything, of course, but it just may not matter for this team, this year.
Possible Wins On The Schedule
Three straight games in Weeks 12-14 offer the best hope for the 49ers to get another victory (or two) in 2016. The Miami Dolphins (on the road), the Chicago Bears (on the road) and the New York Jets (at home) have all struggled this season with inconsistency, and that is the kind of team San Francisco will have to surprise for an upset win.
The Dolphins (3-4) just beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, however, and that could give Miami enough confidence to straighten out its season. The Bears (1-6) could be down to their third-string quarterback, thanks to injuries, and the offense seems very stagnant at this point. The Jets (2-5) are a bit of a mess, but that’s not a surprise, really. If the 49ers could play a near-perfect game, they could beat one of these three teams (or two of them, even).
Then there are the Los Angeles Rams in Week 16 on the road. San Francisco surprised the Rams in Week 1 at Levi’s Stadium with a 28-0 victory, but it’s hard to see the 49ers repeating that result in Los Angeles late in the season. But, it’s the Rams still, so you never know.
Definite Losses On The Schedule
San Francisco comes out of the bye week with some tough opponents up next on the schedule. First, the 49ers host Drew Brees and the high-flying New Orleans Saints (2-4). While the San Francisco defense won’t be able to stop Brees & Co., the offense could score some points on the New Orleans defense. But the 49ers are likely to lose that kind of shootout.
The team next travels to Arizona to face the Cardinals (3-3-1), and that is a tough spot. The week after the trip to the desert, San Francisco returns home to host the New England Patriots (6-1). These three games in Weeks 9-11 have to be considered probable losses for the 49ers at this point.
Finally, the Week 15 trip to Atlanta (4-3) and the Week 17 home game against Seattle (4-1-1) also are games that San Francisco has little hope of winning, based on play so far this season. These five games are pretty much beyond the 49ers’ reach right now, all things considered.
Best Case Scenario: 3-13
Perhaps some combination of effort, fortune and luck will find the 49ers in the final nine games of the season, and San Francisco ends up beating the Bears and the Jets. That’s where this season is headed for San Francisco with the painful loss of NaVorro Bowman on defense and the absolute lack of quality QB play on offense.
The positive is another high draft pick next spring for the 49ers as they try to rebuild this once-proud team into a contender again for 2017 and beyond.