By Sam McPherson
This is the 71st season of San Francisco 49ers football, and it looks like this year’s team will be one of the worst in franchise history. With 10 losses and five games to play, the 2016 49ers have a good chance of matching the worst seasons from the organization’s past, and that is a depressing turn of events for a team that was so close to winning the Super Bowl as recently as 2013. For three straight years, San Francisco reached the NFC Championship Game from 2011 to 2013, and now that seems like a distant memory.
How will the final five games turn out in 2016? No one knows for sure, but three teams in 49ers history have lost 14 games in a season, and three more squads have lost 12 games in a season. San Francisco’s final opponents are the Chicago Bears (2-9), the New York Jets (3-8), the Atlanta Falcons (7-4), the Los Angeles Rams (4-7) and the Seattle Seahawks (7-3-1). The Jets and Seahawks games are at Levi’s Stadium, while the other three are on the road. This is what the forecast is currently for the 49ers’ ultimate destiny this year.
According to the fivethirtyeight.com NFL forecast, San Francisco will not win another game this year. The best shot the analytical experts there give the 49ers is a 40 percent chance to beat the Jets in Week 14 in Santa Clara. However, that system has some flaws, in the sense it doesn’t weight recent performances strongly enough while still incorporating some distant-past performances too thoroughly. For example, the system isn’t recognizing that S.F. quarterback Colin Kaepernick is playing well right now, and that alone gives the Niners a chance to beat teams with mediocre defenses.
San Francisco has a very good chance to win its next two games in Chicago and at home against New York. In addition, the 49ers beat the Rams in Week 1 at home, and while both teams are different now in composition and makeup, the S.F. roster will have some solid confidence when it plays Los Angeles. Head coach Chip Kelly has the 49ers trending upward right now, and it should pay off a few times in the final five weeks of the 2016 season, assuming he isn’t lured back to the University of Oregon any time soon.
Let’s be clear: The 49ers aren’t going to beat the Falcons on the road in Week 15 or the Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium in Week 17. Both of those teams are talented and fighting for playoff position right now. Atlanta leads the NFC South Division by a game over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Falcons won’t be losing at home to a team like San Francisco. Also, the Seahawks lead the NFC West Division by three games over the Arizona Cardinals, and come the final weekend of the season, Seattle probably is going to be pinning down the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.
Neither veteran team is going to let the lowly 49ers upset them this late in the season. By the way, San Francisco has just one three-point win at home against Seattle in the last nine meetings between the teams, and that was back in 2013. The Seahawks now have won six straight by an average of 14 points in the once-interesting rivalry. Seattle QB Russell Wilson basically owns the 49ers at this point.
Final Record Prediction: 3-13
The 49ers should be able to take the Bears down this weekend, even on the road. San Francisco should also be able to beat the floundering Jets at home next week. The Niners even have the ability to beat the middling Rams in Los Angeles in Week 16. However, the Rams have a potential QB threat in Jared Goff that can enable them to take advantage of the 49ers’ weaknesses if the coaching staff allows it. Thus, we see San Francisco finishing with a 3-13 record in 2016, which is one game better than the 1978, 1979 and 2004 teams—and one game worse than the 1963, 1999 and 2005 squads.
Now it’s up to the Niners to prove this prediction wrong and head into 2017 with some confidence, momentum and pride.