49ers to Stay 'Under' Small Win Total in 2017

kyle shanahan

Mark Lathrop

Wednesday, May 31, 2017 1:03 PM GMT

Wednesday, May. 31, 2017 1:03 PM GMT

The 49ers have more questions than answers for 2017, and our NFL handicapper thinks that the new front office in San Francisco will use the 2017 season to play the rookies in preparation for being competitive in 2018.

New 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will have a very low bar to clear to call the 2017 season an improvement over 2016. The Chip Kelly era ended quickly with a 2-14 campaign and sweeping changes in the front office. All reviews generally give new GM John Lynch a good rating for his 2017 draft class, but a great many rookie will be asked to log significant playing time this year which will steepen the learning curve.

As stated in my schedule breakdown for San Francisco, the running game of the 49ers was a bright spot for the team in 2016. That is of course in direct relation to the ineptitude in the passing game. San Francisco was dead last in passing with only 170 yards per game in 2016, and their scoring average of 19.3 points per game was not the Kelly offense fans were promised.

Brian Hoyer is the new starting QB for the 49ers, and he has the luxury of knowing Shanahan’s offense already. He’ll have one stalwart on the offensive line to protect him, left tackle Joe Staley, but the rest of that squad could be new to their positions come September. Hoyer has a fine target in free-agent acquisition Pierre Garcon, who is a huge upgrade over the receiving weapons available last year in San Francisco.

The defense for San Francisco has serious questions in the secondary, which will be starting inexperienced corners on both sides. There are 5 early East Coast start times for the 49ers this year, and all of those teams will have a quarterback who can take advantage of this situation in the secondary. That leads me to believe that all of those games are likely losses for San Francisco.

Within the division, the 49ers are only equal to the Los Angeles Rams in their rebuilding phase. Arizona and Seattle should be able to sweep the season series against them, or at the least the Niners will be heavy underdogs in those games. Those East Coast early starts, 4 against Arizona and Seattle, and dangerous home dates with Dallas, Carolina, and the New York Giants have me penciling in at least 13 losses for this 49er team – even if they do play better while losing he games.

If the 49ers find success this year it will be a year earlier than expected. Lynch will be able to do wonders given another good draft class, and losing games to get position is a means to an end. There will be little consequences in playing the rookies this year as a result. I’ll fade the 49ers and take 'under' 4.5 games for their win total this year, but likely will back them to surprise in 2018.

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