It’s one week until the gates open on the 2018 NFL season. Which means it’s time to throw our brains on the table and cough up our annual predictions of what the 49ers’ record will be this year. As usual, predictions will be accepted until next Saturday at midnight.
Some of you might be revising early estimations in light of the season ending injury to RB Jerick McKinnon at the tail end of Saturday’s practice. Jerick was the prize free agent acquisition this year, a guy who would make the Niner’s offense more explosive with his open field quickness. The team had avoided any major injuries all the way through training camp and the exhibition season until the last play of the last practice on Saturday.
This is the second consecutive season the 49ers have lost their prize FA signing to season ending IR. The previous year, it was LB Malcolm Smith. Smith was an overpriced, non-elite talent who was easily replaced by draft pick Reuben Foster. But McKinnon’s skills can’t be duplicated by any player on the roster. The recent signing of Alfred Morris will give the running game punch, but will not enhance the downfield passing game.
So, unless Dante Pettis goes wild somewhere along the way, we’ve got pretty much the same offense this year as the one that went on a five game roll at the end of last season. We’ll soon see whether that was a mirage or real.
And we won’t have to wait long because right out of the box the team travels to Minnesota for what Maiocco likes to call a GPS game. A game that measures where the team is in relation to the contending teams in the league. The Vikings are legitimate Super Bowl contenders; the Niners are merely a team expected to rise up the ladder this year.
The Vikings have a good defense, especially when they play at home, which will be good test for Jimmy Garoppolo and the rebuilt offensive line. Their offense is expected to improve with the addition of the extremely expensive QB Kirk Cousins. Personally, I’m not sold on Cousins. He piles up good stats, but not correspondingly good wins. I’ll be surprised if he does much better than last year’s Vikings’ QB, Case Keenum, who’s now playing for the Broncos and at a much more affordable cost. Cousins is the QB Kyle Shanahan wanted and Garoppolo is the one John Lynch brought in. A Garoppolo win here would be a mighty big feather in Lynch’s GM portfolio.