It looks like everyone pretty much agrees that, barring any weird shit, the 49ers will once again be contenders this year.
In the NFC, the list of possible contenders is not daunting. There’s the Eagles and Cowboys, Bucs and Saints, Vikings and Packers, and the NFC West. That’s ten teams fighting for the seven available slots. Though it might be overly charitable to include the Rams in this mix.
The teams they’ll have trouble with are the Saints, Cardinals, and (once again) the Seahawks. Maybe the Bucs, if Brady doesn’t get squashed and their defense isn’t near the bottom, like it was last year. At least Brady will finally have to play in a competitive division for the first time in his career.
Of course, this rosy picture depends on one or both first round picks getting their NFL legs as early as possible. DT Javon Kinlaw and WR Brandon Aiyuk. If Kinlaw struggles early, the defense will too, and if Aiyuk struggles, the offense will need the return to health of Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd or, pinch me if I’m dreaming, Dante Pettis suddenly springs to life and escapes the notion that he’s a complete and total bust.
All of which makes the early season schedule fairly important. Last year’s first half games were far less challenging than the second half games. The Niners will need that kind of luck again if they want to get out of the gate quickly and avoid playing catch up all year.
We’ll find out later today when the league releases the 2020 schedule.