It was just one year ago that the San Francisco 49ers were media darlings with experts predicting a breakout season for the Kyle Shanahan-led squad. The 49ers, after all, were coming off a red-hot December in 2017. Their new quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, was coming off a five-game win streak to end the 2017 season and was starting to fully grasp Shanahan's playbook.

Many felt the 49ers might be able to compete with the Los Angeles Rams for the division or win enough games to make a push for the playoffs.

Fans know what happened next. The 49ers came out of a September 23 matchup in Kansas City without their franchise quarterback, who suffered a torn ACL. San Francisco went on to lose eight of its next nine games and finished with a 4-12 record.

Garoppolo and several others are returning from injury. The 49ers enter 2019 with a much-improved pass rush — a weakness in recent years — and a deep group of running backs. The team's wide receivers are inexperienced but potentially talented. The improvements over last season have several "experts" predicting a turnaround for Shanahan's team.

NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger predicted a 10-win season for the 49ers.

"This is a do-or-die year for Garoppolo and for the 49ers, and so I expect 10 wins for this football team this year. And if that's enough to get to the postseason, well, then so be it. But if it isn't, that's where they've got to be. They've got to get double-digit wins, and the quarterback has to play at a high level to do it."

Baldinger went on to boldly state that he doesn't see any glaring weaknesses on the 49ers roster, which is debatable.

"This is the best team that has been around Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco. I mean, they've got depth; they've built their offensive and defensive lines; they've got talent in the backfield; they've got an [Pro Bowl] tight end. There's plenty to work with. Plenty. I don't see any glaring weaknesses on this team."

Peter King of NBC Sports predicts the 49ers make the playoffs this season. Of course, that is dependent on Jimmy Garoppolo staying healthy, which tells you how highly King regards the quarterback.

"When I ranked teams in the offseason, I ranked them in my top 10 in the league. I think they're going to make a big jump this year."

Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated has San Francisco finishing with eight wins and winning at least half of its games for the first time since 2014. His expectations are lower than Baldinger's and King's, but still an improvement over the last two seasons.

"A lot of people are pegging this as the year that everything finally materializes in San Francisco. The problem? Their division is tough, and they have a super early bye week. There's a chance the 49ers glide into Week 4 at 2-1 or even 3-0 (Bengals, Steelers, Buccaneers), but the meat of their schedule is backloaded with little respite. They finish Saints-Falcons-Rams-Seahawks."

Former ESPN writer and current host on ESPN Radio, John Clayton, also didn't go so far as to predict a potential playoff appearance. He did, however, name the 49ers, along with the Jacksonville Jaguars, as one of the most-improved teams in 2019.

"The key for the 49ers, because, again, they're one of the most improved defensive lines in football, their pass rush is going to improve dramatically — the question is going to be depth and where they are with injuries … If the team is going to be healthy, it should be able to get to eight or nine wins."

NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah agrees with Clayton. He recently ranked the 49ers as the most-improved team this offseason.


Not everyone is as high on the 49ers' potential this season. Fans heavily criticized NFL Network analyst Adam Rank after he predicted a three-win season for San Francisco and then reduced the win total by one game. That would give the team half the victories earned in 2018.

The bottom line is that while the offseason hype has died down from a year ago, most experts can envision a successful campaign in 2019 by Shanahan and the 49ers.