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SI makes 49ers predictions involving the Super Bowl, Christian McCaffrey, Talanoa Hufanga

May 31, 2023 at 8:32 AM--

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Conor Orr continues his annual tradition of making 100 bold predictions for the upcoming season. That's a lot of predictions to sift through. Luckily for you, I've pulled out the San Francisco 49ers-related ones for this article. That doesn't mean the others aren't worth your time, though. So head over to the Sports Illustrated feature to peruse the remaining 96.

For now, here are Orr's 49ers-related predictions.

49ers-Bengals Super Bowl clash

The good news is that Orr predicts the 49ers to be among the Super Bowl participants in February. The bad news is that he has the Cincinnati Bengals handing San Francisco its third loss in the big game.

"The Bengals and the 49ers have, by my estimation, the two rosters that best embody the hallmark of a Super Bowl team: talent and depth at almost every position," Orr wrote. "The 49ers have enough options at the quarterback position to make sure they aren't stuck in the title game with Christian McCaffrey in the Wildcat. Deebo Samuel believed this team was better than the Eagles last year, and, even after Philadelphia's superb draft, I agree that the 49ers have just as strong of a roster."

The McCaffrey comment refers to the star running back's role after the 49ers lost quarterback Brock Purdy in the NFC Championship Game. San Francisco flirted with the idea of having McCaffrey play quarterback after injuries to Purdy and his backup, Josh Johnson.

Christian McCaffrey touchdown fest

Speaking of McCaffrey, Orr makes a separate prediction for the 49ers star. He envisions McCaffrey becoming the first running back since 2006 to surpass 20 rushing touchdowns.

"We had a handful of 20-touchdown seasons in the early 2000s, with LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander and Priest Holmes (twice) all striking fantasy football gold," Orr wrote. "McCaffrey will end up securing Kyle Shanahan's trust in what amounts to a preference for security. Shanahan would rather Trey Lance be handing the ball off when points are on the line, if Lance has to take significant snaps. Or, if it's Brock Purdy, the coach would prefer to minimize the number of throws he has to make."

Talanoa Hufanga leads the league

What can safety Talanoa Hufanga do to top his All-Pro and Pro Bowl sophomore season? How about leading the NFL in interceptions?

"Hufanga was only two off the pace last season, finishing the year with four," Orr wrote. "My guess is that a few quarterbacks will think twice about testing Tariq Woolen after his exceptional rookie debut, meaning fewer picks for the second-year Seahawks standout. Patrick Peterson and Minkah Fitzpatrick will be in the same Steelers secondary in 2023, which means fewer pickable balls to go around."

49ers offense leads in key stat

Who will be the 49ers' starting quarterback when the team faces the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1? While there is some confidence in Purdy's recovery timeline, a lot can happen between now and the start of the regular season. It could be Trey Lance or Sam Darnold leading the offense against the Steelers, should Purdy not be available.

Regardless of who it is under center, Orr predicts that the 49ers offense will lead the NFL in yards per play in 2023.

"The Chiefs have led the category in each of the past two seasons," Orr wrote.

Kansas City averaged 6.4 yards per play last season. The 49ers were tied for fourth with the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions at 5.9 yards per play. With McCaffrey finally having an entire offseason of learning the 49ers playbook under his belt and the return of other playmakers like Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle, it's not hard to believe that San Francisco can fulfill this prediction.

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