Five Ways an MLB-Type NFL Schedule Would Affect the 49ers

Maverick Pallack

As of Friday, Aug. 7, the 49ers are set to play out their original 16-game schedule, but in 2020, there’s no telling what the future of sports holds. While the small-rostered NBA succeeds with its bubble system, the MLB struggles to contain 30+ players and coaches. 

The NFL’s personnel alone makes an NBA-bubble system unfathomable. The MLB is far from perfect, but they did one thing the NFL could mirror. 

SI’s Thursday cover story presented different solutions, including a modified schedule. 

If the NFL rolls with an MLB-Covid-conscious approach, here’s what it would look like: 

To limit travel and exposure, each team would play their usual two games against their division, but also a single game against the opposite conference’s related division. 

The 49ers would play the Cardinals, Rams and Seahawks twice, and the AFC West’s Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs and Raiders once. 

This makes for a 10-game sprint against the NFC and AFC West. 

(Disclaimer: I am not a health expert. I took computer science in college, not biology. I have no credible opinion. This is just fun to think about.) 

Here are five ways the schedule change would affect the 49ers: 

The 49ers would have new opponents 

The 49ers’ entire out-of-conference schedule: the Jets, Giants, Eagles, Dolphins, Patriots, Packers, Saints, Bills, Washington and Cowboys were all beatable. 

They would trade those games for the AFC West. 

If the 49ers and Seahawks beat everyone but split the games with each other, it could come down to which team beats the Chiefs, and by how much. 

The division could ultimately be decided by tiebreakers of “strength of victory” or “best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.” 

Less home games hurts 49ers’ opponents more 

The 49ers are built to win regardless of location. 

Although the Seahawks and Chiefs have their fair share of road and neutral-site wins, they’re both different beasts in front of their home crowd. 

An MLB-themed schedule would not only eliminate fan-attendance (thus removing the 12th-man), but also remove at least three home games from each team’s schedule. 

No Preseason means less dress rehearsals 

While less-experienced teams figure out their lineups on the fly, the 49ers return most of their starters and staff. They’re not implementing a whole offense or defense from the ground up. 

The 49ers’ best skills, running the ball and pressuring the quarterback, should translate without increased practice. While teams struggle with pass-blocking assignments and plugging the gaps, Nick Bosa is taking down their quarterback and Raheem Mostert is running down the sideline. 

Shortened schedule completely changes injury management 

The 49ers have their playbooks, assignments and personnel in place, but that doesn’t make them impervious to freak injuries. 

Less practices and games may create an extremely healthy season with no wear-and-tear, or it may lead to more tears and sprains. 

In a normal season, players have to battle through 16 games to make the playoffs. With less attrition, they would be much fresher for a postseason run. 

On the other hand, this would decrease in-season recovery time. Kwon Alexander and Jaquiski Tartt were just two 49ers that benefited from the extra weeks. 

Only the football gods know whether no preseason (and possibly fewer games) will affect injuries this season. 

A shortened schedule decreases separation 

Teams have six less weeks to separate from the crowd. That’s a lot less leeway. 

In Week 11 of last season, there were six teams within a game of each other for the final AFC Wild Card spot. 

Despite the congestion, a 7-3 record would likely guarantee a spot in the playoffs. That shouldn’t be too hard for the 49ers, who started last season 9-1. 

The goal isn’t to go undefeated; it’s to win the Super Bowl. 

In a year of improbability, I wouldn’t write off anything turning this whole season on its head. We all just want virus-free football. I know you’re thinking this is so unlikely, and so am I, but it’s 2020. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Follow me on Twitter @Mavpallack 

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