The season is approaching with all gas and a six-week summer break. The locker room has a positive and renewed enthusiasm about it, and the energy is definitely reciprocating. They say change is inevitable and depending on how you accept it, change is good. Richard Sherman is here, and Uncle Sherm’s veteran presence ironically is a breath of fresh air. Joe Staley has a new little brother in 49ers first round pick Mike McGlinchey. Reuben Foster has been watching. and studying film with one of the last OGs of the team, Quaski Tartt. A brotherhood has been formed, 49ers football is family again!
The right pieces are almost in place on Coach Kyle Shanahan’s chessboard and rest assured he has been strategizing every single move until he is able to victoriously raise his hands and yell out “check mate”.
As we wish Coach Kyle Shanahan good fortune in the wars to come, lets take a look at 10 story lines to keep in mind for the 2018-19 NFL season.

1. Week 1 – San Francisco 49ers at Vikings: Garoppolo vs Cousins 

Back in March General Manager John Lynch was on a guest on on ESPN’s Golic and Wingo radio show and had mentioned that Kyle Shanahan had baby blues because a major component to his chess match was originally planned to include his former protege, Kirk Cousins.

“Jimmy [Garoppolo], we made the trade, but then there were some days that Kyle Shanahan was like in mourning, because I think everybody knows his master plan was to have Kirk Cousins come in eventually. I was proud of Kyle, because I think he knew that this was the right thing for our franchise. And he didn’t hesitate. But then, even then, Jimmy had to really prove himself. Kyle, I think was really smart. He didn’t play him right away.” – John Lynch

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will open the season going against former Kyle Shanahan protege Kirk Cousins on the road. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terril)

 

However, time waits for no one and sometimes you have to go with your gut and hope it is the right direction in the end. In case you’ve been completely isolated from humanity for the last year or so, then I’m sure you know the 49ers acquired Jimmy Garoppolo in a trade with the New England Patriots for a second-round pick, and Kirk Cousins signed a three-year, $84 million, contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Garoppolo lead the 49ers to a 5-0 finish on the season and closed it out with a QB rating of 96.2, completing 120/178 throws for 1,560 yards and 7 touchdowns! Jimmy Garoppolo signed a five-year, $137.5 million, contract with the San Francisco 49ers in February.
The Minnesota Vikings smell blood in the water with a playoff birth last season and the 49ers are on a 5-0 (technically 6-0 if you count the coin toss with the Oakland Raiders) win-streak after starting the season losing a nine heartbreaking games in a row (especially the first few weeks). With Kyle Shanahan going up against his former protégé with his new protégé, I see this game to be as pivotal as the opening move on a chess board. However, are we looking at a possible league-handed suspension for Reuben Foster for his violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy here — and if so for how many games?

    2. Week 2 – Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers: The 2018-19 season Home Opener against the Detroit Lions 

This may not have fancy matchup written all over it but hey, it’s the season home opener at Levi’s Stadium, in what will be their 4th year since the infamous inaugural season! During the State of the Franchise, Team President Al Guido made it a point to let the Faithful know that they have been indeed listening to feedback and reading over surveys to make the improvements necessary to make Levi’s Stadium the stadium — not only for the Faithful on game day but as a venue in general. I for one am very excited to see and hear what Levy’s Restaurants brings to the table, in what should be a major menu up haul at Levi’s Stadium. This will also be the first time that the Faithful get to see new additions like Richard Sherman and Jet McKinnon with a revamped offensive line.


3. Week 7 – Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers: A Rivalry Renewed Under the Lights 

Again, unless you’re Spongebob Squarepants and have been living in a pineapple under the sea, you’re probably aware that the Los Angeles Rams made some moves this offseason. The Rams took the first swing in January when they tried to rip off the 49ers slogan ‘Brick by Brick’.

Then realizing that Jimmy Garoppolo might actually be the real deal, the Rams made moves in acquiring CB Marcus Peters, CB Aqib Talib, CB Sam Shields, and DL Ndamukong Suh. To put the proverbial exclamation mark on their statement trades, they then made a trade with the New England Patriots. The Rams gave the Patriots a first and fourth-rounder for wide receiver (and Stockton, CA native) Brandin Cooks and a fourth round pick. Sure this looks amazing on paper, but how it plays out on the field is yet to be seen. This should be a fun matchup, and possibly a good, old-fashioned NFL shootout between Goff and Garoppolo in primetime fashion!


4. Week 9 – Oakland Raiders at San Francisco 49ers: Possibly the Final Battle of the Bay 

The last time these two historic franchises met on the gridiron was December 7, 2014 — when the Raiders bested the 49ers 24-13. Out of the thirteen times these two teams have played, the Oakland Raiders just lead the series 7-6. Since they last met, beloved former-49ers legend NaVorro Bowman has deflected to the Raider Nation and hometown-hero Marshawn Lynch, whom the 49ers are familiar with in his time with Seattle, has returned to Oakland. This will quite possibly be the final Battle of the Bay between the teams as the Oakland Raiders are slated to become the Las Vegas Raiders presumably after the 2019 season. The Las Vegas Raiders will open a $1.9 billion stadium in the Nevada desert in 2020. This will also be the first time former teammates Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch will square off against each other on their new respective teams.

The last meeting between the two teams was on 12/7/14 (photo: USATSI/AP)

 


5. Week 12 – San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks: Richard Sherman Returns 

In March, the Seattle Seahawks jettisoned CB Richard Sherman after seven memorable seasons with the team. Sherman’s departure opened up $11 million in salary-cap space for the Seahawks — who after a roster-chilling offseason, are in fight-or-flight mode whether you like to accept it or not. A player so beloved by the 12s and so loathed by 49ers fans suddenly dawned new colors, as Richard Sherman agreed to a three-year $27.15 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers — including a $3 million signing bonus, and $7 million guaranteed only one day after being released by the rival Seattle Seahawks. Sherman quickly became an impact, regardless of coming off an ACL injury, as he became ‘Uncle Sherm’ — a great mentor and veteran presence to the secondary. He was seen helping coach the secondary in OTAs, and most recently was spotted helping sophomore corner Ahkello Witherspoon on individual drills. This will be the first meeting between the two rivals with an opportunity for the 49ers (and hopefully Richard Sherman) to make a pivotal statement at CenturyLink Field in December and most importantly, during a primetime game! The two teams will meet again at Levi’s Stadium two weeks later on December 16th.


6. Week 12 – San Francisco 49ers at Rams: Will This Game Have Playoff Implications? —

This will be the 49ers final game of the season. Lets face it, the Los Angeles Rams did not stack in the offseason the way they did to NOT make the playoffs. Let us also face the fact that with Jimmy Garoppolo and a revamped 49ers squad, that we quite possibly have a game here with playoff implications. Both of these teams stand in the way of each other and the postseason. Last year the 49ers beat the Rams 34-13 with Jimmy Garoppolo making 20/33 passes for 292 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. The Rams at this point were already playing their backups, as they were looking to rest their starters before heading into the postseason —  only to lose to the Atlanta Falcons in the first round of the NFL Wild Card 26-13. If the stars align for both these teams, they may not be playing their backups against each other at the end of December when they meet!

George Kittle exploded in last year’s season finale with 4 receptions for 100 yards. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

 

To see if any of what Alex wrote in this article is the real life or if it’s just fantasy follow him on Twitter — @Nineralex!