A BREAKDOWN OF THE FIRST 8 GAMES
49ers Football is back… well… almost! After the NFL released the schedule, I took some time to break it down to get a clear understanding of how the team could fair. The team was given 5 prime time games this season, which is a far cry from the mandatory 1 they had last season. The 49ers haven’t had 5 prime time games since the 2014 season. The NFL is so high on the 49ers this season that they even gave them back-to-back prime time spots (weeks 6 and 7 MNF and SNF against the Packers and Rams respectively) and 4 prime time games in 5 weeks (weeks 6, 7, 9 and 10 against the Raiders on TNF and Giants on MNF). The Bye-week won’t be until week 11 as opposed the the middle of the season that we’ve become accustom to. The team has two different back-to-back road game stretches this season but one of those games is in LA so its not as bad. The longest home game streak come in weeks 14, 15 and 16, giving the faithfuls plenty to cheer about as we wrap up the 2018-2019 regular season. I won’t be doing a win/loss prediction at the end of each breakdown, but instead, I will dictate which team has the “advantage.” LET’S BEGIN!
The 49ers open the regular season against the Minnesota Vikings. The road game is an early one that features 2 teams with some new additions to their offenses and defenses. The Vikings will be trotting out their new $84 million (fully guaranteed) QB in Kirk Cousins. The Vikings fell 1 game short of the Super Bowl last season and clearly feel the “upgrade” at that position could push them over the top. We will be keeping a close eye on the 3rd preseason game to see how the offense looks with their new signal caller. On the other side of the ball, the Vikings added DT Sheldon Richardson to the fray during free agency. This signing didn’t get enough recognition considering it happened the day after the QB acquisition, but adding a destructive force like Richardson to an already very good defensive line was a great move. The Vikings ranked 1st in both points allowed and yards allowed per game. Something else the Vikings did well: stopping the run. The defense ranked 2nd there as well. Richardson just bolsters everything they do up front and was pretty disruptive when the 49ers played him while with the Seahawks last season.
The 49ers had a pretty good off season as well and this will be the only time I break it down in this article, I promise. After finishing a perfect 5-0 after entering Jimmy Garoppolo to the mix, 3 of those bouts coming against playoff teams, the 49ers had to lock him up long term. This was clearly the top priority for the team going into the off season and they accomplished it early on. The team also swapped running back Carlos Hyde for former Viking Jerick McKinnon. A lot of people loved the signing because of the potential he has in Shanahan’s offense. I think the 49ers fans should remember that McKinnon has never been a featured back in an NFL offense and there will be a steep learning curve. One the Vikings team last season, he was only the 3rd back. Playing behind the likes of Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray, McKinnon saw a serious up-tick in touches after Cook was injured and sidelined for the rest of the season early on. The willing blocker and shifty runner can be electric in this system, so let’s hope he lives up to the contract. Another addition to the Garoppolo offense that we will be seeing for the first time, is WR Pierre Garçon. Garçon was injured before Garoppolo was given the reigns and the combination could be lethal together. Another off season acquisition for the 49ers we will get to see if CB Richard Sherman. The 49ers ranked 20th in pass defense last year allowing 235.2 ypg. Hopefully Sherman can help with that.
We have seen how special the 49ers offense can be, and I think the defense will play much better with the addition of Sherman and the return of other players like Arik Armstead, but since the game takes place in Minnesota and this will be the first time seeing a Kirk Cousins-run Vikings offense, I have to say ADVANTAGE VIKINGS
The 49ers have their first home game of the season that will likely be coming off of a very physical game against the Vikings. The Lions will be coming to town following their MNF bout against the NY Jets. The Lions opened the season at home but will have 1 less day to prepare for the 49ers plus travel to consider. Detroit had a number of off-season transactions but the biggest was tagging Ezekiel Ansah. Detroit hopes to win the Super Bowl this year with the signing of RB LeGarrette Blount. Blount has been on the 2 previous Super Bowl winning teams! Will the streak continue? The Lions have been struggling to get consistent production from the TE position, so they signed former Falcon, Levine Toilolo and former Seahawk, Luke Willson.
The short week doesn’t bode well for Detroit and neither does the fact that the 49ers season opener will have the crowd more involved than a playoff game! ADVANTAGE 49ERS
The 49ers take their show on the road and venture out to the famous Arrowhead Stadium and it’s their home season opener. Arrowhead is already a loud place but the crowd will know that they are already in a “must win” situation. Second year QB Patrick Mahomes is getting his first start in front of his home crowd and will be coming off of a very tough two-road game stretch having faced the Chargers in week 1 and then the Steelers in week 2. There are high expectations placed on him and there will be a ton of pressure to get this win for the home crowd. After facing the 49ers, the Chiefs go up against the Patriots and then the Jaguars. A lot of record predictions had the Chiefs starting 2-3 through their first 5 games, and this is one of the two games they think they can win. Can Sammy Watkins find a groove with the young gunslinger by game 3?
A home opener, and a must win game for a young QB. Meanwhile the 49ers should be coming off a good game against the Lions and have some momentum! ADVANTAGE CHIEFS
Week 4: The 49ers are now in their first of two back to back road games on their schedule this season. Coming off a physical game against the Chiefs, the 49ers have a tough game. Although this is a “road” game, there will be plenty of 49ers fans in the stands. With very few incoming free agents, the Chargers are hoping new Center Mike Pouncey can keep Philip Rivers upright long enough to pick apart the 49ers’ secondary. Los Angeles will be playing their second NFC West opponent in as many weeks and coming off their own back to back road game stretch, they will be looking forward to being in their own stadium.
Unfortunately for the Chargers, the 49ers benefit greatly from their previous bout against the Rams, and “home field advantage” is more a theory at this point. ADVANTAGE 49ERS
Week 5: The Cardinals will have likely come off a two game win streak at this point (Bears and Seahawks respectively), but their new QB Sam Bradford doesn’t last much longer than 5 weeks consecutively. Having David Johnson come back to contribute and a competent QB, the team is more dangerous than most people will give them credit for. They will also catch teams off guard with the new combo of QB and RB and defensive coordinators will need time to adjust. Luckily for the 49ers, a month of football is a good indicator of what to expect.
Having just played back to back home games, the Arizona Cardinals have to travel west and leave their comfort zone. 49ers fans finally get their second home game. ADVANTAGE 49ERS
Week 6: The 49ers get ready for their first prime-time game of the season! The Packers get ready for the bye-week but first they have some business to attend to. Attendance is never an issue at Lambeau field but the crowd will be even more enthused given the looming bye week. The Packers strayed from their normal lack of free agency activity and made some rather interesting moves. Adding offensive weapon Jimmy Graham and defensive juggernaut Muhammad Wilkerson, Green Bay is tired of just making it to the playoffs (assuming Rodgers can stay healthy), but now they want to make a deep run.
The 49ers know how good Aaron Rodgers can be when healthy and that defense is getting a rapid makeover. They look better than ever and more of a complete team. The showdown between the two franchise QBs couldn’t come at a better time! Nor on a better stage! Under the bright lights, the stars shine brightest! ADVANTAGE PACKERS
Week 7: Back to back prime time games and one of the most anticipated games the NFC West has to offer! The faithfuls will be out in full force and the star studded Rams roster has to prove that they are the real deal and not just paper-champs of the off-season! The long list of big names acquired by the Rams forces them to strike hard and often but their schedule to this point isn’t easy by any stretch.
This Sunday Night Football match up will be one of the most watched games of the regular season and rightfully so. Two of the brightest offensive play callers clashing with the entire football world anticipating a high scoring shootout. The LA Rams are finishing their 3 consecutive road game at Levi’s stadium. ADVANTAGE 49ERS
Week 8: The 49ers are facing the Cardinals for the second time in 4 weeks! This is the midway point of the season and we finally have a good idea of who we are! By now, all teams in the NFL have an identity but that may not reign true for the Cardinals. By now, it’s almost a guarantee that Sam Bradford is injured. No, we’re not banking on or hoping for injuries, but instead projecting based off past trends.
This bout takes place in the University of Phoenix Stadium and the 49ers are now playing a consecutive NFC West opponent. The Cardinals are coming off of plenty of rest considering this will be following their Thursday night football game in addition to playing at home. They play this game well rested and familiar with their foe. ADVANTAGE CARDINALS
Be sure to check out the 2nd half to this article as the schedule breakdown continues here: