Earlier this week, the 2014 NFL regular season schedules were released. It’s one of those rare days during the offseason that I get excited for every single year. We’ve known the opponents for months, but for some reason actually knowing the dates, times, and order of the schedule gives me (and I’m sure plenty of other fans) a much better mental picture of what the season will look like. Plus, it lets us organize our autumn vacations around which games we want to go see in person.
So now that we know the dates, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. First of all, the point of this post isn’t to predict the season results…at least not entirely. The point of it mainly to go over each team the Red and Gold is facing and do a little preview and matchup review. Of course, I end each section with a little prediction…so yeah, it’s a bit of a prediction-led post, but it’s also to preview the games. Settle down. Oh yeah, and there are plenty of animated GIFs to spice things up a bit.
So what’s new? Well not a whole lot actually. Kap’s back. Again. And while he’s probably not going to average 300 yards throwing per game any time soon, he’s also probably not going to throw more than 10 INTs in a season. So that’s a plus. He may not be Superman, but the kid can run like a freakin’ gazelle. (Also, he can do this. Which is pretty nice.–and did you see his first pitch last year? Holy crap. ) Last year was Kap’s fourth year in the league, but it was really his first. He started less than half of the 2012 season, so last year became his psuedo-rookie season. And he did a lot better than most rookies, that’s for sure. Let’s just hope he keeps improving this next season as well. I’m sure three straight losses in either the NFC Championship game of Super Bowl don’t feel too good, and probably leave plenty of motivation for the following season. Let’s hope it pays off.
As for the rest of the team… Well they’ll be without NaVorro Bowman for most of the season (don’t YouTube that injury), and the Niners lost a few cornerbacks as well (it’s cool though because their defense still has Tramaine Brock, Patrick Willis, and Ahmad Brooks). We’re bringing plenty of pro bowl caliber defenders including the dynamic duo of the Brothers Smith, Justin and Aldon–hopefully Aldon gets his ish together and is able to be a healthy, happy, and productive member of the team again this year. And while they lost hard-hitting (and fine-inducing) S Donte Whitner (Hitner?), they were able to sign S Antoine Bethea as his replacement. A little older, but also a little wiser, Bethea should be a good mentor and counterpart to second-year safety, Eric Reid. The Niners also picked up (resurrected) our old friend WR Brandon Lloyd (what a classic GIF), signed pariah T Johnathan Martin, and added QB Blaine Gabbert behind Colin Kaepernick, who hopefully they won’t have to put into too many games this season.
A few more changes are surely on the way, at center (lost Jonathan Goodwin to free agency) and cornerback as well, but for now, we’ll work with what we got.
Here are the game-by-game breakdowns (and predictions). Most likely, this will all be incorrect, but hopefully it’ll at least give you a better idea of what to expect come game time. Enjoy!
2014 49ERS SCHEDULE BREAKDOWN & PREDICTIONS
WEEK 1: Sunday, 9/7: @ Dallas Cowboys, 1:25 p.m. (FOX) — If my memory serves me–and as a Bay Area native and child of the 80s and 90s, I remember this well–the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco Forty-Niners don’t really get along too well. America’s Team has played the Gold Diggers in six conference title games, and while the Niners have taken 4 for of the last 6 (since 2000), they’ve split the last 10 decisions (going back to 1995). I know this is a long-lost rivalry, but as a long-time fan, I can’t help but revel in it. And while it isn’t exactly Yankees vs. Red Sox caliber game in the first week of the season, it’s still a big game to start it off. Looking back at last year’s stats, the Niners lead the Cowboys in just about every category (all except passing yards per game). It’s not going to be easy, but the Niners started off the season last year with a big win against Green Bay, which tells me they know how to start out strong. — PREDICTION: WIN (1-0)
WEEK 2: Sunday, 9/14: vs. Chicago Bears, 5:30 p.m. (NBC) — It’s their first game at the their brand-spanking new $1.3 billion Levi’s Stadium, it’s their home opener, and it’s a primetime game on national television. Win or lose in Dallas, they should be prepared for the smoking hot Bears–hot off one of the strongest offensive seasons in recent NFL history. This will feature the strong, muscling defense of the 49ers verses the versatile, high-powered offense of the Bears. Of course, that also means it’s going to be featuring the dwindling, at-times measly offense of the 49ers versus the porous, dodgy defense of the Bears. Should be a fun one! — PREDICTION: WIN (2-0)
WEEK 3: Sunday, 9/21: @ Arizona Cardinals, 1:05 p.m. (FOX) — The Cardinals aren’t the laughing stock they use to be, and while they’re not exactly “good”, they’re an entirely different type of laughing stock. Okay fine, they’re definitely better than the Cards of old, but unless cool Carson Palmer is secretly a Nerdluck who has the ability to steal Peyton Manning’s old guy mojo, they’re most likely outta luck in 2014 as well. Also, I literally had to search on the Interwebs for who the Cardinals’ current QB was. Yup. Still Carson. Wonder how long they’re going to stick that one out… (BTW, it’s really easy to find GIFs of Carson Palmer throwing INTs.) — PREDICTION: WIN (3-0)
WEEK 4: Sunday, 9/28: vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 1:25 p.m. (FOX) — These aren’t your mama’s Eagles. Chip Kelly’s turned this high-ceiling, fast, deep-threat team into a…high-ceiling, fast, deep-threat team, but without the french fries. Okay, so they’re not too different, and in fact they’re better, if anything. And after a rough 3-5 start last year, Chip lead his team to a 10-6 record. They’ve lost Mike Vick (but they were kinda used to that for 90% of last year anyway), and DeSean Jackson, but I have a feeling they’ll overcome the losses of those two gents. The last time these two met, the Old Prospectors overcame a 20-point deficit at halftime and came back to win it 24-23 in Philly (back in 2011 during Harbaugh’s first year at the helm). If this game were in the City of Brotherly Love, I might be more torn. But nay. It’s in the Bay. So Whattaya say? I just may. I’m done, okay. Sorry Iggles, this one’s going to the 49ers. — PREDICTION: WIN (4-0)
WEEK 5: Sunday, 10/5: vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 1:25 p.m. (FOX) — This is going to be a fun game. While it’ll be a sort of homecoming for Alex Smith, it will be to a place he’s never been before–Levi’s Stadium (see those beautiful pics?!). And even though the Chiefs were so surprisingly strong early in the 2013 regular season, they fell back to earth late in the season losing 5 of their last 7 games. Does Jamaal Charles scare me? Yes. Does Alex Smith scare me? Not so much. I think if these two teams played each other ten times, the Niners would win 7 of them, so I’m picking… You know what? I’m hedging my bets here.While I think the Niners can beat the Cowboys, Bears, Eagles and Chiefs all within the first 5 weeks, I have a feeling they’ll get out-hussled, out-played, out-schemed, or out-thrown in at least one of these games. I’ll take the loss here.— PREDICTION: LOSS (4-1)
WEEK 6: Monday, 10/13: @ St. Louis Rams, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN) — The start of four road games over the next five games, this one’s critical, as it’s against the worst team in the division. And while the Rams will undoubtedly improve in the draft (they have the #2 and #13 picks…yowzahs!), I think they’re in store for another season sweep by the Niners. The 49ers lead in just about every statistical category on offense and on defense, plus they haven’t lost in 8 of the last 10 meetings with the Rams. Survey says! …another win here. — PREDICTION: WIN (5-1)
WEEK 7: Sunday, 10/19: @ Denver Broncos, 5:30 p.m. (NBC) — Surprise! The Broncos have a better offense than the Niners. I know. Shocker. And while SF has a much better defense, their third primetime matchup of the season won’t be easy. Unless Peyton Manning’s health takes a serious nose dive, this one could get ugly. While the Niners’ NFC West counterparts completely dismantled the Broncos this past February, this one’s in the Mile High City, and despite losing Eric Decker to the Jets, I think Manning will be able to find plenty of weapons to help him to victory in this one. — PREDICTION: LOSS (5-2)
WEEK 8: BYE WEEK
WEEK 9: Sunday, 11/2: vs. St. Louis Rams, 1:05 p.m. (FOX) — Sorry Sam Bradford. Sweeeeeep it! (Also, I love Anquan Boldin. And Vernon Davis ain’t so bad either.)— PREDICTION: WIN (6-2)
WEEK 10: Sunday, 11/9: @ New Orleans, 10 a.m. (FOX) — The Niners don’t do well in New Orleans. And while they’ve played competitively in every matchup, you (okay, I) just can’t predict a win there. The last three games between these two teams have been games for the ages. Whether it was 4 lead changes in the last 3 minutes including one of the greatest plays in NFL history: “the grab”, or a game-deciding call that handed the Saints the win last season, they’ve all been barn-burners. Both of these teams put on a show when they meet up, but the home team usually has gets the win. — PREDICTION: LOSS (6-3)
WEEK 11: Sunday, 11/16: @ New York Giants, 10 a.m. (FOX) — The Giants are terrible. Tom Coughlin is terrible. Eli Manning is terrible. And no, they’re not going to be any better in 2014. Remember, remember, the 16th of November, the G-men’s season is lost. I know of no reason, why the interception-rid season, should ever be forgot. Something of note here though, is that the Niners have two Eastern time zone games in a row. Several times in Harbaugh’s reign, they’ve stayed the week in Youngstown, Ohio (hometown of owner Jed York) to practice and avoid those pesky air travel issues the 49ers have been having recently. That should help with the early games in the East. — PREDICTION: WIN (7-3)
WEEK 12: Sunday, 11/23: vs. Washington Redskins, 1:25 p.m. (FOX) — Three wins. Three. That’s how many the Washington Professional Football Team garnered last season. There’s no way they’re that bad again this year. And even though the Niners kicked their…um…butts(?) last November, the Niners have this habit of losing to some mediocre team in the latter half of the season. In 2009 it was the hapless Seahawks in week 13, in 201o it was the Rams in week 16, in 2011 it was the Cardinals in week 14, in 2012 it was both a tie and a loss to the Rams in weeks 10 and 13, and in 2013 it was the Colts (although that was in week 3…man, last season was pretty solid otherwise). So even though they routed the Washington Professional Football Team last season 27-6 in D.C., they’re bound to have a lapse in judgement somewhere along the way. I choose this game (see week 16 for more on this logic). — PREDICTION: LOSS (7-4)
WEEK 13: Thursday, 11/27: vs. Seattle Seahawks, 5:30 p.m. (NBC) — Other than an anomalous 2011 49ers win in Seattle, the home team has won every single game in this matchup (thanks to a little help from Mr. Franklin “The Inconvenient Truth” Gore nastifying 51-yard run last December), over the past 5 years. When these teams are bad, they’re bad together, and when they’re good, they’re the two best teams in the NFL. Hard to believe it. Gotta go with tradition here and say the home team takes it. Plus, whether the Niners are 11-1 or 1-11 at this point in the season, I have a feeling they’ll be playing with a significantly-sized chip on their shoulders. (This just in: RICHARD SHERMAN IS ABOVE AVERAGE. But it’s cool, Michael Crabtree isn’t “sorry” he’s so good.)— PREDICTION: WIN (8-4)
WEEK 14: Sunday, 12/7: @ Oakland Raiders, 1:25 p.m. (FOX) — Don’t make me go all NY Giants on this one too. Yes, the Raiders had some big off-season signings including LB LaMarr Woodley, DE Justin Tuck, and a pair of CB’s from the Niners: Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, but they also signed QB Matt Schaub. So that’ll about even out. Plus, not only did they sign the old, crusty Maurice Jones-Drew, they also decided to re-sign Run DMC. Just like a 20 year old on the eve of his next birthday, they’re just full of fantastic choices. Over the past 15 years, the 49ers are 3-0 against the Raiders. I don’t see that trend changing any time soon. — PREDICTION: WIN (9-4)
WEEK 15: Sunday, 12/14: @ Seattle Seahawks, 1:25 p.m. (FOX) — Could the 49ers win in Seattle? Sure! Have crazier things happened? Sure! Could I win the lottery tomorrow after shooting hoops with Magic Johnson and having a catch with Will Clark? Sure! But back here in reality, the Niners are going to be significant underdogs in this Seattle home game, so unless the ‘Hawks just fall asleep in this matchup, it might be another ugly one in the dirty, rainy, depressing PNW. (This just in: MARSHAWN LYNCH IS PRETTY GOOD.) I just hope Kaepernick can ward off the Hawks like Beeftank can. Example #1. Example #2. Example #3. Example #4. Full Article of hilarity: Breaking Madden. — PREDICTION: LOSS (9-5)
WEEK 16: Saturday, 12/20: vs. San Diego Chargers, 1:30 p.m. (CBS) — The Niners have won 5 of the last 8 against the Chargers, but San Diego has beaten the 49ers by a combined 102-43 over their last 3 meetings (going 3-0 against SF). It’s another classic SF game where they’re offense is nothing compared to their opponent’s and their defense will probably have to keep them in this one. Who knows!? Philip Rivers could throw 4 TDs or 4 picks. Depends on the year, really. This could be the late-season game where they lose to that mediocre team. Plus, the Chargers have been amazing in December games the past few years. This one is at home, but let’s just say between this one and the Washington Professional Football Team game, they’ll probably win one, and lose one. — PREDICTION: WIN (10-5)
WEEK 17: Sunday, 12/28: vs. Arizona Cardinals, 1:25 p.m. (FOX) — “Bill Bidwill owns the Cardinals 363 days a year. The 49ers own them the other two days.” Thank you, Mike Sando. Thanks you. (Also…this catch. Which I was lucky enough to be 30 feet from. God bless, America.) — PREDICTION: WIN (11-5)
What’s that… ::counting:: 11 wins? Hmmm…that blows. Sounds about right though. Let’s see, the past 3 seasons they’ve gone 13-3, 11-4-1, and 12-4, so 11-5 doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary.
The Niners are one of the most talented teams in the league, they have plenty of good coaching, and while they have some wily old veterans, they’re nowhere near being too old to compete. Plus, if you consider the facts that their workhorse RB Frank Gore isn’t getting any younger (turns 30 next month…but he’s still an above average halfback, that’s for sure), and pro bowler NaVorro Bowman will miss most (if not, all) of the season…yeah, 11-5 sounds pretty good. Hey, it’s not perfect, but it’s playoff-bound. Let’s go get our swagger back.
Just checked it out and Vegas has the Niners predicted to win 11 games, tied with the Broncos and Seahawks with the most in the league. I have a strong inkling that all 3 will surpass that mark, but hey, what do I know? The last time I did this it was 2010 and I predicted a 10-6 season. They ended up going 6-10 and I got our coach fired…oops. Hopefully my stink doesn’t rub off on the Bay Bombers again.
Okay, only four and a half months until the season starts…alright…here we go…anytime now…I’m ready…