Hello all. This is my first post, but I was looking at the strength of schedule posts and thought that since its really a two horse race to the playoffs (I know the Seahawks could make a resurgence, but I think SF or ARI would have to falter more than expected), then we should take a closer look at the past and future schedule of the two. SF has a game up on them head-to-head and Arizona has one more win so it's sort of equivalent to a half game. If you assume we can win the head-to-head at home late in the season, then we make up the one game deficit and have the tie-breaker so it comes down to who can post the better record in a very similar schedule.
SF vs. ARI: Hope you all remember the whupping we put on them in week 1 in Arizona. 20 to 16 win. Probably not considered a whupping by many, but I couldn't find the exact definition of 'whupping' so I decided to use it loosely because it makes me feel good...
Seattle: ARI had a convincing 27-3 win in week 6 in Seattle. We also had a good game winning 23-10 at home. You could give the edge to ARI here, but as we're not really a run-up-the-score type team I'm not sure its a huge advantage.
Indianapolis: ARI suffered a beat down at home 31-10 in week 3. As we all know, we dropped a heartbreaker 18-14 in Indy last week. Strong edge to the Niners here playing Indy so close at home.
Houston: ARI beat Houston 28-21 in week 5 at home. The Niners lost 21-24 in Houston week 7. If you assume a 3pt boost for the home team, then ARI has a slight edge again in this one.
Overall: I think a head-to-head defeat on their turf and a great performance in Indy outweigh the win at home against Houston (vs road for us) and a few more points vs SEA. Advantage 49ers.
ARI: They beat NYG on the road 24-17, JAC on the road 31 to 17, and lost to Carolina at home 34-21.
SF: We beat STL 35-0 at home, lost to MIN 27-24 on the road, and lost to ATL at home 45-10.
Overall: The win over STL really doesn't count as much as ARI's win over the Giants, but I would argue that the last second loss to the Vikings on the road is at least as good as the Jaguars win or maybe even the Giants win (as they haven't looked that good lately). Atlanta is a better team than Carolina, but it was a worse loss for us. We weren't even competitive. I think I have to give a slight edge to the Cardinals here. Small Advantage Cardinals.
So what have we learned?
We are who we thought we were. (I just love that line and couldn't pass up the chance). Based on performance through Week 8, I'd give a slight edge to the Niners overall, but there's not too much in the difference. The head to head win and the performance in Indy pushes them into the lead. With Smith and Crabtree added into the mix you have to like our upside a bit more than ARI as I don't think they have any reinforcements coming off the bench in the near future.
After the jump we'll look at future schedules.Common Opponents:
We have a great number of common opponents in the rest of the schedule. Listed in order of strength (my opinion of anyway)
GB (SF= road, ARI= home)
CHI (SF= home, ARI= road)
TEN (SF= home, ARI= road)
SEA (SF= road, ARI= home)
STL (both on road)
DET (SF= home, ARI= road)
I don't think the road vs home gives an advantage to either team. GB and CHI are pretty evenly matched and TEN and SEA are as well and we each get one on the road and one at home. Even I don't think DET on the road is a problem for the Cards. Advantage Even.
Different Future Opponents:
Arizona will play STL again at home and the Vikings at home. We play Jacksonville at home and Philly on the road. You could argue that the Vikings are better than Philly, but there's not much in it and I don't really fancy going into Philly. I also think that although either team can surprise, Jacksonville is consistently more difficult to beat than STL so there is an edge here for Arizona although it's not a huge one. If we both lose to PHI/MIN and beat STL/JAC as we'll probably be expected to do then there is no gain for either of us. Small Advantage Cardinals.
In the end, we have the head to head at home in week 14 and pretty even schedules other than that. So really it's who steps up against common or similar strength opponents to gain a game or two edge. The head-to-head is key for us with the one game ARI head start they have. We'll probably both finish around 9-6, so one game either way is probably the difference. It'll be great to be able to track that on a week by week basis. Can't wait until this weekend. Thanks for reading and looking forward to any comments or opinions.