So it's been a long time since our last Very Early Discussion post, and since then a ton has happened to the Niners, and the entire NFL. For those who missed the first one, Fooch and I had a discussion on the Niners 2009 schedule one day, making predictions and breaking down games one at a time. We recognize this is incredibly early and almost useless, it does allow us to begin thinking about our season, as well as build reasonable exectations for the samurai's first full season in command.
So below is the Weeks 5 through 9 match-ups (Week 6 is the Bye) for our insanely, ridiculously early look at the Niners:
Fooch: Week 5 brings a tough game...home against the Falcons... the big question has to be whether Matt Ryan has a sophomore slump.
ProfessorBigelow: Matt Ryan and the entire coaching staff.
Fooch: Good point...you don't hear as much about the coaching staff sophomore slump.
ProfessorBigelow: I think this is where we slow down and take a loss. I think the Falcons are for real, their D was always under-estimated last season. Plus, we all know the Niners cant go 5-0. That's just madness! I think Atlanta is for real, and if there is any time to take a loss, it is right before a bye week. That would give Singletary a good opportunity to find what they did right, what they did wrong, motivate the team, and prepare them for the hardest, longest stretch of games this season.
Fooch: I think I agree with you on the Falcons loss. Even if Ryan has the sophomore slump, they've still got the solid defense and of course Michael Turner. But I think Ryan will be fine...maybe he struggles a bit, but he seems like a solid professional to me
ProfessorBigelow: Agreed. So going into the bye, i have 4-1, you have 3-2
Fooch: Yep... While yours is a little more optimistic than mine, I don't think either is completely outrageous.... I like having the bye week right before that tough two game road trip. It allows Singletary to get everybody re-focused.
ProfessorBigelow: agreed, and that is what will be needed for this stretch
Due to extenuating circumstances, the discussion was delayed to 2 weeks later - post draft.
ProfessorBigelow: Can I make a slight addendum to my week 3 pick?
Fooch: What's that?
ProfessorBigelow: I'm not going to make an official flip-flop after the draft, and change that to an official loss, but I am much more scared of the Vikings. The talent they put on offense now scares me even more now, and if Favre comes back we will be facing him in his second game in Minnesota, and everyone could be flying high seeing #4 in purple, and his arm might not be decrepit by then. I'm going to stand my prediction of a win in that game, but its a game I'm thinking more about now...
Fooch: You make a good point... Favre is at the point where he could start hot before the inevitable fade that we saw with the Jets. I went with a loss in my prediction, but an early season Favre-led Vikings would make it a little more so... unless he is completely shot of course.
ProfessorBigelow: Of course, he could implode at the beginning of the season, almost giving us the win. Farve is the definition of a wild card now a-days.
ProfessorBigelow: Ok, Week 7 v Houston - the honor is yours.
Fooch: Well, over the last couple seasons, the Texans have turned into one of those chic pre-season picks and then they've finished 8-8 each of the last two seasons...the question becomes whether they'll finally make that next step.
ProfessorBigelow: I love rooting for the Texans usually. It's that team that I have no feelings for or against. If they lose, meh, they're the Texans, who cares. If they win, hooray for rooting for the victorious team! Either way, as you said, it has been about a 50-50 shot on getting a win for these guys. Call me crazy, but I don't believe in Matt Schaub as a consistent leading QB in this league.
Fooch: I'm not sure what to think about Schaub. He put up some big passing yard totals, but with 15 TDs and 10 INTs it's kinda blah. Who do you blame for a lack of TD passes? After Andre Johnson his two best receivers were Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels, who do they have... Will Jacoby Jones step up?
They drafted a couple tight ends, but went mostly defense in the draft... A buddy of mine is a Virginia fan so I've followed Schaub off and on since his college days... In two seasons with the Texans he's improved quite a bit... So maybe he could become that consistently good QB in the league.
ProfessorBigelow: Perhaps, but I guess he still need to show me something to believe in him. As for their rookies, Cushing is going to be a solid player for them in the future... He will be someone to think about down the line when facing the Texans D. Fortunately for us, 7 weeks into the season is not long enough to make him a threat. That combined with the fact that the Texans usually don't get hot until the second half of the season compels me to pick the Niners here.
However, the Texans are the AFC version of the Niners; they are a chic pick year-to-year, always start slow, then end strong. The Texans are close to turning it around and becoming a real threat to teams. But again, I just don't see it week 7. Niners are 5-1 (wow I'm ballsy/dumb).
Fooch: I think this game is one of the toughest on the schedule to predict. The Titans have been more of a second half team, so you wonder if they'll be starting to turn it on at this point. They've added some defensive talent, but aside from Mario Williams and Dunta Robinson, I'm not exactly scared to death of their defense. If the 49ers are going to take the next step, I really think this is a game they have to win. I'm going to go out on a limb and call for the win here, but I think it's gonna be as close a game as they have all year. We're talking potential Nedney game-winner type of game. However, the optimist in me sees this as a potential win. So mark me down for 4-2.
Now you get to kick off the potentially ugly one in Indy. :)
ProfessorBigelow: Ooooof. Yeah.... Thanks. This is part two of the only "road trip" the Niners have all season - 2 back to back road games. And of course, they come against division rivals of the Texans, the Colts. Now, I've been optimistic about most of the match-ups here, and in my heart of hearts I truly believe that if the Niners are the 5-1 team I've predicted so far this season they could give the Colts a real run for their money.
However, my brain would smack my heart in the face and tell me to wake up, these are the Indianapolis Colts. We will be playing them in their house, and our CB's and safeties cannot control their WR's for the amount of time Manning will get behind his all-pro offensive line.
Our offense might be able to wear their D down to keep it interesting, but the best way to beat the Colts is to out-sprint them, and I don't think we are the score-early-and-very-often kind of team.
Fooch: I think the goal of this game is the proverbial moral victory. I do think this is a winnable game. I consider every game on this schedule potentially winnable. This differs from a few years back when there were games you just knew they were going to lose.
However, just because it's winnable does not mean the 49ers will win it. I think they're moving past the point of getting blown out in games and I think they can hang with the Colts for a while. But the Colts just have too much talent across the board. Throw in the addition of Donald Brown to offset Joseph Addai and the Colts are in pretty solid shape.
I look at this game as more telling us how far the 49ers have really come this season. I'm pretty sure they'll drop to 4-3 here, but I think they could at least make it interesting
ProfessorBigelow: One can only hope.
Ok, in week 9 we continue our trek through the AFC South and face off against the Tennessee Titans. Thankfully this week we return home.
Fooch: The Titans are a tough team for me to figure out. They have definitely built the team the "right" way. They've got a stout defense and a running game that I'd put up against most any RB duo in the league.
One of the big questions in my mind is what will be going on at QB at this point in the season? Will VY be back in the saddle, or do they stick with the veteran Kerry Collins?
ProfessorBigelow: I think the whole Titans organization is very wary of Vince Young after this past season, and it will take a Herculean effort (or a Kerry-bear injury/complete collapse) for Vince to step into the drivers seat.
Now by week 9, that is an amount of time that would allow Vince to step into that spot, which would basically give the Titans 3 legit running threats from their backfield. BTW let me get this on the record now: Chris Johnson scares the crap out of me
Fooch: Even with the question marks at QB, I figure the Titans remain one of the top teams in the AFC simply because that defense isn't going anywhere and the running game should be fine... don't see a sophomore slump from Chris Johnson, and even if he struggles some, LenDale White is there to pick up the slack. They even added Javon Ringer, the Michigan State running back. It's like running back overload there.
ProfessorBigelow: Do you see their D being a big threat, even with the subtraction of Albert Haynseworth? I always saw their D as one that pass-rushes you into oblivion, and has a staunch running D, but late gave up just enough rushing yards to keep it interesting.
Fooch: I almost forgot about Hayensworth. His 2008 strikes me as contract year production, so it is definitely a void to be filled... Jacob ford put up 7 sacks in his second year, so they'll need him to show he wasn't a one year wonder
ProfessorBigelow: Yeah, I don't think the Titans D will match the talent and level of play from what they had last year. But I also don't think our O can outperform their D. I see a Titan's win, and the Niners first losing streak - 5-3 through 8.
Fooch: Well, this Negative Nancy has a losing streak that drops the 49ers to 4-4. Given the second half schedule, I think even 4-4 is a pretty pleasing first half of the season.
ProfessorBigelow: Yeah, I would have to agree. Peter King always said that an NFL team is usually assured 4 wins and 4 losses, its what they do with the other 8 games that separates the cream from the crap.
Fooch: Good point.
NEXT TIME - Weeks 10-13!!!