I'm on record as declaring the season over after the first game but I'm having second thoughts.
I still think our defense is under-talented, slow, with a very suspect secondary and a weak pass-rush (even last year, the overwhelming majority of our sacks came within our division), and ultimately over-rated.
I think our offense is young (youngest in the league), dramatically under-utilized by a coaching staff that doesn't exploit match-ups or scheme well, and is undisciplined and sloppy. We also play horribly on the road.
Firing Jimmy Raye MAY help with that but Johnson is an unknown quantity and we don't yet know if he has the skill set that we need or if he'll just be different, but the same.
All of that considered, look our schedule:
It started rough. Seattle was unkown but at home where they are always dangerous which is a bad, bad way for our season to start given our struggles on the road. New Orleans matched up well for us but that was always going to be a tough game. Kansas City was also at home, where they are murderously hard to beat, and they are a much improved and legitimately dangerous team on both sides of the ball.
Atlanta at home is likely to wreck us, sending the team to 0-4. Look ahead though and things don't look so dark.
Philadelphia is coming to SF. They can't stop anyone on defense and their offense line is porous. Maclin and Jackson will be a nightmare for our secondary while Vick is a matchup problem for anyone. They'll score points... probably a lot but we should be able to protect Smith, get movement on the line, and score as well. This is a tough game but it is at home and it plays to our strengths. Three weeks ago I picked it as a loss but now I think it's a coin-toss.
Oakland is a better team than many people thought and I like Gradkowski a lot. They don't have great receivers though and lack a speedy utility man like McClusters that can damage us to the outside. They don't get a ton of pressure to the QB and our line should be incrementally improved at that point. This is another tough but winnable game.
Denver is looking pretty weak. They beat Seattle in Denver but have to come here to SF. Without Dumervil they aren't getting a pass rush so again, Smith is safe. They don't have great receivers and Orton isn't a great deep ball thrower anyway. Another tough but winnable game.
Carolina is a gimme because they don't do anything well.
So we stand at either 4-4 or 3-5. Not a disaster given that the first half of our season is brutal and second half is fairly mediocre by comparison.
A much improved St. Louis and Tampa Bay are next but those are both home games against young, under-talented teams. We should be able to win both of those games.
Then there's the game at Arizona which, in my opinion, is a make-or-break game for us. Derek Anderson could be brilliant and embarass our secondary or he could more likely be awful. That's also a team that we matchup beautifully against in almost every phase of the game. I think this is a solid win and we NEED it.
Next we have Green Bay on road. I don't want to talk about that inevitable train-wreck. Chalk it up as a loss.
Following that loss, we should have an angry team at home against Seattle and San Diego. Here's the season. We'll be a different team by the time Seattle comes to town and they'll be a known quantity and thus much easier to game-plan for. I think that's a solid win unless we've tanked entirely at that point. San Diego is, in my opinion, a very overrated team. Rivers is monster and they'll move the ball but their defense is terrible and we match up well. I expect to win a fairly high-scoring shoot-out.
Finally at St. Louis and home against Arizona. I think those are two solid wins.
Bottom line is that We might be looking at a 10-6 season at best or more likely 8-8 or 9-7. I think that 9-7 locks up the West division but 8-8 might do it as well.
This team should be much improved by season's end and we might actually end up as a playoff team.
UPDATE: Bakoninerfan corrected me by pointing out that the Denver game is in London and not really a home game. I still think it's winnable but that clearly doesn't help.
He also pointed out that the San Diego game is in San Diego. I don't think they have quite the home field advantage of a team like Seattle or KC but that will also make that a tougher game. Still, I think their secondary and pass-rush are suspect and will give our offense a chance to score points. San Diego is very hot and cold not to mention that they have problems converting redzone opportunities to touchdowns. So long as we limit the big plays, we'll have a chance. Odds? Same as Philly: 50-50.