The NFL announced the full regular season schedule for 2014-15 on Wednesday, and we've already had plenty of discussions regarding the San Francisco 49ers' 16-game slate. But one thing I wanted to take a quick look at is one that is more significant on a conceptual level: the home opener.
Each and every year, getting the first home game a win is always a big deal for fans and it probably helps a lot with morale in the locker room. But this year, the 49ers will do something that doesn't happen very often: they're playing the first regular season game in a brand new stadium.
The $1.3 billion stadium in Santa Clara is a point of pride for the 49ers already and on Sept. 14, they'll kick off the first regular season game against the Chicago Bears. If you ask me if the 49ers won their first game at Candlestick Park, I wouldn't be able to tell you. It's not something that's typically of historical significance, but we're in the season of a new stadium and I think it'd be great to get it started off with a win.
But how likely is that, and on top of that, how do you feel about that team being the Bears?
San Francisco has had some good games against the Bears over the years, though they've only played in a handful of playoff games together. Most recently, the 49ers have beaten the Bears over the last two matchups, and hold a 32-29-1 advantage in the all-time series. When I look at the roster, I don't see a whole lot that inspires any kind of rivalry. Jay Cutler is fun to make a good deal of jokes about, but there's definitely no hostility there.
So from that aspect, this isn't a very inspiring game. I'm finding no reasons to say the 49ers definitively have to win this game based on the team that they're playing. But it still would be nice to do anyway, right? So what are the chances?
Last season, the Bears finished with an 8-8 record and missed the playoffs. They were in the running to take the NFC North for much of the season, but that had a lot to do with the fact that the Green Bay Packers have possibly the worst secondary in the NFL and Aaron Rodgers missed a good bit of time.
The Bears fielded the No. 15 pass defense in the NFL, allowing 233.1 yards per game on average through the air. That was pretty good, but teams ran all over them, and that's not an exaggeration. The Bears finished the season dead last against the run, allowing a whopping 161.4 yards against the run per game on average. Frank Gore would have a field day.
As far as the offense goes, the Bears did have a pretty solid passing offense. Jay Cutler and Josh McCown combined for 267.6 passing yards per game on average, good for No. 5 in the league. Matt Forte was not particularly good, however, as Chicago finished 16th in the league in rushing offense at 114.3 rushing yards per game on average.
Chicago has made some changes, with a new head coach and some new players. They signed Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen on the defensive line, but also lost Julius Peppers, who had to be released due to his big contract. The offensive side of the ball hasn't changed a whole lot, though. I think at the end of the day, the Bears might have got a bit better up front, but they have nobody at safety and the offensive side of the ball is pretty much a known commodity.
I think the Bears are perfectly capable of beating the elite teams in the NFL, but I also don't think they're up there WITH those elite teams. In other words, this one is probably a win for the 49ers, though a loss would not be the most shocking thing to happen in any given NFL week, I'd imagine.