Nosetackle Supreme was the first to point out the 49ers opponents for the 2008 season, but I wanted to go into a little more depth. Additionally, even though there is no way to predict anything at this point, I'll predict a W or L for each opponent (or multiple for divisional foes). Based on my Divisional Sunday predictions, don't put much faith in them.
vs. New England Patriots: LOSS - The Patriots will have to decide whether to shell out for Randy Moss, or if Moss takes less to return to a potential undefeated Super Bowl winning squad. I'm still of the opinion that Randy Moss was more valuable to the Patriots than Tom Brady. Brady was already a very good quarterback, but he moved into the stratosphere in large part because of Randy Moss. Wes Welker had 112 receptions in large part because of Randy Moss. If the Patriots lose Moss they're still light years ahead of the 49ers, but they're not nearly as good as this year. And of course we'll get to see the guy we could have drafted (barring a New England trade).
vs. New York Jets: WIN - The J-E-T-S Jets!Jets!Jets! struggled through a year that saw them transition to Kellen Clemens at QB. They were bogged down by injuries and limped to the finish line. An improved 49ers offense should be able to score on the Jets while the defense will hopefully feast on a weak Jets offensive attack.
@ Buffalo Bills: WIN - Bay Area boy Marshawn Lynch had a very solid rookie season and will look to build on that as the Bills have a potentially bright future. Fellow Bay Area boy Trent Edwards, of Stanford fame, looked quite decent when he was healthy. I'd expect JP Losman to get dealt clearing the way for the future. Lee Evans struggled mightily and the Bills will need him to return to form if they're going to take the next step to playoff contender.
@ Miami Dolphins: WIN - The Dolphins are in full-on rebuild mode under the Tuna. They'll be getting Ronnie Brown back to go with Jesse Chatman and not much else. Ted Ginn, Jr. and John Beck didn't do much of anything as rookies. I'm curious to see how long Beck lasts as the QB of the future. Parcells and Ireland could go a million different ways this offseason. At the very least I know that Cleo Lemon is not the answer.
vs. Philadelphia Eagles: WIN - While I enjoy the play of Brian Westbrook, the Eagles are a team that really bore me. If the 49ers are going to reverse momentum and get back towards respectability, this is a must-win. In 2007 this is a definite loss, but I'm willing to roll the dice and say they pull out the W here. Depending on when this game takes place, McNabb could be long since injured and on his last legs with the franchise. I think another subpar year and he's finished in Philly. The Eagles just don't impress me and don't seem to have a plan going forward.
vs. Washington Redskins: LOSS - I'm curious to see if the boy-wonder Dan Snyder tries to make a splash in replacing Joe Gibbs. The Redskins rode through the final quarter of the season and playoffs on the emotion of Sean Taylor's passing. We'll see how they do after an offseason to get back in gear. Prior to injury Jason Campbell was ok but not great. If he can continue his development, to go along with a wildly underappreciated Clinton Portis, the Redskins should be back in the playoffs in 2008.
vs. Detroit Lions: WIN - I really think this game will come down to when in the season it takes place. The Lions are so wildly unpredictable that it could be a loss early on or a win later in the season. The Lions will need to make a solid hire at offensive coordinator to replace Mike Martz if they want to continue their rise back to relevance. I would not be shocked to see Martz really open up the bag of tricks and try and do some serious damage to his former team.
@ Dallas Cowboys: LOSS - I don't blame the Romo vacation for the loss and just think the Cowboys ran into a wildly hot New York Giants squad. This is the second straight flameout by the Cowboys, so I'd expect the pressure to start mounting on Romo's shoulders. Nonetheless, in the regular season they are clearly better than the 49ers. Marion Barber will likely fully be the guy over Julius Jones and TO will get a chance to do some damage against his first team. However, if the 49ers make the right steps forward their defense could keep them in this game.
@ New York Giants: LOSS - Eli seems to be finally taking the next step from average quarterback to good, sometimes money quarterback. The Giants took it to the 49ers this season 33-15 in a game quarterbacked by Trent Dilfer. I think the 49ers can keep it closer, but if the Giants can carry over this postseason momentum, they could be a tough team next year.
@ New Orleans Saints: LOSS - I might as well flip a coin with the Saints. It's not entirely surprising they came back to earth this season, but who knows what that means for next year. Reggie Bush is certainly not a bust, but I think he took a bit of a step back this year even before the injury. And next season, THIS could be hanging over his head even more. The Saints are a complete wildcard so I figure, they kicked the crap out of the 49ers this season, so I'll have to pick them until the 49ers prove me wrong.
Seattle Seahawks: WIN/LOSS - The Seahawks beat the 49ers by a combined total of 47-3 and were the team that got the whole Alex Smith injury saga going. If the 49ers are able to bounce back, I definitely see this as an easily splittable series. The Seahawks are only getting older and eventually they have to run out of the gas. Nonetheless they are definitely still the team to beat in the NFC West.
Arizona Cardinals: WIN/LOSS - The Cardinals took a nice little step forward from 5-11 to 8-8, with the only tarnish being that the 49ers beat them twice. If the Cardinals split the series tiebreakers come into play for a wildcard spot and if they beat the 49ers both times they're the second wildcard team. I'm really curious to see if the Cardinals take the next step to become a playoff team or level off as a .500 squad for now.
St. Louis Rams: WIN/LOSS - The Rams had an abysmal season and yet, as is always the case with divisional opponents, even the bad ones can spring upsets. The 49ers and Rams did battle for much of the season for the 4th position in the NFC West, with the Rams prevailing. The return of Orlando Pace will certainly help the Rams, but they also need to address their defensive issues if they want to climb out of the cellar.
And so after all that work, the 49ers finish the season 8-8. That's probably not the playoffs, but it would certainly be an improvement on this season. I don't think it's possible to have horrific stretches like this and finish 8-8 (but I'm sure they can surprise me). I don't think an 8-8 record is completely out of the realm of possibility. The 49ers get several tough NFC East matchups, but that is countered with the relatively weak AFC East (New England aside). The Bills, Jets and Dolphins all have major issues and are eminently beatable. The NFC West always seems to be black and blue by the end of the year and I don't expect it to change. The 49ers might sweep the season series with one of their division foes, but they could just as easily get swept by one of the others. As I said before, it's impossible to make accurate predictions at this point with so much still to come. Much of my predictions are based on the 49ers actually improving their weaknesses. We'll see what the offseason brings.