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Glass much more than half full: Who do the 49ers have to beat?

If I had to classify myself, I'd say I'm somewhere between a realist and an optimist.  For example, using this year as an example I think 8-9 wins is a possibility for the 49ers.  What would that kind of prediction make me?  My guess is just above realist but not quite a crazy-eyed optimist.  We've looked at the 49ers schedule several times whether it be the gambling look or early win/loss predictions.

Today I've thought of one more opportunity to look at the schedule.  I think most of us would agree that the 49ers chances of making it to the playoffs are not all that great.  It would definitely be an optimistic, glass at least 3/4 full approach to consider that possibility.

One aspect to consider is who the 49ers will need to beat that they would not be expected to beat.  For this, we're going to ignore the 6 divisional games.  I honestly think 3-3 is a reasonable expectation, but that's for another day.  For now I'm going to break down the non-divisional games into three different categories.

1. Must-win even if we're only winning 6 or 7 games this year
Week 3 vs. Detroit
- I know they finished 7-9 last year, but I just cannot get behind them.  I realize Detroit could certainly win this game, but I really would be disappointed by a loss in this game.

Week 14 vs. NY Jets - I think our defense can handle the passing game and their rushing attack leaves much to be desired.  Another game I'd be disappointed to lose.

Week 15 @ Miami - Maybe Parcells will turn things around, but it will NOT be happening in year 1.

2. If you want to be a playoff team, you need to win some of these games
Week 6 vs. Philadelphia - The Eagles are going to be tough this year, but I think the 49ers have it in them to swing the upset.

Week 13 @ Buffalo - The Bills are quietly building something rather intriguing up there.  This will be a very tough game, but it is still winnable.

Week 17 vs. Washington - After building a solid defense, the Redskins added more weapons for Jason Campbell via the draft.  I think the Redskins are a playoff bound team

Week 4 @ New Orleans - I think the 49ers could easily get bulldozed in the Superdome, but an upset is not out of the realm of possibility.  The 49ers could be 2-1 at this point and have a little positive momentum, so we'll see.

Week 7 @ NY Giants - Maybe the Super Bowl hangover continues two months into the season.

3. Can we just take a knee to avoid injuries?
Week 5 vs. New England - I honestly just don't want to get embarrassed.

Week 12 @ Dallas - As much fun as it would be to go into Big D and shock the Cowgirls, I think they've just got too much talent.  Hopefully I'm wrong on this one.

So looking at those 10 games, let's do a little math.  If the 49ers go 3-3 in the division and win the category 1 trio of must-wins, they're 6-3.  Using last year as a baseline, 9-7 was sufficient to get a team into the playoffs.  That means winning three of the category 2 games.  None of them is an easy game, but like I said before, if you want to take the proverbial next step, you have to step up and win games you wouldn't necessarily win as an "average" team.

Once again, this is most definitely a glass half full look at things.  If the 49ers went 9-7 or even 8-8 I think most of us would be quite happy.  I'd say I'd be very happy with 8-8 and damn near ecstatic with 9-7.  It's a shame we settle for average to slightly above average, but as they say, you've got to take baby steps.

So would you agree with my assessment on the different categories of games?  I think the Saints and Giants games could both be especially tough, but not so much as to be virtually guaranteed losses.