When the 2009 schedule came out, my office was abuzz with excitement. It was the first real, league wide NFL news to come out in a long time, and it gave every fan an opportunity to speculate about their team's chances next season. The casual discussion on the schedules is fun to listen to from the other side of a cube, and it has been fun to read on the Niners Nation board as well.
That got those wheels turning in my head, and gave me an idea to try out here. Fooch and I got together via gchat (Google Mail's version of instant messaging) and decided to discuss on a week by week basis each matchup. While these games are five months or more away from now, it is good to gauge our chances now, and at specific intervals during the off season. Also, we thought it would be more interesting to have two people bouncing ideas off each other about these matchups, instead of one person's ranting, raving thoughts.
So what follows is our chat (with only a slight bit of typo and punctuation editing) containing our thoughts on the matchup, and a prediction. We divided the discussion into 4 parts, each containing four games, to make it easy on the eyes for you guys.
Fooch: For the fourth straight season we open against the Cardinals. I was speaking with Charles Golden of Revenge of the Birds (Cards blog) and it definitely seems like the NFL is trying to force this rivalry...
ProfessorBigelow: But that's not to say that there isn't a rivalry building here. We lost by 2 yards on Monday Night Football last year to them, we have had high scoring slug-fests in seasons past. And what better way to deliver a statement to the league (if we are the improved Niners team that we think we are) than to knock off the NFC Champions from last season, in their house week 1?
Fooch: I agree that the rivalry is definitely building... Even in games where we've lost by double digits, the games have been quite competitive. Although I don't think it would be shocking to win at AZ to start the season, I think the pundits would peg as a pretty big upset. I don't know if it will make or break the season, but that kind of road win is must-win for a team wanting to take "the next step." Would you agree?
ProfessorBigelow: Completely. It is definitely a winnable game, from the 49ers perspective. The Cardinals were not the dominant team everyone watched in the playoffs during the regular season. The playoffs could have been, for lack of a better word, a fluke. Plus there is a possibility that Boldin is not there anymore, removing a massive threat that has hurt us in the past. Add a potential rookie starting RB, and I think our D matches up better than in previous seasons
If I had to decide now, I believe the Singletary era begins with a bang, and a strong message to the NFL: The 49ers are here to compete. Niners win week 1.
Fooch: I keep telling myself that the season will start with a bang. Although the Singletary era technically started last season, I consider this first game the true kick-off to it. I think there's a decent chance you get the carry-over of a new coach that inspires the team. The question becomes whether that will work out long-term. This game won't fully answer that question, but I think it's just as important for where we're going with Singletary, as it is for playoff implications. I'll go with a W though...my confidence definitely increases with a Boldin trade. I think we wouldn't be good fans if we didn't think a win was possible in that kind of opener.
ProfessorBigelow: True, True. Eternally optimistic i guess
Fooch: Yea...I've always posted that I'm an optimistic realist... But it seems safe to say we agree on 1-0
After the jump, weeks 2, 3 and 4 of the Fooch-Bigelow 2009 49ers schedule caucus.
ProfessorBigelow: Good. Moving on to week 2: the home opener, and a back to back division match up, this week against the Seahawks. Call me crazy, but I feel that we won't be able to walk all over the Seahawks this season, like many people think we will. In last season's matchups, Seattle was a few catches (read: competent WR's) away from taking the week 2 game away from us last season, and we did get rocked six weeks later. TJ Housamizzillla changes the dynamics of that team, and who knows, if certain things happen, we could be the second team to play against Marc Sanchez at the helm of the hawks.
Fooch: I definitely agree that the Seahawks won't be a push-over, IF they stay healthy. If Hasselbeck gets hurt again they'll have some problems (thus possible reason to go with a QB in the draft?) Given that they beat us with Seneca Freakin' Wallace, I definitely think they'll be tough.
Fooch: One thing I find interesting is that both Seattle games are bookended by the cardinals... Coincidence?
ProfessorBigelow: I THINK NOT!! Ok.. Too much caps action there... The optimist 49ers fan in me says: there is no way they can lose the home opener vs the seahawks.
Fooch: BUT? :)
ProfessorBigelow: But...... the 49ers have made me slam my head into a wall plenty of times, keeping us at a middle of the road or worse level in the NFL because of dumb, dumb, dumb plays and seemingly random breakdowns in team structure. Plus, we barely beat them last season. Granted, they played us during the Nolan era, and have never seen a Singletary-led Niners team.... In the end, we match up well, we all know Jim Mora Jr. is no head coach, and our new head coach should trump their new head coach. But if they blow it, I'm not surprised. My Pick: 2-0 in the division after week 2.
Fooch: Before I get to my prediction, speaking of Jim Mora Jr... I remember being disappointed when he left for the ATL. I kinda wanted him to eventually become head coach.
ProfessorBigelow: Ill admit it, same. Then I watched him run the falcons
Fooch: True. But as far as a prediction, I think 49ers fans should expect a win there, even though things could go in the tank. They got whupped at home by a crappy Seattle team and that's somewhat fresh in my mind. However, I just think the 49ers have more talent. I remain less than convinced about their running game and they need more than Houshmandzadeh. I see 2-0 as well.
ProfessorBigelow: Alright... Week 3, what I see as the first REAL challenge of the season, at Minnesota for a battle with the Viqueens (LOLZ SEE WHAT I DID THERE??)
Fooch: you're a clever individual :)
ProfessorBigelow: I try I try...
Fooch: This is a very tough game to call.... On the one hand Adrian Peterson is a monster (who did happen to be shut down the last time he faced SF). On the other hand, Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson suck. Because of that I think the Vikings are probably one of the hardest teams to assess in terms of predictions... They've got some serious defensive abilities....but how much makes up for the crap-tastic QBs they roll out?
ProfessorBigelow: There are two things that you can set your watch to in the NFL:
1) The Redskins will make CRAZY MOVES during the off season, be favored to go far in the playoffs and in the end will not do anything and fizzle out.
2) The Vikings, no mater how good they look, will choke badly at some point in time during the season.
My only worry, is that this is not where it will be. Their D is dirty, and AP is always a threat, whether from the backfield or catching in the flat. But, if we get a good pass rush on them (thanks to draft picks??) we could turn their offense into a 1 dimensional team. Also, we could be facing them at the perfect time: the Williams boys could be in the midst of a 4 game suspension from the league offices (see: StarCaps), allowing Gore to run wild on a depleted D line.
Fooch: This is a game I really want to pick as a win. At this point I don't think I can pull the McNolan trigger on it. However, if they can pull off the road win, I think they're going to the playoffs. I honestly think you could flip a coin with this game.
ProfessorBigelow: It all depends on which 49ers team, and which Minnesota team, shows up that week.
Fooch: The question I have with Singletary is whether we'll see some more consistency...meaning no home blowout losses to bad Seattle teams... And I think right now we really don't know... Heading into last season you could probably make some reasonable predictions based on Nolan's past. We really don't know much about Singletary in that regard yet. Which is kind of nice, and yet kind of scary at the same time.
ProfessorBigelow: Inconsistency?? With the niners??? Unheard of!! (/sarcasm)
Fooch: I know...I know....SHOCKING
ProfessorBigelow: If I'm making a pick, I say the high from winning back to back division games, the fact that arguably the two best players on the Minnesota D could be watching the game on tv, plus the fact that Shaun Hill is a more reliable starter than Sage Rosenfels, or Tarvaris Jackson , or Gus Frerotte (post-chat edit: less likely to blow it than those three), puts this one in the win column. 3-0 baby.
Fooch: I like where your heart is at. As I said, this is a tough one to call, but I'm gonna go the other way and call it a loss...2-1 :(
I think moving on to week 4 should bring some consensus...vs rams?
ProfessorBigelow: Just like last season, we begin with multiple games within the division.
Fooch: Those three games are HUGE this season...yet again. You start 3-0 in the division, that's big time.
ProfessorBigelow: It puts you in amazing position for the rest of the season. While I said before that I thought the Seahawks could threaten us, I can't see a threat coming from the Rams. Bulger is on the down and down, they have less WR's than the Seahawks did last year (With no clear number one, or number two for that matter), their D is in shambles (save for one CB) and they have new head coach who will be struggling to get his system in place and learn how to be a HC. Our rookie HC has already had training in that regard.
Fooch: I definitely agree on the Rams. Maybe they start turning things around, but I just can't see the 49ers losing to them at home. Maybe they add Jason Smith to the OL, but it's not enough for an immediate turnaround...at least in my opinion. If the 49ers start out 2-1 or 3-0, this is a statement game
ProfessorBigelow: Agreed, this is where the Niners should win by 20 or 30, to show the league they are for real. Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner, 4-0 my friend.
Fooch: I'm at 3-1....if they're 4-0, the league is definitely talking...although I think more of that would come if they won at Minnesota (since this is the Rams after all)...
That's all for now, the next four week (what could be the hardest four weeks in the schedule) to come shortly. Leave questions, comments, concerns and criticisms below, we will try to respond to what we can.