The NFL released the 2010 schedule yesterday, which means prediction time is officially on. With the draft approaching full-steam ahead, I decided to hold off posting my game-by-game predictions until next week. However, I did want to put together a post idea I did last year the day after the schedule came out. I thought I'd take a look at what might be the toughest game, the easiest game, the stretch that could most likely lead to a losing streak and the stretch that could most likely lead to a winning streak. Feel free to comment with your own suggestions both on these categories, or any other category you think would work.
Easiest game: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - There are several options for easiest game, but I was able to talk myself out of most of them. The Raiders are a team that is wildly inconsistent and by week 6, who knows who will be the quarterback. And this was a team that beat Philly and the Steelers, but lost to the Browns and Chiefs. The Rams game at the Stick is another option, but it's the first game after the bye, which follows the Broncos game in London. Who knows how the team will bounce back from that trip. I settled on the Bucs because even with Josh Freeman taking over the starting job, they've got a lot of holes to fix up.
Toughest Game: @ San Diego Chargers - The Saints home game is certainly a tough one. Of course, it's the home opener and it's on Monday night, which would hopefully amp up the 49ers. I considered the road game at Green Bay as well. However, a road trip to San Diego is probably the toughest matchup this season. I do think the game will be close, but the Chargers are a tough regular season team. They might blow it in the playoffs (ok, they will blow it in the playoffs), but during the regular season they're a tough team. At the same time, it says something about the year-by-year development of the 49ers that every game on the schedule is incredibly winnable.
Toughest Game to Predict: vs. Philadelphia Eagles - People anticipate the Eagles will not be as good with Kevin Kolb. In reality, what do we really know? This is a team with a lot of talent that is losing a quarterback that was basically the face of the franchise for the past decade. Kolb got some playing time early last season against the Panthers, Saints and Chiefs, but that's not exactly enough time to make a determination on what he'll do in the future. The Eagles could be 3-1 or 4-0 heading into this matchup, which might mean a lot of confidence for Kolb. Either way, even as a home game, any prediction (of which there will be plenty) will be a bit of a stab in the dark.
After the jump we check out most likely winning and losing streaks...
Most likely winning streak: A streak is 3 wins in a row in my opinion. While the team has a tough stretch to start the season, there are two sets of games where I could see a winning streak, and coincidentally enough, they fall back to back, separated by the bye. I would view the easiest three game stretch to be Week 10, 11 and 12 when the 49ers host the Rams and Bucs, then travel to Arizona. Anything could happen in that Arizona game, particularly being Monday Night Football, but definitely very winnable.
The second stretch would be the three weeks before the bye (weeks 6-8) when the 49ers host the Raiders, travel to Carolina and then play the Broncos in London. The Raiders are a wild card type of team since they could very well play up this game. The Panthers are rolling the dice with Matt Moore at QB so who knows how they'll be performing. Moore showed some skills so this could end up tougher than expected, particularly given the quality of their rushing attack. But I think the 49ers defense can handle them. The final game is a "home" game against the Broncos in London. Who knows how the travel will affect this, but I think the 49ers get the win.
Most likely losing streak: There are several tough short stretches of two games, but I do think there are places the 49ers could get tripped up. If I had to pick the most likely losing streak, I would actually point to week 12-14 (yes I did pick week 12 as part of the most likely winning streak), when the 49ers are at Arizona, at Green Bay, and home against the Seahawks. The 49ers should be able to beat the Seahawks at home, but divisional games can get crazy. I think they beat Seattle, but it's still tough.
The other stretch might surprise folks a little it, but I'd say weeks 2-4 when the 49ers host the Saints, travel to Kansas City, and then travel to Atlanta. The Saints and Falcons games are easy to point to as potential losses. I include the Chiefs in part because of when it falls. The 49ers could conceivably be 0-2 at that point, and while I think they beat the Chiefs, this is a really interesting stretch of games.