The San Francisco 49ers are four days away from their regular season opener, and we are pretty close to settled on the 49ers roster. The only truly significant roster questions heading into Week 1 are whether or not Alex Boone and Ray McDonald will be active and playing. There are plenty of questions about players on the roster, but we have a pretty good idea on most of the actives.
With that in mind, some people have been inquiring about final predictions for the season. A lot of national media have been down on the 49ers, and it has only picked up with the Aldon Smith suspension and Ray McDonald's arrest. I still think the 49ers are a strong contender to win the Super Bowl, but it certainly won't be a walk in the park. The key will be winning the division and getting whatever home field advantage they can get.
Here is a quick run-through of the 49ers 16-game schedule. I have the team finishing 12-4. I'm sure I'll miss some random upset loss, and they might claim a victory I'm missing. Or they just don't go 12-4! Their win total over/under currently sits at 10.5. What is most interesting is the most recent update (earlier today) has them going from favored to surpass the win total (-130 for over, Even money for under), to now favored to come in under the total (+135 for over, -165 under). Just to clarify, the negative sign means you have to bet $165 to win $100 on the under. Previously, you only had to bet $100 on the under to win $100.
Week 1 - @ Dallas Cowboys
WIN: No Aldon Smith or NaVorro Bowman, questions about Ray McDonald, and no idea if Alex Boone will play do not help this game, but that Cowboys defense is awful. I think the 49ers have enough depth to overcome their losses.
Week 2 - vs. Chicago Bears
WIN: Home opener at Levi's should start in style. Whatever happens Week 1, I expect Alex Boone back in the lineup by Week 2. It will be interesting to see how the line gels. The Bears big question is how much the defense will be improve, if at all. My guess is not enough and the 49ers offense continues to excel.
Week 3 - @ Arizona Cardinals
WIN: I think this will be a tough one, but the Cardinals are taking a step backward in 2014. The 49ers sweep them.
Week 4 - vs. Philadelphia Eagles
WIN: This game is a tough one to call. Do the Eagles continue moving forward from last year, or will the league catch up with Chip Kelly. I think this could prove to be the 49ers toughest home game.
Week 5 - vs. Kansas City Chiefs
WIN: Alex Smith returns, and the Chiefs struggle. The Chiefs could still contend for a wild card berth, but they are taking a step back this year.
Week 6 - @ St. Louis Rams
LOSS: I would not be surprised if the 49ers went 5-1 against the division (with Seattle being the only loss), but I think the Rams will surprise some folks this year. Shaun Hill is a capable quarterback, and giving him a strong defense could be enough to keep this team in a lot of games. I think they sneak one out against the 49ers.
Week 7 - @ Denver Broncos
LOSS: No Aldon Smith, no NaVorro Bowman? The Cowboys and Bears will provide a significant challenge to the 49ers defense, but few things will probably match this one. Well, Week 10, maybe....
Week 8 - BYE
Week 9 - vs. St. Louis Rams
WIN: The 49ers get "revenge" at home. But this could be a fun matchup of defenses.
Week 10 - @ New Orleans Saints
LOSS: I would suggest the Saints in the Superdome represent the toughest matchup for the 49ers defense this season. And if the Saints can claim home field in the playoffs, they become the team to beat in January. This marks the final game of Aldon Smith's suspension, but maybe Ahmad Brooks can get a little revenge for last year's ridiculousness with Drew Brees.
Week 11 - @ New York Giants
WIN: Welcome back, Aldon Smith. I can't imagine Eli Manning will be pleased with this development. I think the Giants have another stinker of a year.
Week 12 - vs. Washington
WIN: I think Washington will be improved this year, but that defense is enough of a question mark that I don't think they come into Levi's Stadium and grab a win.
Week 13 - vs. Seattle Seahawks
WIN: Oh yes, we'll be thankful on this year's Thanksgiving.
Week 14 - @ Oakland Raiders
WIN: Derek Carr will be the starter from Week 1, but we'll see if he is still starting come Week 14. The Raiders will be improved from last year, but that's a pretty low bar.
Week 15 - @ Seattle Seahawks
LOSS: The 49ers came oh so close in the NFC title game. They should have a lot of talent back at this point, but is it enough to get over the top up at the CLink? I don't think so for the regular season, but hopefully they prove me wrong.
Week 16 - vs. San Diego Chargers
WIN: The Chargers are a team that prove just how hard it can be to predict anything in the NFL. Sometimes they over-perform, sometimes they under-perform. They went 9-7 last year, and I think they take a step forward to maybe 10-6. The question is whether they over- or under-perform against that.
Week 17 - vs. Arizona Cardinals
WIN: The last game is always tough to call since teams that are locked into a specific playoff position might rest players. I think this game will end up being important for positioning purposes, so the 49ers do not rest any starters.