The San Francisco 49ers face a difficult schedule in 2016. The NFC West is always difficult. The team has to go to the AFC East and NFC South, which add up the travel miles. Oh, and they face a Dallas Cowboys squad that could have a healthy Tony Romo, which makes them considerably better than the team we saw much of last season.
With all that in mind, in light of Thursday's schedule release, I thought I would try and rank out the games from most winnable to least winnable. There is a certain arbitrary nature to a lot of this given that the 2016 NFL Draft is still two weeks away. But I thought it made for a fun thought exercise.
I've included some tidbits about some of the games to give a little context. The 49ers bye week is Week 8, so they face the Saints coming off of that. They face the Buccaneers a week after the Bucs bye. They open the season on Monday Night Football, which means they face the Carolina Panthers on a short week in Week 2. The 49ers host the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday Night Football. If that was a regular Sunday game, it would be bumped down a notch or two. Because it is a Thursday game, I expected a closer affair.
I've got the Rams as the top two most winnable games. I have no faith in anything Jeff Fisher does. They've got great defensive talent, but somehow they just sort of schlep their way along. The 49ers very well could lose both of those games, but on this schedule, they remain the most winnable.
On the other end of things, the Seahawks, Patriots and Panthers seem like easy calls as the most difficult games on the schedule. The 49ers have not won in Seattle since 2011, and there is no reason to think that is changing anytime soon. The Patriots and Panthers are both exceptionally difficult matchups as well, but I can't move them behind the Seahawks in Seattle.
Here is an attempt at ranking the games from most winnable to least winnable.
1. Week 1: vs. Los Angeles Rams - MNF
2. Week 16: @ Los Angeles Rams - Saturday - Rams coming off TNF
3. Week 5: vs. Arizona Cardinals - TNF
4. Week 9: vs. New Orleans Saints - coming off bye
5. Week 4: vs. Dallas Cowboys
6. Week 13: @ Chicago Bears
7. Week 12: @ Miami Dolphins
8. Week 6: @ Buffalo Bills
9. Week 7: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Bucs coming off bye
10. Week 15: @ Atlanta Falcons
11. Week 14: vs. New York Jets
12. Week 17: vs. Seattle Seahawks
13. Week 10: @ Arizona Cardinals
14. Week 2: @ Carolina Panthers - coming off MNF
15. Week 11: vs. New England Patriots
16. Week 3: @ Seattle Seahawks