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How many must-win games are on the 49ers schedule?

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If the Niners are going to make some noise in 2019, they’ll have to win these games

Arizona Cardinals vs San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

If the San Francisco 49ers are going to become the hunted instead of the hunters this season and beyond, they are going to have to start winning the games, they are supposed to. Getting swept by the Arizona Cardinals? Not anymore. Fumbling opportunities away near the goal line? Those are the plays that just can’t happen if the team is going to take their play to the next level.

The 49ers 2019 schedule is set up for the team to get off to an “easy” start, and then they’ll have to finish the season around .500 to make the playoffs. There are games on the schedule that the Niners must win.

Starting strong

Timing is everything in sports. In the case of the 49ers, they get a first-year head coach trying to figure out how they are going to block someone Week 1, and one of the worst rosters in the NFL in Week 2. Tampa Bay and Cincinnati are games the Niners must pull off if they don’t want to go down the stretch having the pressure to win each game. Are both games on the road? Yes. The 49ers can give themselves plenty of time to adjust to the eastern time zone by practicing in the state of Florida the week leading up to the game, if not longer. The following week they can stay out east. We will find out early on in the season if the 49ers are for real.

Coming out ahead

During Weeks 7-11, the Niners go to Washington, then have Carolina at home, with two games against Arizona, and Seattle squeezed in the middle. So a rookie quarterback, a team that has consistently struggled on the road, and three division games. I’m not saying all five games are must-win, but the 49ers should absolutely come out ahead during this stretch. Anything worse than 3-2 should be a disappointment. I imagine when the team looked at the schedule, they felt the same way. This will conclude the “favorable” part of the Niners schedule.

How many do you think?

The only other game on the schedule that the 49ers should have circled as a must-win is Atlanta. Kyle Shanahan will want this one bad. The game is also sandwiched in between a few tough opponents and should serve as an excellent rebound game from the physicality that the team will see.

Going through the schedule—if the team is going to be playing during the second week of January—I count six must-win games. The first two games, Washington, Carolina, home against Arizona, and Atlanta. That leaves plenty of wiggle room for the other ten games. It may be premature to give the 49ers credit to win that many games, but if they want to be taken seriously, that’s what they’ll need to do.

How many games do you see as a must-win on the schedule?