During our live recap of the 49ers' schedule release, one of our guests brought up a great point about the Seahawks. In May, you think Seattle’s schedule is set up for them to get off to a rocky start or have a rough patch early on. Then, Russell Wilson wills the team to 6-3. It’s maddening.
Take a look at the schedules from the other teams in the division and see if your confidence in your 49ers prediction changes.
Strength of schedule: T-12th lowest [opponents’ record in 2020: 132-138-2 (.489)]
Prime-time games: Five
Short weeks: Two
The 49ers couldn’t have asked for a better early road slate. Sure, every team would like to start the season at home, but San Francisco heads to Detroit and Philadelphia — two teams that, on paper, are among those with the longest road back to relevance — in the first two weeks before returning home for battles against Green Bay (a 2019 NFC title game rematch) and Seattle to close the first month. From there, San Francisco visits Arizona before the bye week. They have winnable road games around midseason against Chicago and the rebuilding Jaguars.
One storyline to watch
The one storyline that looms largest is what happens at quarterback. The 49ers insist that Jimmy Garoppolo will open camp as the starter with rookie Trey Lance having the opportunity to turn it into a competition if he picks things up quickly. Even if that doesn’t happen, Lance doesn’t seem to be as far off as many think and coach Kyle Shanahan could install some wrinkles for him to get acclimated before he steps into the starting role. One way or another, this will be the story that defines the Niners’ season. If Lance takes over at some point, there are some intriguing matchups against quarterbacks like fellow first-round pick Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears to whom Lance will be forever linked.
The 49ers aren’t only planning to have fans at Levi’s Stadium for the first time since the 2019 NFC championship game, they’re aiming to skip over limited capacity opening and have a full stadium this year. ESPN’s Nick Wagoner reported the team is planning to open at full capacity in 2021.
San Francisco didn’t have any fans at home during last season, and late in the year was forced by Santa Clara County to temporarily move their home operations to Arizona. They spent the final month of the season practicing there and playing their home games, in front of no fans, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
“To be honest, I’m not a big person on social media, so I’m not sure if I have the following or if he messaged me or not,” Hufanga said. “Honestly, I was off for three years from college — got back on, got back off. So I’m not really on it, so I couldn’t tell you if he hit me up through there. That’s a legacy right there. It means a lot to me. Talking with Troy, we’re just excited for this opportunity to make the most of it.”
Predicted season record: 12-5
Based on BetMGM’s latest win totals, the 49ers have the 19th-toughest schedule in the league, manageable for what is a strong roster on paper. Of course, there’s still a long way to go until the season, and such lines aren’t firm predictors of who’ll actually be good and who’ll be bad.
A 12-5 finish for the 49ers certainly seems possible, but health will need to permit it.
Predicted division finish: First place
Might all four teams finish with winning records?