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Game-by-game prediction: Will 12 games be enough to obtain the No. 1 seed?

There’s always a game that the 49ers drop during the season that makes zero sense. This year, we’ve identified the game.

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Now that the 49ers schedule has been released, let’s make some predictions. I’m going to break the season into quarters, or games of four. Let’s get right into it.

First quarter - 4-0

It’s a dangerous game to assume, but let’s act as if Trey Lance begins the season under center while Brock Purdy is on the mend. While all eyes will be on the quarterback, Kenny Pickett, a lifeless Rams team, Danny Dimes, and Colt McCoy won’t put up enough points to challenge a potent Niners offense.

I think Kyle Shanahan comes out of the gates aggressive. He wants to give Trey Lance every opportunity to shine, and the schedule during the first month allows him to do so. When going team-by-team, it’s pretty simple. There are three questions to ask: Does this team have somebody that can stop Christian McCaffrey? Block Nick Bosa? Have a weapon on offense to offset either?

The answer in the first four games is no.

Week 1 - 49ers 24, Steelers 13
Week 2 - 49ers 27, Rams 13
Week 3 - 20, Giants 17
Week 4 - 49ers 31, Cardinals 6

Ironically, the home opener will be the game that comes down to the wire as nerves get the best of the Niners under the lights. Rookie kicker Jake Moody will make the game winner, and we’ll use that to justify his draft position for the next month.

Second quarter - 2-2

The next four games will give us a much better indication of who the 49ers are as a team. If you go 4-0, it’ll be tough to pull Lance or Sam Darnold for Brock Purdy — especially if the Niners are winning convincingly.

But if either falters against the Cowboys, Browns, Vikings, or Bengals, the teams’ next four opponents, that’s when the whispers for Brock will start to grow louder.

The 49ers did not play well at all against the Cowboys in the playoff game and still won rather convincingly, despite what the scoreboard says.

I have the Niners winning both prime time games this quarter against the Cowboys and the Vikings. These games hold more significance since they’re in the NFC, but I have San Francisco falling on the road to the Browns after an emotional win over the Cowboys.

Then, in Week 8, the 49ers run out of gas the week before their bye. Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins walk all over the secondary en route to a week’s worth of overreactions questioning whether San Francisco is a legitimate Super Bowl contender, despite only losing twice in eight weeks.

Week 5 - 49ers 24, Cowboys 21
Week 6 - Browns 23, 49ers 20
Week 7 - 49ers 28, Vikings 24
Week 8 - Bengals 30, 49ers 21

Third quarter - 4-1

The 49ers come out of their bye week focused and reel off three straight victories. The Jaguars game won’t be easy as Trevor Lawrence keeps his team close. The same cannot be said for what the 49ers will do to the Buccaneers coming back home, or Seattle on Thanksgiving.

Then, we have the rematch for the NFC Championship. Much will be made of this matchup, although it’ll prove to be meaningless come the end of the season. This is the only game the 49ers aren’t the favorites to win. Even after a mini bye week playing on the Thursday before, the 49ers fall in their second road trip in as many games.

The good news is, for the second year in a row, the 49ers will sweep the Seahawks after returning home with a sour taste in their mouths. Seattle isn’t anywhere near as efficient offensively as they were a season ago, and at this point in the season they have little to play for, unlike the 49ers.

Week 10 - 49ers 27, Jaguars 21
Week 11 - 49ers 38, Buccaneers 13
Week 12 - 49ers 20, Seahawks 14
Week 13 - Eagles 24, 49ers 21
Week 14 - 49ers 26, Seahawks 20

Fourth quarter - 2-2

The 49ers close out the season against two NFC West foes, the Ravens, and the Commanders. I don’t think the Niners have an issue in their division this year, and that’ll go a long way to them obtaining the No. 1 seed.

Let’s get to the fun part: the one loss that happens every year that doesn’t make any sense. This year it comes against Sam Howell. Last year, against Marcus Mariota and the Falcons. Two years ago, it happened three times against the Colts, Colt McCoy and the Cardinals, and the Titans.

There’s no explanation as to why. It’s impossible for a team to get up for every game and have the same emotion. Mind you, this is coming off a prime time loss to Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. So, there will be even more of a “the sky is falling” attitude in the 49ers-sphere. Washington is good enough defensively and has the weapons on offense to challenge the 49ers.

Those back-to-back losses turned out to be precisely what the 49ers needed to focus and lock in on the big picture, winning the Lombardi trophy.

Week 15 - 49ers 28, Cardinals 17
Week 16 - Ravens 27, 49ers 26
Week 17 - Commanders 24, 49ers 14
Week 18 - 49ers 26, Rams 10

Final record prediction: 12-5