Now that the bulk of free agency is over, the draft is complete, and two-a-days are ready to begin, let’s dig into the regular season. The 2018 schedules have been released and whether we want to admit it or not they have a huge bearing on how a team will finish the year.
The San Francisco 49ers are going to need every break they can get to be competitive this year, so was the schedule a backbreaker or the break they need? Every game, every touch, every inch, and every mile traveled will make the difference. At the end of 16 grueling games through 17 weeks, we will see what this team is made of.
49ers 2018 Schedule Breakdown
With three of their first four games on the road, the 49ers will be chewing up the miles in the early goings this season. Those games include a trip to Minnesota for an opener against a team that made it to the NFC title game last year. They will also face the Los Angeles Chargers, one of the hottest teams at the end of last year and an always strong Kansas City Chiefs team. The Niners won’t see their bye week until week 11 so they get a little punched out by mid-season.
The good news is that should be the hardest part of the schedule. Last year the teams the 49ers will play combined for a record of 100-108, not to say that is a direct indication of this year in the ever-changing NFL pantheon. In addition to their divisional games, the 49ers will see the AFC West and they will play the tough NFC North.
Aaron Rodgers is back and healthy for the Green Bay Packers, Kirk Cousins joins a stacked Vikings squad, and the Detroit Lions have a new coach in Matt Patricia and a solid group of veterans. The Chicago Bears are the other NFC North team, but with them and the 49ers playing each of the last five years (each taking 2 games) it seems like a division game.
Throw in a New York Giants team that, if they can stay healthy, is markedly improved over last year. A road tilt with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that’s been poised for a breakthrough and the 49ers have their hands full this season.
They open against Minnesota, a game that will serve as a great litmus test for both teams. Cousins was expected by many to end up in San Francisco this year, that is until Garoppolo took the city by storm. Look for each quarterback to want to one-up the other in this contest. Speaking of one-up, the Jet, Jerick McKinnon wants to show his old team that he was worth the big payday.
If they make it through the season with their playoff hopes still alive, they have a Week 17 matchup at the touted L.A. Rams. Fingers crossed this will be a meaningful game. The Rams are big bullies up front and solid all around. Their young talents are now experienced playmakers and should be among the best in the league.
The 49ers get the pleasure of two contests with this team as well as the other two teams in the division. Both the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks appear to be in a rebuilding or reevaluating phases. It would be safe to say that at the minimum there should be a 3-3 split record in divisional games.
Another very fun game will be against the Chargers. Both teams ended last year on a roll and took that momentum into the offseason. They have a veteran quarterback in Philip Rivers and a running back, Melvin Gordon, who is in his prime. This team knows what it takes to win and is willing to put in the work.
The 49ers, on the other hand, are young and still trying to figure out their identity. They have the talent and coaching but need to prove they are not just a flash in the pan. It should be a great early season matchup to see what they have on defense, especially in that secondary.
Is this schedule a backbreaker or a good break they needed? Let’s break it down. They travel early and against many talented teams which should be tough. This does give them a stretch of four weeks where they won’t have to leave California at the end of the season.
It is such a rush to play those primetime games, thanks Garoppolo, they do give you some short weeks. They have to play Sunday afternoon and then again on Thursday night killing preparation time and healing. Plus everybody on the field is going to be a little geeked up in primetime with millions watching at home. Advantage? This goes to whichever team steps up into that limelight. The 49ers youth may hinder them if they get caught up playing under the lights. Last year, though, this wave of attention really seemed to invigorate the team and bring them together.
Lastly, with the team playing 10 games on the West Coast due to playing the AFC West it cuts down on the traveling. That gives the Niners just enough of a slight edge that could make all the difference.