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This time of year is a little sad. No basketball or hockey and baseball season has started to drag. The NFL Draft has come and gone and training camp doesn’t start for six weeks. The World Cup is in full swing, but Team USA didn’t qualify. It’s times like these that fans will have to resort to Youtube and watch old 49ers games just to get their football fix.

Looking ahead to this season’s schedule, there are some interesting matchups to ponder while the wait continues. Every game is a big game for the 49ers this year, but some will be bigger than others. Here are the top 49ers rivalry games of the upcoming season. 

49ers Top Rivalry Games For 2018

Classic Rivalry

Green Bay Packers: (All-Time Record 30-35-1) (Playoffs 3-4)

There are many questions about both of these teams going into 2018. Aaron Rodgers is back from a season-ending injury, but can he and Head Coach Mike McCarthy make things click again? Can Jimmy Garappolo and Kyle Shanahan live up to the hype after showing flashes of brilliance last season? By the time Week 6 rolls around, fans will have a much better idea of how big this game will be.

Although these teams had played each other 47 times prior starting in 1950, it didn’t boil over into a rivalry until the 1997 playoff game. The Packers took it to the Niners on their home field, winning 27-17.

The 49ers trailed 21-3 at halftime, Steve Young was picked off twice in the game and didn’t throw a touchdown pass. The pillars of the rebuilt 1990’s 49er dynasty started to crumble.

The last gasp came in the 1999 wild card game when Young threaded the needle to Terrell Owens for a game-winning TD with three seconds left on the clock, which came to be known as “The Catch 2.” As iconic a catch that may have been, the Niners went on to get knocked out of the playoffs in the next game by the Atlanta Falcons and went on to get owned by the Packers for the next 10 years.

The 49ers have dominated Green Bay recently winning four of the last five meetings including twice in the playoffs, thanks in large part to former Head Coach Jim Harbaugh.

Prediction:

It’s time for the new-look Niners to take the cheeseheads down a notch. It will be a  high-scoring, back and forth barn burner to the end with the 49ers coming out on top, 38-35

Renewed Rivalry

Los Angeles Rams: (All-Time 69-65-3) (Playoffs 1-0)

The Rams are in their third season back in LA and both teams are poised to heat this rivalry up again. Not only does this reinvigorate the juicy San Francisco-Los Angeles vitriol, both games this season will have important playoff implications. We could even see a rematch of that 1989 NFC title game, which the Niners won en route to their fourth Super Bowl victory. While divisional games are often better than average, fan can look at this season as the revamped rivalry (137 games into it).

If last season is any indication of the level of the games, the Rams and Niners should not disappoint for years to come. The first game last year, somehow, turned into a down-to-the-wire barn burner that the Rams pulled out. By the last game of the year, Garoppolo was starting and the Rams were resting players having secured a playoff spot, resulting in a win for the 49ers.

Prediction:

The Rams have added N’Damukong Suh and Aqib Talib to an already stout defense and the Niners have a suspect offensive line and defensive backfield. Split the difference.

Week 7:  Rams 38-24

Week 16: Rams 44-42

Underrated Rivalry

Minnesota Vikings: (All-Time 23-22-1) (Playoffs 4-1)

For whatever reason, this rivalry never really caught on as a full-fledged feud. Perhaps, it is because Minnesotans are just so polite and San Franciscans are just so passive aggressive by nature. Recency bias be damned, it has all the makings of an all-timer.

To understand, you’ll have to go back 30 years to a soggy afternoon at Candlestick Park. The Niners finished the 1987 season a league-best 13-2 and the Vikings barely snuck into the playoffs at 8-7.

The Vikings defense wasn’t intimidated by the G.O.A.T. Jerry Rice holding him to three catches and 28 yards. Joe Montana was sacked four times and threw a pick-6 in the second quarter.

Montana was replaced in the third quarter by Young. The mobile Young faired better, throwing 12-of-17 with a touchdown and rushing for 72 yards, including a 42-yard run and a TD.

It was too little, too late, as the Niners eventually lost 36-24. The Vikings went on to lose to the eventual Super Bowl winner, the Washington Redskins, in the NFC Championship game. San Francisco got its payback rolling the Vikings on the way to back-to-back Super Bowls, in 1989 and 90.

Prediction:

As this is the first game of the year for the clubs, there is a lot to learn from this game. Is Kirk Cousins the Vikings’ missing piece after reaching the NFC title game last season? The 49ers will lose this one 34-27.

“No Love Lost” Rivalry

Seattle Seahawks: (All-time 15-24) (Playoffs 0-1)

Before checking the records, thoughts of these teams going back and forth for divisional superiority and playoff battles surface. That’s not the case.

In fact, the Seahawks have dominated the Niners, winning their last nine meetings. The 49ers have only won 11 games against the Seahawks since Seattle joined the NFC in 2002.

This season, Seattle will take the field without defensive backbones Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, and Cliff Avril. Adding to the intrigue, of course, now Sherman will be lining up as part of the 49er secondary. The teams also play two games in the span of three weeks late in the season, with potential playoff implications on the line 

Not to underestimate Russell Wilson‘s talent as a signal caller, but with a weak O-line and a running game that has struggled, he will most likely have to carry an overwhelming load this season. 

Prediction:

The Niners end the losing skid and start a winning streak of their own.

Week 13: 49ers 24-18

Week 15: 49ers 31-20

Bay Area Rivalry

Oakland Raiders: (All-time 6-7) (Playoffs 0-0)

Recently, the Raiders have had flashes of playing consistently good football. Going into last season, many had them returning to the playoffs with a healthy Derek Carr at the helm.

Instead, they finished 6-10 and Carr struggled. Can the return of Head Coach Jon Gruden get Carr and the Raiders back on track?

In terms of relevance this one is, pretty much, for Bay Area bragging rights. Which means a lot to the residents of the East Bay and the Peninsula.  The two teams were forced to cease scheduling preseason games after incidents in 2011 in which 49er fan was beaten up in a bathroom and a Raiders fan was shot in the parking lot. Preseason people, take it easy. 

Prediction:

No deaths or maimings. 49ers 37-24

Coastal Rivalry

New York Giants: (All-time 20-20) (Playoffs 4-4)

Much like the Raiders, we have no idea which Giants team will show itself in 2018. Former Head Coach Ben McAdoo is out after going 2-10 and benching future Hall of Famer Eli Manning.

Pat Shurmur gets his second chance at a head coaching job. We all know how a coach can turn things around in the NFL, especially with a veteran like Manning as your QB.

In the 1980’s it was Bill Walsh vs. Bill Parcells matching wits. Four meetings in the playoffs from 1982-1987, both teams winning twice. Now it’s Shanahan vs. Shurmur, so we will see what the 41st game between these teams offers to the feud. The last big game came in 2012 in the NFC Championship game, when Harbaugh and the 49ers lost in overtime, and the Giants went on to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl for the second time.

Prediction:

Niners pick apart the Giants D, 34-17.

Old Rivalry

Cowboys: (All Time 17-18-1) (Playoffs 2-5):

This is just a preseason matchup and in the end, this game doesn’t matter. Well, when it comes to the 49ers and the Cowboys, every game matters! It would be remiss to ignore one of the greatest rivalries in sports history!

Here is a quick breakdown: six meetings in the NFC championship game, “The Catch,” 31 Hall of Famers, dynasties, comebacks, and nailbiters. The 49ers have lost five of the last six meetings, with the last victory coming in 2014.

It has been some time since the rivalry has had any consequence, but anytime the Cowboys come to town, nostalgia takes over.

Prediction:

Who cares. It’s just the preseason, right?

Sports Al Dente 2019

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