Grant Cohn: 49ers have their schedule; here's how it will turn out
The NFL released all 32 teams' schedules on Thursday, and gave the toughest schedules to the Falcons and the 49ers. The Niners' opponents had an average winning percentage of .555 last season. Did the NFL sink the Niners' season before it even begins? Let's preview the games and find out.
Week 1. Home game. Monday night. L.A. Rams. National television. The debut of whichever quarterback the Rams decide to take with the top pick in the draft — Carson Wentz or Jared Goff.
Let's say it's Goff. In that case, the Niners would face a 21-year-old who never has taken snaps under center. Or let's say it's Wentz. In that case, the Niners would face a 23-year-old from North Dakota State who attempted only 612 passes in college.
Either way, the 49ers get to face a rookie a quarterback making his first start in the NFL. The Niners will win this game. By a lot. Rams head coach Jeff Fisher won't know how Chip Kelly intends to use his personnel on offense, so Kelly will have the upper hand. The Rams won't score more than 10 points, and the Niners will score 30. Easily.
After the game, Kelly will treat himself to a Diet Coke and allow himself to fantasize about making the playoffs. The fantasy will seem attainable. Until …
Week 2. The Niners have to fly across the country on a short week to play a 1 p.m. game — 10 a.m. Pacific Time — against the best team in the NFC, the Carolina Panthers. This will be a blowout loss. The Niners probably couldn't win this game if they had three weeks to prepare and they played the Panthers at Levi's Stadium.
After the game, Kelly will crack open a can of Coors Light and reminisce about the good old days back in Oregon.
Week 3. Another road game. This time, in Seattle, where the Niners haven't won since the Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson in 2012. Ahmad Brooks says the weather is gloomy up there — maybe that's why the Niners never play well in Seattle. Or, maybe it's because they're a young team lacking veteran leadership and they don't play well on the road in general.
The Niners will lose this game.
Week 4. Back at home against the Dallas Cowboys. Winnable game if Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo doesn't play. Romo gets hurt a lot. Last season, he played only four games because he broke left collar bone for the third time.
If he breaks his left collarbone for the fourth time before this game, the Niners will be in business. But he probably won't break it by then. Unfortunately for the Niners, they have to face Romo Week 4 when he likely will be healthy.
Three-game losing streak.
Week 5. Thursday night home game against the best team in the NFC West, the Arizona Cardinals. This schedule is relentless. The Niners will be desperate for a win. And they will play tough. This game will be close. But the Niners will lose. The Cardinals are too good.
Four-game losing streak.
Week 6. Cross-country road game against the Buffalo Bills, a quality opponent. A team whose record was 8-8 last season. A team on the rise. A better team than the Niners.
But the Niners will have a week-and-a-half to prepare, while the Bills will have just one week. The Niners will win an upset.
Week 7. Levi's Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jameis Winston. One of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. A Pro Bowler as a rookie last season, and a potential MVP candidate if the Buccaneers make the playoffs next season. Winston will lead a fourth-quarterback comeback against the Niners and hand them their fifth loss of the season.
Week 8. Bye week.
Week 9. Home game against the slow, aging New Orleans Saints. The Niners will have two weeks to prepare for this game. They'll win.
Week 10. Fly to Phoenix. Play the Cardinals on a Sunday afternoon. Lose by 35. Fly home.
Week 11. Another blowout loss, this time at home against the New England Patriots.
Week 12. The start of a two-game road trip. The Niners will have to win the rest of their remaining games to make the playoffs. First, they will play in Miami, where the Dolphins won just three home games last season. The Niners will win this game, improve their record to 4-7 and keep their playoffs hopes alive.
Until Week 13, when they will lose to the Bears in Chicago. The Niners are better than the Bears, should beat the Bears, but won't beat the Bears. Remember, the Niners are a bad road team. They lost to the Cleveland Freaking Browns on the road last season. The Niners won't win two road games in a row.
With nothing left to play for, San Francisco will lose at home Week 14 against the New York Jets, will lose on the road Week 15 against the Atlanta Falcons, will lose on the road Week 16 against the Rams, will lose at home Week 17 against the Seahawks, and will wrap up the season with a record of 4-12. Worse than Jim Tomsula's 5-11 record.
At least, that's how I see things unfolding. Let's hope I'm wrong. Life is more interesting when the 49ers matter.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the 'Inside the 49ers' blog for The Press Democrat's website. You can reach him at email@example.com.