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The 49ers seem like they should win 10 games next season. Maybe more.

They won five in a row to close out 2017, and improved by signing running back Jerrick McKinnon and center Weston Richburg this offseason. Based on those upgrades, plus the strong finish to last season, you can see the 49ers winning 11 or 12 games next season.

Until you see the schedule. Then you think, “Maybe not.”

Or I do, at least. The schedule is tough.

Let’s go through it.

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9 at the Minnesota Vikings.

Brutal season opener. The Vikings went 13-3 last season, and had four All-Pros — two on the first team and two on the second team. The 49ers had no All-Pros. They had Jimmy Garoppolo, a promising quarterback.

The Vikings had Case Keenum, a serviceable quarterback. Now, they have Kirk Cousins, who’s terrific. They’re significantly more talented than the 49ers. Prediction: Loss. Record: 0-1.

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16 vs. the Detroit Lions.

Last season, the Lions went 9-7. This offseason, they signed LeGarrette Blount, who will improve their running game, and hired head coach Matt Patricia, who will improve their defense. This is a serious team on the rise.

But, they’ll be on the road, and this will be a must-win game for the 49ers. They can’t afford to start the season 0-2. Prediction: Win. Record: 1-1.

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23 at the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chiefs got rid of cornerback Marcus Peters, who’s very good. But, they replaced him with Kendall Fuller, who’s good, too. They also got rid of a bunch of old guys, such as Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Alex Smith, and replaced them with younger players. And they still have Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt, who are fantastic. The Chiefs are the team to beat in the AFC West. Prediction: Loss. Record: 1-2.

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30 at the Los Angeles Chargers.

Another tough game. The 49ers could start the season 1-3. The Chargers were 9-7 last season, and a lot of their key players were injured. Some expect them to win the AFC West next season. But, I don’t. Every season, a few of their key players get injured. The Chargers are an injury-prone team. And the 49ers won’t travel far to play them. Prediction: Win. Record: 2-2.

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7 vs. the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cardinals went 8-8 last season, and didn’t have their starting running back, David Johnson, or their starting quarterback, Carson Palmer, for most of the season. They were injured. Now, Johnson is healthy, and the Cardinals have a new quarterback — Sam Bradford, who’s good. But, he’s even more brittle than Palmer. Bradford played only two games last season. He may play none this year. Who knows? Prediction: Win. Record: 3-2.

Week 6: Monday, Oct. 15 at the Green Bay Packers.

The best quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo faced last season was Marcus Mariota. Now, Garoppolo will have to face Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field in prime time. That’s a lot of pressure. Prediction: Loss. Record: 3-3.

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21 vs. the Los Angeles Rams.

The 49ers almost beat the Rams at Levi’s Stadium last season — they lost 41-39. And they didn’t have Garoppolo yet. But, that was a Thursday night game, and those games are weird. Coaches hardly game plan for them. This one will be different. The Rams will have a full week to prepare, and the 49ers won’t — they’ll be coming off a Monday night game. Prediction: Loss. Record: 3-4.

Shanahan at a glance

Age: 37

College career: Wide receiver at Texas

Coaching career: NFL assistant coach since 2004, offensive coordinator with Houston (2008-09), Washington (2010-13), Cleveland (2014) and Atlanta (2015-16)

Recognition: Assistant Coach of the Year, 2016

Pedigree: Son of former NFL coach Mike Shanahan

_____

Grant Cohn's Inside the 49ers blog

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28 at the Arizona Cardinals.

If Bradford is healthy, the Cardinals very well may win this game. But, if he’s not healthy, and he probably won’t be, the Cardinals will have to start their backup quarterback, Mike Glennon, who’s no good. Or some rookie they haven’t drafted yet. Prediction: Win. Record: 4-4.

Week 9: Thursday, Nov. 1 vs. the Oakland Raiders.

Remember, Thursday night games are weird. Teams run basic stuff — they don’t have time to practice lots of plays during the week. The winner often is the tougher team, not the cleverer team. Last season, the Raiders were soft. They folded as a team when the Redskins punched them in the mouth Week 3. Jon Gruden won’t let that happen again. He’ll turn the Raiders into bullies, just as Jim Harbaugh did with the 49ers. Prediction: Loss. Record: 4-5.

Week 10: Monday, Nov. 12 vs. the New York Giants.

The 49ers have a few extra days to prepare for this game, and the Giants aren’t good. By this time, they might be starting a rookie quarterback. Prediction: Win. Record: 5-5.

Week 11: Bye week.

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 25 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The 49ers travel across the country to play a game that starts at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time. That’s always difficult. And the Bucs are improving. They have a talented young quarterback — Jameis Winston — and they’ve remade their defense this offseason. Prediction: Loss. Record: 5-6.

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2 at the Seattle Seahawks.

The Seahawks have the same problems they’ve had the past couple of seasons: No running game and a bad offensive line. The Niners are better than the Seahawks. But, the Seahawks still have Russell Wilson, who never has lost to the 49ers in Seattle. That streak will continue. Prediction: Loss: Record: 5-7.

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9 vs. the Denver Broncos.

The Broncos upgraded at quarterback. Case Keenum is better than the guy they had last season — Trevor Siemian. But, their defense isn’t dominant like it used to be. They got rid of their best corner, Aqib Talib. This team could finish last in its division. Prediction: Win. Record: 6-7.

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16 vs. the Seattle Seahawks.

The outcome of this game will cause Pete Carroll to consider retiring. Prediction: Win. Record: 7-7.

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23 vs. the Chicago Bears.

Garoppolo beat the Bears by just one point last season, and the Bears have improved since then. This game will be close. Prediction: Win. Record: 8-7.

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30 at the Los Angeles Rams.

The Rams will be playing for home-field advantage in the playoffs, and the 49ers will be playing for nothing. They will have been eliminated already. Prediction: Loss. Record: 8-8.

Eight wins may seem like a letdown. Especially for the 49ers, a team overflowing with hope. But, when you get down to the reality of their schedule, eight wins would be impressive and a giant leap forward.

So, that’s my prediction, 8-8. Remember, I’m the guy who predicted they would go 9-7 last season.

Grant Cohn covers the 49ers for The Santa Rosa Press Democrat and Pressdemocrat.com. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.

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