Here’s how I think the 49ers’ season will unfold:
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, 1:25 pm at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Result: Loss. The 49ers have lost eight straight games on the road, and 12 straight games in the Eastern time zone. Haven’t won that far away from home since Jim Harbaugh was the head coach. Last season, they lost 27-9 in Tampa Bay, and seemed completely unprepared for that game. Next season, they’ll have to face a new coaching staff, featuring head coach Bruce Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who know the NFC West well from their time together in Arizona.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, 10:00 am at the Cincinnati Bengals.
Result: Win. Another game in the Eastern time zone. Luckily for the 49ers, they play this one early in the season against a novice head coach, Zac Taylor, who may have no clue what he’s doing.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, 1:25 pm vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Result: Loss. The Steelers lost Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, but still have Juju Smith-Schuster, James Conner and Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. And the 49ers still have arguably the worst defensive backfield in the NFL. Bad matchup against Roethlisberger.
Week 4: Bye.
Week 5: Monday, Oct. 7, 5:15 pm vs. the Cleveland Browns.
Result: Loss. The Browns will be even tougher than the Steelers, because the Browns have an effective quarterback on a cheap, rookie contract (Baker Mayfield), and expensive players to support him (Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Olivier Vernon), not to mention one of the best young pass rushers in the NFL — Myles Garrett.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, 1:05 pm at the Los Angeles Rams.
Result: Loss. No explanation needed.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, 10:00 am at the Washington Redskins.
Result: Loss. At this point, the 49ers’ record will be 1-4. They will be demoralized, and they’ll have to fly cross country to play another early game in the Eastern time zone. The Niners will come out flat and lose to a bad team.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27, 1:05 pm vs. the Carolina Panthers.
Result: Win. Cam Newton is coming off throwing-shoulder surgery, and the Panthers are mediocre at best. The 49ers can beat mediocre teams at Levi’s Stadium.
Week 9: Thursday, Oct. 31, 5:15 pm at the Arizona Cardinals.
Result: Win. Amazingly, the 49ers have lost eight games in a row against the Cardinals. That streak should end next season if Jimmy Garoppolo is healthy.
Week 10: Monday, Nov. 11, 5:15 pm vs. the Seattle Seahawks.
Result: Win. This game will come down to the final possession, and the 49ers very well could lose. But, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt, because they beat the Seahawks at home last season with Nick Mullens playing quarterback.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, 1:05 pm vs. the Arizona Cardinals.
Result: Win. The Cardinals are starting over for the second season in a row. They’ll have a rookie head coach (Kliff Kingsburgh) and possibly a rookie quarterback as well (Kyler Murray). They’re not a threat.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, 1:25 pm vs. the Green Bay Packers.
Result: Loss. Aaron Rodgers will have all day to throw, because Dee Ford will not make a major impact for the 49ers. He recorded only four sacks last season away from Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, because he relies on crowd noise to help him jump the snap. Arrowhead Stadium is one of the loudest stadiums in the league. Opposing offenses have to use a silent snap count in Kansas City, and a silent count is easy for a defensive end to time. Levi’s Stadium is one of the quietest stadiums in the league. Ford’s first step won’t seem so quick in Santa Clara.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, 10:00 am at the Baltimore Ravens.
Result: Loss. Another early game on the East Coast. Brutal. Plus, the Ravens have the most talented defense in the league.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, 10:00 am at the New Orleans Saints.
Result: The Saints are the best team in the NFC, and are extremely tough to beat at home.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, 1:25 vs. the Atlanta Falcons.
Result: Win. The Falcons are a top-heavy team with no depth and no defense. Their roster could be a decimated by Week 15.
Week 16: Saturday or Sunday, Dec. 21 or 22 vs. the Los Angeles Rams.
Result: Loss. No explanation needed.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, 1:25 pm at the Seattle Seahawks.
Result: The 49ers haven’t won in Seattle since 2011. That streak won’t end this season.
FINAL RECORD: 6-10.