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Well, the cat is out of the bag and it looks like only two of my prognostications rang true:
The 49ers will follow their trip to London with a bye week (some real crystal ball foresight there on my part)The 49ers have five primetime games, the maximum allowed at the onset of the season (teams can be flexed into an additional spot during the season, like the 49ers did last year against Seattle in December)
Now, let's take a look at the schedule week-by-week, in EST since I'm writing this from New Jersey):
Sept. 8 vs. Green Bay Packers, 4:25 p.m.
Green Bay is going to be coming in hungry after beginning and ending their 2012 season with defeats at the hands of the Niners, so this one will be tough. Nevertheless, there's a reason the 49ers beat them in both contests last year. Will Kaepernick run wild again? The Niners will have a new face or two in the secondary, so having a fresh Aldon and Justin Smith to tee off on Rodgers will go a long way in securing victory.
Sept. 15 at Seattle Seahawks, 8:30 p.m.
Well, I was one week off and a few cities south with my prediction of a Week 1 Sunday Night game against Seattle at Candlestick. Much like last year, the 49ers start out with two tough NFC matchups (remember, the Lions were supposed to be good going into last season). Seattle is going to be deafening with their primary division adversary coming to town for the home opener in primetime. Think last year in December...but louder. It's going to be very tough to come away with a victory here, but the Niners can look to their meltdown late last season to conjure up motivation.
Sept. 22 vs. Indianapolis Colts, 4:25 p.m.
Harbaugh is reunited with his apprentice, Andrew Luck, from their Stanford days. A September home game in sunny San Francisco featuring two of the game's best young quarterbacks—should be a fun one to watch. The Colts were a phenomenal story last year and have made some big moves in the offseason but as of right now, this is the 49ers' game to lose.
Sept. 26 at St. Louis Rams, 8:25 p.m.
The Niners will have revenge on their minds going into this Thursday Night road contest against a divisional foe they just couldn't shut the door on last year. The Rams look poised to be an even tougher opponent in Jeff Fisher's second year as head coach. They'll have a new look at running back after severing ties with Stephen Jackson, and their offensive line gets a big boost with the signing of Jake Long. That St. Louis dome will be bumping if the Rams start out hot. This is a very tough game on a short week for the red and gold.
Oct. 6 vs. Houston Texans, 8:30 p.m.
This is the finale of a formidable start to the season for San Francisco. The nice thing is that this will be coming off of a ten day break for the 49ers, while the Texans will have to travel from what is sure to be a physical game against the Seahawks in Houston. In my opinion, Houston is an overrated team and Schaub just doesn't have what it takes to turn that offense into a powerhouse. Look for the Niners to have a strong showing under the lights in what will be the second to last primetime game at Candlestick part.
Oct. 13 vs. Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 p.m
San Francisco will conclude their first wave of divisional foes with a Sunday afternoon home game against newly signed Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals. It remains to be seen what Arizona does in the draft, but barring any mind-blowing transactions this team projects to place last in the division. With very tough games against Seattle and St. Louis earlier in the season, the 49ers will need to take care of business in this game to keep pace in the division.
Oct. 20 at Tennessee Titans, 4:05 p.m.
The 49ers travel to Nashville to take on the Harbaugh-dubbed "Swiss Army Knife" himself, Delanie Walker, and the Titans. Tennessee has a road game in Seattle the week before. Jake Locker had a completion percentage of 56.4 and threw more interceptions than touchdowns in 2012. The defense was worst in the league last year in points allowed per game—they gave up more than fifty points to Chicago and Green Bay; hell, even the Bills put 34 on the board against them. But they still have Chris Johnson, and when Kenny Britt is not suspended, he's a good receiver. Like the week prior, this is a game the Niners really have to take advantage of. Starting out slow as they did on occasion last year (see Minnesota in Week 3) will not do.
Oct. 27 "at" Jacksonville Jaguars (Wembley Stadium, London) 1 p.m.
The Niners fly across the pond for the second time in four years, this time to face the Jaguars. San Francisco should have a strong contingent of 49ers faithful at the game, which gives them a real boost considering it counts as a road game. Who will be under center for Jacksonville? Will the Blaine Gabbert experiment go on for another year or will the Jags take a flyer on West Virginia QB Geno Smith in the draft? Either way, the Jaguars have a ways to go before they get back to competitive play.
Nov. 10 vs. Carolina Panthers, 4:05 p.m.
A very intriguing duel between two young, mobile, big-arm quarterbacks. Carolina has some talent on their team, and they turned it on at the end of 2012, saving Ron Rivera's job in the process. The Niners must be wary of a sluggish start coming out of the bye, but it's nice to have this one at home. The Panthers will have to make a cross-country flight after a division slugfest against Atlanta.
Nov. 17 at New Orleans Saints, 4:25 p.m.
The rematch, part III. Sean Peyton returns to remedy the woes of the Saints' 2012 downfall. The 49ers have won their past two contests against New Orleans: the Divisional round thriller/bounty gate bonanza at Candlestick Park two seasons ago, and the second game of the Kaepernick era last season in NOLA. This is no easy environment and the Saints are out for revenge, but New Orleans has to patch up that unspeakably porous defense if they want a shot at slowing down Kaepernick and the 49er offense.
Nov. 25 at Washington Redskins, 5:40 p.m.
The nation's capital (err Landover, Maryland) hosts one of the year's best quarterback battles on a late November Monday night: Kaepernick vs. Robert Griffin III (Brady vs. Manning is also on tap for 2013). Obviously the big headline is RGIII's knee and how it will be going into the season. With this game being later in the year, we should know exactly where RGIII stands heading into this one. The Redskins get Brian Orakpo, and Adam Carriker back on defense this season and their offense with Alfred Morris and Griffin is a top five unit. If Griffin is 100%, this game is going to be a gunfight at FedEx Field.
Dec. 1 vs. St. Louis Rams, 4:05 p.m.
An afternoon game vs. the Rams at the 'Stick kicks off the second wave of division opponents for San Francisco. With so much focus on the Seahawks and 49ers this year, many forget that the Rams finished with the best record against NFC West opponents, losing only once to Seattle. Jeff Fisher is a good coach, and they're building a young team that plays hard defense (ranked 14th in the league last year). If the Rams are in the hunt, this is going to be a dogfight. If they regress or remain status quo in 2013, the 49ers may have an easier time this go around.
Dec. 8 vs. Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m.
This one could have some serious playoff implications and if so, it could flex to primetime as we saw last season. San Francisco vs. Seattle is one of the NFL's most anticipated rivalries and storylines in 2013. After being a laughing stock for so many years in recent past, the NFC West goes into the season with two of the NFC's leading contenders. Will the Niners pick up a defensive lineman or situational linebacker to help combat Russell Wilson's elusiveness? Who will be lining up on Percy Harvin in the 49ers secondary?
Dec. 15 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 p.m.
The Buccaneers game is only the second and final 1 p.m. start for the 49ers. Josh Freeman had a 4,000 yard season and Doug Martin's broke out in the second half of 2012. Schiano had these guys competing almost every week, and lost some close games. Both the Niners and Tampa could be jockeying for a division title and/or playoff spot at this point in the season. The 49ers will face their former Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson and may even see Darrelle Revis running out of the tunnel at Raymond James Stadium.
Dec. 23 vs. Atlanta Falcons, 8:40 p.m.
The 49ers' final regular season game at Candlestick Park (tough to type that) is a Monday night rematch of the 2012 NFC Championship game. The former NFC West enemy Falcons will have all the motivation in the world for this one. They've been stewing over that final offensive series for some time now. Then again, this is the final regular season game on the hallowed grounds of Candlestick Park, a place the Niners have called home since 1971. This is one of the most anticipated games on the entire schedule.
Dec. 29 at Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 p.m.
For the second year in a row, San Francisco closes the season against Arizona. This time around, it's in the desert. The big question here is: will this game be relevant to the division race? Will Arizona be playing for anything? Likely not. But depending on where the 49ers are at during this juncture, they could attempt to spoil the party. Last year, the defense performed as well as one could with an offense that ranked dead last in yards and second to last in points. Daryl Washington and Patrick Peterson are great players, and Fitzgerald is still one of the league's best. They're counting on Carson Palmer to be Kurt Warner 2.0. That's a very risky gamble (lightning doesn't strike twice), but he's got a really nice group of receivers. If he can step up his game and Arians finds him a running back that isn't named Beanie Wells or Ryan Williams, the Cards could be decent.