The draft hasn't happened yet. There are still mini camps to be held. We have to get through a full preseason. Injuries can still happen. Even with all of that, don't tell me you haven't gone though the 49er's schedule week by week and predicted how the team will finish! I did too, and I decided to write about it. So here it is, a way too early prediction on the 49er's 2013 record.
Week 1: vs. Packers (W)
For the second year in a row, the 49ers will open up against the Packers. A matchup with Green Bay always used to scare me. Other than the "Catch II" the Packers handled the 49ers quite easily during the Brett Favre era. Even now, the Packers arguably have the best player in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers and because of that can beat any team on any given day. But that didn't matter last season, and you almost feel like it's the 49ers who now have the upper hand. In a statement victory to open the season in '12, the Alex Smith led 49er's dominated the Pack in a 30-22 win (the game was not as close as the score). People wondered if they could beat them twice in the same season when the two went at it again in the divisional round of the playoffs. The only difference this time was the 49ers had an inexperienced quarterback behind center. That difference didn't matter as Colin Kaepernick had a video game like performance with 444 yards of total offense and 4 total touchdowns in a convincing win. The Packers will still put up points but I don't think they can keep up with the 49ers. The Niner's defense will be good enough to get stops when then need to and the 49ers get the win at home. Everyone starts to think the 49er's have the Packer's number.
Week 2: @ Seahawks (L) *Sunday Night
The 49ers were absolutely manhandled last year when they traveled to Seattle. In a 42-13 loss, one of the most physical, dominant teams in the NFL got dominated in every aspect of the game. The 49ers were in a tough spot though. They had played a wild game at New England the week before. It was their second straight prime time game on the road. They were without Justin Smith. This game screamed "loss" before it even happened. I don't think it will play out that way this time around but I'm still going with Seattle here. The Seahawks will pull this one out in a tight battle.
Week 3: vs. Colts (W)
In a game that will reunite Andrew Luck with his college coach, Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers will get a first hand look at the best young quarterback in the game. Luck took a rebuilding franchise and finished 11-5 in 2012. Even with their offseason additions, I think the Colts take a small step back this year. The Colts can hit a few big plays down field, but their defense will not be able to contain the 49er's running game or Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers pull away at the end here and comfortably get the win.
Week 4: @ Rams (L) *Thursday night
Some teams just have your number. The 49ers were immensely more talented that the Rams in 2012 and still went 0-1-1 against them. Sure Alex Smith got hurt in the first game. Sure Kaepernick made a bonehead play (which is rare) in the second game. They still could not pull out wins. This time around, the 49ers will have to travel on a short week. Couple that with that fact that, for whatever reason, the Jeff Fisher Rams give the 49ers fits and it could be a recipe for trouble. The 49ers lose another low scoring, frustrating game and (at 2-2) the national media talks all week about "what's wrong with the 49ers?" Everyone is worried about falling below .500 with the Texans looming.
Week 5: vs. Texans (W) *Sunday Night
On the big stage in a what turns out to be a big game for thee 49ers, they win big against a scary Texans team. The Texan's rely a lot on their running game and hope that can set up the play action pass. With the 49er's being so difficult to run on, they won't get much going offensively. This game will get out of hand quickly after a couple of Matt Schaub interceptions and the 49ers get a big win that will let their fans take a deep breath.
Week 6: vs. Cardinals (W)
The Cardinals will have a new coach in Bruce Arians and a new quarterback in Carson Palmer. It won't matter. Arians likes to throw the ball down field and while Palmer has a big arm, he's a statue back there. The 49er's defense will have a field day with a sub par Arizona offense line and make Palmer actually wish he stayed in Oakland. Having a good defense won't matter for the Cards as Michael Crabtree will continue to own Patrick Peterson and the 49er's come away with an easy win.
Week 7: @ Titans (W)
The 49ers play the first of back to back road games against a Titans team that will be undermanned against San Francisco. Jake Locker and Chris Johnson won't be able to put up enough points in a game the 49ers should win going away. The Titans don't have the weapons on the outside to threaten the Niners. This is a bad matchup for Tennessee and a talented 49er's squad will be too much for them, even at home. The only hiccup I can see here is if the team is looking ahead to traveling to London the following week.
Week 8: @ Jaguars (W) *In London
The 49ers complete the sweep of the AFC South in only half a season by trouncing one of the worst teams in the league. On paper (and I know they don't play the games on paper) this is a mismatch in every sense of the word. The 49ers have one of the deepest, most talented rosters in the league. The Jags have Blaine Gabbert.
Week 9: Bye
Week 10: vs. Panthers (W)
I think this game is going to be tricky. The Panthers really underachieved last season but finished the year winning 5 out of 6 and could be a surprise team in 2013. This game will be billed as Kaepernick vs. Newton as the two young and exciting quarterbacks square off. The 49ers would look to be safe at home coming off a bye but it won't be a traditional "bye" because of the London trip. I see this as a close game the 49ers pull out late. Circle this one though, it could be a loss no one sees coming.
Week 11: @ Saints (L)
With Sean Payton back, the Saints will be back. Drew Brees and company will be on a mission in 2013 and I think they get a little revenge against the 49ers in this game. The 49ers rode a couple of defensive scores to a win in 2012 and that could get reversed here. The 49ers offense makes a couple of rare mistakes as they drop their 3rd game of the season in the dome.
Week 12: @ Redskins (W) * Monday Night
This game will get a ton of hype as Kapernick squares off with RGIII in a matchup of the "future of the quarterback position." With Griffin trying to return from a major injury, I think this is going to be a frustrating year for the Skins. Not everyone is Adrian Peterson and I don't think the Redskin's offense can be nearly as effective as last year. The 49ers did have some issues with mobile quarterbacks in 2012 (see Russell Wilson and Christen Ponder) but this will be a game they win against a Washington team that is looking for answers at this point in the season.
Week 13: vs. Rams (W)
The 49ers finally get a win here against Fisher and the Rams. They are at home and over due to break out at this point. The offense will show a few new wrinkles and finally get some big plays against St. Louis. They win this game comfortably after playing the Rams almost even for the last 3 games.
Week 14: vs. Seahawks (W)
The 49ers get back to back retribution against a Seattle team that is far worse on the road. The Seahawks are a great home team but may have been slightly overrated overall because of their road record. In the regular season, they were 3-5 on the road in '12 (one of those games was at a neutral site in Toronto). In the playoffs, they barely won a road game against the Redskins who were playing with a quarterback on one leg. They made a great comeback at Atlanta but other than a late flurry had their doors blown off. Until the Hawks can prove to be a threat on the road, I'll always go San Fran here at home.
Week 15: @ Buccaneers (W)
This is the same Bucs team the 49ers beat 48-3 in 2011, right? Not quite, they have a new coach in Greg Schiano and have upgraded their talent considerably. I think Doug Martin, Carl Nicks, and Vincent Jackson can make this a closer game but I'll still take the 49ers in this one. Tampa Bay has a good defense, but it won't be able to contain a 49er's offense that is starting to really click.
Week 16: vs. Falcons (L) *Monday Night
Atlanta is going to come into this game looking for payback. I don't care if they are 14-0 at this point, they'll want to beat the team that kept them from the Superbowl. Tony Gonzalez will be back. They have the powerful Steven Jackson finally playing with a contender. Julio Jones and Roddy White abused the 49er's secondary and Jones is only getting better. Even with a healthy Justin and Aldon Smith, I'll go with Atlanta getting an emotional road win on Monday night to close down Candlestick.
Week 17: @ Cardinals (W)
With 4 losses, the 49ers may need this game for either a bye or even the division. The Cards could not come at a better time. It's always possible Arizona could surprise everyone and be contending at this point but I'll go on the assumption that Palmer is out of commission by now and this is another walk in the park for the Niners. The 49ers outscored the Cards 51-16 in 2012. I'll say that combined score looks quite similar by the end of 2013.
Final Record: 12-4