Kirby Lee-USA Today Sports

Kirby Lee-USA Today Sports


The San Francisco 49ers have averaged 12 wins per season since 2011. Each year has featured several games that defined the season. In 2011 it was come from behind wins early on in Philadelphia and Detroit. In 2012 there was the Thursday night victory over Seattle, Colin Kaepernick's debut against Chicago, and a stunning defeat of New England in Foxboro. Last season featured a dominating offensive performance against Green Bay to open the season, a key week 4 Thursday night victory on a short week against St Louis, and a season ending victory in the closing moments in Arizona.

Looking ahead to 2014, these are the 5 games that will define the 49ers season:

Week 1 at Dallas: The season opener is always a tone setter, and this year will be no exception. Despite an 8-8 record in 2013 the Cowboys were a tough out, especially at home where their 3 losses were by a combined total of 6 points.

Week 4 vs Philadelphia: The defending NFC East champions are among the early favorites to reach the playoffs again in 2014. The coaches have a bit of history with each other, Jim Harbaugh and Chip Kelly split their contests while at Stanford and Oregon during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. With current 49ers defensive coordinator calling the defense for Stanford in 2010 Kelly's Oregon team hung 52 on the Cardinal.

Week 7 at Denver: The 49ers, coming off a short week, will travel to Denver for a Sunday night contest to take on the defending AFC champions and Peyton Manning. The Broncos outscored opponents by an average of over 20 points per contest in their 7 home regular season victories in 2013.

Week 10 at New Orleans: The Saints enter the 2014 season as a favorite of many to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 49. The 49ers have split their first two contests in New Orleans with Jim Harbaugh at the helm. Last season the 49ers appeared to have victory in their grasp, only to have a controversial roughing the passer penalty on Ahmad Brooks wipe out a recovery of a Drew Brees fumble.

Week 15 at Seattle: I chose this game over the Thanksgiving night contest because the 49ers have shown they can beat the Seahawks at home. However, winning up at Century Link field has proven to be a whole different animal. The 49ers are 0-3 there over the last 2 seasons and their offense has been very inconsistent in each of those contests. This game will likely determine the NFC West champion and possibly home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

What five games do you think will define the season?