The San Francisco 49ers will be tested in the 2009 regular season because they face seven teams that made the playoffs in 2008 and a Monday Night Football battle with the defending NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals, who swept the 49ers last year.


Week 01 Sunday, Sept. 13 at Arizona Cardinals


2008 Record: 9-7 (NFC Champions)

What the Offense Must Do to Win: This unit needs to take a look at Super Bowl XLIII.

The Pittsburgh Steelers marched 78 yards and scored on Santonio Holmes' six-yard game-winning touchdown catch with 35 seconds left to win it all.

The Cardinals' defense is good enough to bend but not break completely (except for the Super Bowl's final scoring drive) so it is imperative the 49ers complete long drives to keep the explosive Arizona offense off the field.

What the Defense Must Do to Win: The overall team speed on this unit matches up well with the talented Arizona offense.

The Cardinals' receivers must not be allowed to separate or it will be a long day in the Arizona desert for the 49ers.

Key Player Matchup(s): Nate Clements & Dre Bly vs. Larry Fitzgerald & Anquan Boldin & Kurt Warner

Prediction: W (1-0)

Week 02 Sunday, Sept. 20 vs. Seattle Seahawks

2008 Record: 4-12

What the Offense Must Do to Win: The Seahawks' defense lost Julian Peterson, decreasing the overall talent in Seattle.

With Peterson out, Vernon Davis needs step up and use his explosive talents against Peterson's slower footed replacements who will be covering the speedy tight end.

What the Defense Must Do to Win: Nate Clements must shut down T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson need to get to Matt Hasselbeck because he is capable of picking apart defenses with ease.

Key Player Matchup(s): Frank Gore vs. Lofa Tatupu , Nate Clements vs. T.J. Houshmandzadeh & Matt Hasselbeck

Prediction: W (2-0)

Week 03 Sunday, Sept. 27 at Minnesota Vikings

2008 Record: 10-6 (NFC North Champions)

What the Offense Must Do to Win: Viking defensive end Jared Allen racked up 14.5 sacks last season.

RT Joe Staley needs to contain Allen or the 49ers' quarterback will be battered and bruised all day.

What the Defense Must Do to Win: The 49er defense must not allow Adrian Peterson to run loose.

Peterson is one of those backs that can win any game almost on his own. He's just that good.

Minnesota's passing game is not one of their strengths so the 49ers' secondary shouldn't have problems covering the Viking receivers.

Key Player Matchup(s): Joe Staley vs. Jared Allen, Patrick Willis vs. Adrian Peterson

Prediction: L (2-1)

Week 04 Sunday, Oct. 4 vs. St. Louis Rams

2008 Record: 2-14

What the Offense Must Do to Win: Give the Rams a heavy dose of Frank Gore.

In the 49ers' 35-16 victory over the Rams last season, Gore ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns on the porous St. Louis run defense.

When the Rams try to take Gore away, the 49ers' receivers are capable of burning the St. Louis defensive backs as evidenced by Shaun Hill's game winning 48-yard touchdown pass to Josh Morgan to beat St. Louis at home in their second meeting of the season.

What the Defense Must Do to Win: With the Rams letting Torry Holt go to Jacksonville, one of the final links of their prolific passing offenses from earlier this decade is gone.

Marc Bulger is still a good NFL quarterback but without any reliable options at wide receiver, stacking eight men in the box to stop the Rams' only real offensive weapon—running back Steven Jackson— should expose St. Louis as a one dimensional offense.

Key Player Matchup(s): Patrick Willis vs. Steven Jackson

Prediction: W (3-1)

Week 05 Sunday, Oct. 11 vs. Atlanta Falcons


2008 Record: 11-5 (NFC Wild Card)

What the Offense Must Do to Win: Containing sackmaster John Abraham is a must or it will lead to a loss against the Falcons. Abraham had 16.5 sacks last season.

What the Defense Must Do to Win: Atlanta have three very productive players on offense: Quarterback Matt Ryan, running back Michael "The Burner" Turner and wide receiver Roddy White.

Neutralizing these three talents is essential for the 49ers' defense to be successful.

Key Player Matchup(s): Nate Clements vs. Roddy White & Matt Ryan, Michael Turner vs. Patrick Willis, Joe Staley vs. John Abraham

Prediction: L (3-2)

Week 06 Bye

Week 07 Sunday, Oct. 25 at Houston Texans

2008 Record: 8-8

What the Offense Must Do to Win: Mario Williams must be stopped at all costs. He can dominate an offensive line.

What the Defense Must Do to Win: Nate Clements needs to shut down Pro Bowler Andre Johnson and force Steve Slaton to beat them.

Slaton isn't a slouch either rushing for 1,282 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Parys Haralson and Manny Lawson should have success against the Texans' offensive line.

Key Player Matchup(s): Joe Staley vs. Mario Williams, Nate Clements vs. Andre Johnson & Matt Schaub

Prediction: W (4-2)

Week 08 Sunday, Nov. 1 at Indianapolis Colts


2008 Record: 12-4 (AFC Wild Card)

What the Offense Must Do to Win: The tackles need to keep up with the athletic Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

Bob Sanders' position on the field must always be a primary concern because he is one of the best playmaking safeties in the NFL today.

The run blocking must be dominant up front against the lighter Indianapolis defensive line, opening up running lanes for Frank Gore against the speedy Colts' defense.

What the Defense Must Do to Win: Don't let Peyton Manning take the game over.

Without Marvin Harrison, Manning doesn't have the same weapons he used to have but he is still the best quarterback in the NFL alongside New England Patriot and former Serra High graduate Tom Brady.

Key Player Matchup(s): Nate Clements vs. Anthony Gonzalez & Peyton Manning, Patrick Willis vs. Dallas Clark, Dwight Freeney & Robert Mathis vs. Joe Staley & Marvel Smith

Prediction: L (4-3)

Week 09 Sunday, Nov. 8 vs. Tennessee Titans

2008 Record: 13-3 (AFC South Champions)

What the Offense Must Do to Win: Free safety Michael Griffin has become one of the better players in the league. It would be wise to throw away from his side of the field.

Losing dominant defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to Washington hurts the defense, but this unit is still highly talented and has the ability to shut down a feature back like Frank Gore.

The 49ers' offensive line must beat back the Titans and Frank Gore must make the most out of every opportunity to gain yardage.

What the Defense Must Do to Win: The 49ers' defense must stop the combination of Chris Johnson and LenDale White, the Titans' version of "Thunder and Lightning" or the Titans will dominate the time of possession battle.

Kerry Collins is a good experienced quarterback that can be surgical against opposing secondaries.

Key Player Matchup(s): Marvel Smith vs. Jevon Kearse, Patrick Wilis vs. Chris Johnson

Prediction: L (4-4)

Week 10 Thursday, Nov. 12 vs. Chicago Bears

2008 Record: 9-7

What the Offense Must Do to Win: Block Tommie Harris and keep him away from the line of scrimmage.

The Chicago defense isn't as good as it was when they went to the Super Bowl a few years ago so the 49ers must out hit the Bears' defense and dominate them physically if San Francisco's offense is to have any success.

What the Defense Must Do to Win: Take away running back Matt Forte, the Chicago Bears' best offense weapon.

Devin Hester must be tackled immediately whether he is a receiver or a kick returner.

Key Player Matchup(s): Frank Gore vs. Brian Urlacher, Nate Clements vs. Devin Hester & Jay Cutler

Prediction: L (4-5)

Week 11 Sunday, Nov. 22 at Green Bay Packers


2008 Record: 6-10

What the Offense Must Do to Win: Take A.J. Hawk out of the game. The Green Bay secondary has a knack of picking the ball off so the ground game needs to dominate for the 49ers to beat the Packers in Green Bay.

What the Defense Must Do to Win:

Key Player Matchup(s): Frank Gore vs. A.J. Hawk, Nate Clements & Dre Bly vs. Donald Driver & Greg Jennings & Aaron Rodgers

Prediction: L (4-6)

Week 12 Sunday, Nov. 29 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

2008 Record: 5-11

What the Offense Must Do to Win: Jaguars' defensive tackle John Henderson is a mammoth of a man that can toss aside opposing offensive linemen at will.

The 49ers' offensive line must keep him away from the play.

What the Defense Must Do to Win: The 2008 Jasksonville Jaguars were exposed as a one dimensional running team with an inconsistent pass offense.

The 49ers' secondary shouldn't have a problem against the Jaguars' receivers, but at the same time Maurice Jones-Drew must be stopped at the point of attack consistently.

Key Player Matchup(s): Patrick Willis vs. Maurice Jones-Drew, Eric Heitmann vs. John Henderson, Frank Gore vs. Mike Peterson

Prediction: W (5-6)

Week 13 Sunday, Dec. 6 at Seattle Seahawks

2008 Record: 4-12

What the Offense Must Do to Win: The Seahawks' defense lost Julian Peterson, decreasing the overall talent in Seattle.

With Peterson out, Vernon Davis needs step up and use his explosive talents against Peterson's slower footed replacements who will be covering the speedy tight end.

What the Defense Must Do to Win: Nate Clements must shut down T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson need to get to Matt Hasselbeck because he is capable of picking apart defenses with ease.

Key Player Matchup(s): Frank Gore vs. Lofa Tatupu , Nate Clements vs. T.J. Houshmandzadeh & Matt Hasselbeck

Prediction: W (6-6)

Week 14 Monday, Dec. 14 vs. Arizona Cardinals

2008 Record: 9-7 (NFC Champions)

What the Offense Must Do to Win: San Francisco seeks redemption from last year's Monday Night Football game against the Cardinals where they failed to score at the one-yard line as time expired.

The offense needs to play with a chip on its shoulder and jump on the Cardinals' defense early.

What the Defense Must Do to Win: The overall team speed on this unit matches up well with the talented Arizona offense.

The Cardinals' receivers must not be allowed to separate or it will be a long day in the Arizona desert for the 49ers.

Key Player Matchup(s): Nate Clements & Dre Bly vs. Larry Fitzgerald & Anquan Boldin & Kurt Warner

Prediction: W (7-6)

Week 15 Sunday, Dec. 20 at Philadelphia Eagles

2008 Record: 9-6-1 (NFC Runner Up)

What the Offense Must Do to Win: The Eagles' defense has been solid for years, but losing Brian Dawkins makes Philadelphia's secondary vulnerable at the safety position.

Time of possession and offensive balance is the key to beating the Philadelphia defense.

What the Defense Must Do to Win: Donovan McNabb can still beat you with his legs so keeping an eye on him will be necessary for the 49ers to win this game.

The Philadelphia offense has plenty of talent to go around and Brian Westbrook can take over a game.

Key Player Matchup(s): Nate Clements vs. DeSean Jackson & Donovan McNabb, Patrick Willis vs. Brian Westbrook, Michael Crabtree vs. Asante Samuel

Prediction: L (7-7)

Week 16 Sunday, Dec. 27 vs. Detroit Lions

2008 Record: 0-16

What the Offense Must Do to Win: The San Francisco offense had no problem moving up and down the field on Detroit last season when the 49ers beat the Lions 31-13.

They will probably do so again this season when the teams face off.

What the Defense Must Do to Win: Kevin Smith is a serviceable running back but is no means an elite back. The 49ers' defense shouldn't have a problem keying in on him.

Calvin Johnson on the other hand is a scary football player. If Nate Clements shuts out Johnson, the Lions will be exposed as another one dimensional football team that can't make the playoffs.

Key Player Matchup(s): Nate Clements vs. Calvin Johnson, Frank Gore vs. Julian Peterson

Prediction: W (8-7)

Week 17 Sunday, Jan. 3 at St. Louis Rams

2008 Record: 2-14

What the Offense Must Do to Win: Give the Rams a heavy dose of Frank Gore.

In the 49ers' 35-16 victory over the Rams last season, Gore ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns on the porous St. Louis run defense.

When the Rams try to take Gore away, the 49ers' receivers are capable of burning the St. Louis defensive backs as evidenced by Shaun Hill's game winning 48-yard touchdown pass to Josh Morgan to beat St. Louis at home in their second meeting of the season.

What the Defense Must Do to Win: With the Rams letting Torry Holt go to Jacksonville, one of the final links of their prolific passing offenses from earlier this decade is gone.

Marc Bulger is still a good NFL quarterback but without any reliable options at wide receiver, stacking eight men in the box to stop the Rams' only real offensive weapon—running back Steven Jackson— should expose St. Louis as a one dimensional offense.

Key Player Matchup(s): Patrick Willis vs. Steven Jackson

Prediction: W (9-7)