Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Predicting the 2021 49ers Season, Part 1

Aug 4, 2021 at 5:33 PM--

The 2020 49ers season marked a disappointing one for the team, a campaign they must bounce back from. Fortunately for them, this season's schedule looks to be slightly easier than last year's and will help them ease back into playoff-caliber football with a whirlwind of moving pieces such as a quarterback competition, an injury-plagued roster, and a plethora of new pieces. Training camp has given us a sneak peek at the quality of football we can expect and helps us gauge injury levels throughout the team. Let's jump into the schedule and see how San Francisco fares.

Update: Part 2 can be found here

Week 1: Detroit Lions (Win)

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions have jumped into an all-out rebuild after trading star QB Matthew Stafford while not adding many valuable pieces to offset the loss. QB Jared Goff has taken the helm of the Detroit offense and will face a familiar, tenacious San Francisco defense that has several returning pieces. It is likely defensive ends Nick Bosa and Dee Ford will be ready by Week 1 and will provide additional help against the Lions offensive line, likely the Lions' strongest unit. It's likely that Jimmy Garoppolo will still be the starter at this time, and shouldn't face any insurmountable problems from the Detroit defense, which ranks among the bottom of the league.

The only concern the 49ers should have with this matchup is the team's prior woes in Week 1 games, as San Francisco has only won one Week 1 game in Shanahan's tenure as head coach. The offense seems to have been the major culprit behind this cold streak either due to rust or a lack of initial team chemistry.

Nonetheless, the potent 49ers offense and solid defense should be enough to get the victory here in what might actually be a closer game than expected.

Week 2: Philadelphia Eagles (Win)

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The second week on the 49ers schedule happens to be another early game on the East Coast. One of the primary factors to consider here in the timeframe of the game. Based on the West Coast, the 49ers roster could potentially have a problem adjusting to the time zone difference in Philadelphia for an extended period of time, especially because the team likely won't have a chance to return to The Bay between Week 1 and Week 2.

If we dive into the teams' rosters, their talent and composition of both teams aren't particularly close. The 49ers have a better unit for every position on their respective rosters. With unproven and inefficient QB Jalen Hurts leading Philadelphia's offense, it could quickly turn into a sloppy game for the Eagles, something that their defense certainly won't be able to overcome.

Look for this to be a game the 49ers take quite easily.

Week 3: Green Bay Packers (Win)

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Marking this game down as a win might come as quite a big surprise due to the phenomenal season the Packers just had last year. Coming off a 13-3 season with a conference championship berth and Aaron Rodgers return to training camp sets the stage for Green Bay to take this game without much difficulty. However, taking a peek back at the 49ers' recent history against the Packers is quite informative at reevaluating this game. After throwing out last season's 34-17 blowout, due to the fact that the 49ers' best offensive weapon at the time was Richie James Jr., San Francisco has fared incredibly well against the Packers. The Niners blew out the Packers twice in 2019, with a fully healthy team, and lost by three points in a game against Green Bay in 2018, with a roster that went 4-12.

The explanation for this recent success against the NFC powerhouse Packers is the omnipotent 49ers backfield. Ever since 2018, the 49ers have had a stable full of solid running backs who shoved the ball down the field through Green Bay's lackluster run defense. Whether it was Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert, or a plethora of others, San Francisco has always had an amazing answer for the Packers' defense. And now with the additions of RBs Trey Sermon, Elijah Mitchell, and Wayne Gallman, all of whom are solid players, the Niners backfield looks to be a stronger force than ever. Add to that the fact that the Packers' interior linebackers are weakening and this will be the Niners' first game at home with a heavy home-field advantage, and the team has a strong recipe for success.

This may not be a 2019-like blowout win for the Niners, but this game looks to be a sleeper victory for San Fransisco.

Week 4: Seattle Seahawks (Loss)

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The Seahawks game is one that has the potential to go either way, but I expect a loss here for San Francisco for a couple of reasons. First, Seattle is always one of the most strong, robust teams in the early months of the season. Over the last two seasons, the Seahawks have a record of 10-2 in the first 6 weeks of the season. Seattle's offense looks to be as potent as ever with the improving wide receiver corps of Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, the always consistent running back Chris Carson, and the addition of another underrated talented offensive piece in Gerald Everett. Pair them with an improved offensive line and the phenomenal play of Russell Wilson in the first half of the season, and it doesn't look too great for the Niners.

The usually stout 49ers defense has also not limited the Seahawks offense to fewer than 20 points in 6 seasons, and that doesn't project to change with a new and unproven defensive coordinator in DeMeco Ryans. The factors stack up for the usually red-hot Seahawks in this scenario and the Niners will likely take their first loss here.

However, one key to consider here as well as the remaining divisional matchups left on the schedule is the nature of playing someone within the same division. Most matchups go either way and are the most unpredictable games. While a loss here is more likely than not, take it with a grain of salt considering that the NFC West is the strongest division in the NFL by far and any matchup could go any way for any reason.

Week 5: Arizona Cardinals (Win)

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The second 49ers divisional game, which will be against the Arizona Cardinals, projects to go better for San Fransisco than their initial bout against the Seahawks. Following the Cardinals' first grueling game against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4, a similarly talented team in the 49ers will have its chance at putting up a battle against Arizona.

Opposing defenses usually have little to no success at stopping the brilliant duo of Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins. However, at the end of the 2020 campaign, former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh seemed to figure out a way to stop the strong-armed and shifty Murray. Both times last season the Niners were able to limit the usually powerful Cardinals offense to fewer than 25 points and the second time the defense forced Kyler Murray to throw for merely 247 passing yards with one turnover. Arizona's offense was incredibly stagnant throughout the game and had trouble pushing the ball down the field as there was usually a spy covering the opposing star quarterback, making his game one-dimensional.

San Francisco has even more incentive and motivation to win this game to conclude the first third of the season strong before its bye week. Even more, by Week 5, the offense likely has had enough time to return to full health and get acquainted with new pieces on the offensive line and at running back, making for a very effective and efficient offensive machine under coach Shanahan. Furthermore, the 49ers offense is usually at its strongest especially against Arizona, as showcased in 2019 when it led the team to a sweep of the season series.

However, the Cardinals can make this a close game with their emerging defense with pieces returning from injury, such as Chandler Jones, and the key additions of defensive lineman J.J. Watt and offensive pieces James Conner, A.J. Green, and underrated rookie Rondale Moore. Regardless, if the cards play right for the 49ers here, they should be able to pick up the win.

A little under one-third of the way through the season, the 49ers sit at 4-1, a very solid spot to be in before San Francisco goes into its bye week.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the predictions, which will be coming up soon.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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