The San Francisco 49ers don’t have the most difficult of schedules in 2018, although the first four weeks will be tough. Merely getting by this period should be enough, though.
Sure, last year’s records mean little in determining how teams fare the following season. But it’s pretty safe to say the Niners don’t face a massive obstacle course in an attempt to reach the playoffs in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s second year at the helm.
But Weeks 1 through 4? Those could be tough.
To recap, here’s a breakdown of San Francisco’s entire 2018 schedule:
|1||Sun||September 9||1:00PM ET||@||Minnesota Vikings||preview|
|2||Sun||September 16||4:05PM ET||Detroit Lions||preview|
|3||Sun||September 23||1:00PM ET||@||Kansas City Chiefs||preview|
|4||Sun||September 30||4:25PM ET||@||Los Angeles Chargers||preview|
|5||Sun||October 7||4:25PM ET||Arizona Cardinals||preview|
|6||Mon||October 15||8:15PM ET||@||Green Bay Packers||preview|
|7||Sun||October 21||8:20PM ET||Los Angeles Rams||preview|
|8||Sun||October 28||4:25PM ET||@||Arizona Cardinals||preview|
|9||Thu||November 1||8:20PM ET||Oakland Raiders||preview|
|10||Mon||November 12||8:15PM ET||New York Giants||preview|
|12||Sun||November 25||1:00PM ET||@||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||preview|
|13||Sun||December 2||8:20PM ET||@||Seattle Seahawks||preview|
|14||Sun||December 9||4:05PM ET||Denver Broncos||preview|
|15||Sun||December 16||4:05PM ET||Seattle Seahawks||preview|
|16||Sun||December 23||4:05PM ET||Chicago Bears||preview|
|17||Sun||December 30||4:25PM ET||@||Los Angeles Rams||preview|
Three of four games on the road to kick off the season. And two of those come against playoffs teams from last year — the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1 and the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3.
Ever since the Niners moved into Levi’s Stadium in 2014, it’s been common to see many of the early season games away. It’s helped crowds in Santa Clara avoid the late-summer heat often experienced during day games, particularly in the eastern concourses.
But there aren’t exactly any “walk in the park” games during that four-game stretch. A year ago, the Vikings boasted the league’s top-ranked scoring and yardage defense. It remains largely intact, and Minnesota acquired quarterback Kirk Cousins this offseason and will see a healthy return of running back Dalvin Cook.
Probably a loss there.
The 49ers’ home opener against the Detroit Lions in Week 2 is a winnable contest. But it’s not a given, particularly with first-year head coach Matt Patricia’s understanding of now-Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo‘s strengths and weaknesses from their days together with the New England Patriots.
Then two more road games against the Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers. Much of what happens in K.C. will be determined by how well second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who takes over for veteran Alex Smith, handles his duties. But the Chiefs don’t lack for offensive weapons to help Mahomes out.
And the Chargers may be the sleeper team in the AFC West this year too.
Going 2-2 during this stretch would be great. Heck, even a 1-4 start would be OK. Even if the 49ers opened up the first quarter of 2018 winless, it’s not the end of the road.
Even defensive coordinator Robert Saleh feels a middle-of-the-road start wouldn’t be bad at all.
“If we are sitting at 4-4, don’t be surprised. But the run is going to happen,” Saleh said, via Joe Fann of 49ers.com. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the end-of-season run is going to happen. It’s just about how quickly we can get that run started.”
It’s definitely a reality. After Weeks 1 through 4, the 49ers schedule gets notably easier with just two road games (Week 6 at the Green Bay Packers, Week 8 at the Arizona Cardinals) before the team’s bye in Week 11.
Over that stretch, perhaps only the Packers and Los Angeles Rams game (Week 7 at home) could prove to be difficult.
Point being, a 10-6 finish to the season is still quite possible. Even if the Niners start off the first quarter of the year with a .500 record or worse.