Week 9, Thursday, Oct. 31 at Arizona
Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray has been the talk of the NFL for much of the start of the season, in spite the team starting out 0-2-1 through three weeks and generally looking like one of the worst teams in football.
Sure, Murray has been exciting at times, especially in leading his team back from being down 24-6 in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions to end up with a tie. And to be honest, he’s kept the Cardinals in games longer than expected through all three weeks.
But the Cardinals feature a 63.2 overall offensive grade, according to PFF, and are even worse on defense, with an overall grade of 60.9. They’re also either middle of the road, or near the bottom of the league in terms of points per game, total yards and both passing and rushing yards.
And even those passing yards can be contributed to playing from behind for much of the season so far.
So even if their quarterback is exciting, and even if wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is experiencing some sort of late-career resurgence, it’s unlikely the Cardinals will be good enough this season to put up much of a fight against the 49ers.
April: Win, 6-2
September: Win, 7-1
Week 10, Monday, Nov. 11 vs. Seattle
The Seattle Seahawks are another anomaly of the young season.
Yes, they are 2-1 to start the year and quarterback Russell Wilson has looked to be up to his old tricks in leading the team. Rookie wide receiver D.K. Metcalf has been a minor revelation on a team lacking pass-catching talent, and they are in the top half of the league in your major offensive categories so far.
Even so, they almost lost to a clearly bad Bengals team in Seattle in Week 1, before eeking out a road victory against a Steelers team nobody seems to know what to make of in 2019. Then they were pummeled, once again at home, by the Teddy Bridgewater-led Saints on Sunday, losing 33-27 in a game that wasn’t that close until the Seahawks scored 20 points in the final frame.
The team normally known for its staunch home record has looked beatable in the Pacific Northwest, and shockingly it’s due to the inability to stop anyone on defense.
Through three games, the defense has earned just a 63.5 overall grade from PFF, and while the numbers only run through Week 2 at Football Outsiders, Seattle sits at just 13th in Defensive DVOA (minus-9.9 percent), a number that likely won’t improve after the Saints game.
The point is, that in spite their start, the Seahawks look beatable by this up-and-coming 49ers squad, and this Monday Night Football clash should see the Niners continue winning.
April: Win, 7-2
September: Win, 8-1
Week 11, Sunday, Nov. 17 vs. Arizona
No reason to think this game will go any differently than the game in Arizona, and the 49ers should be closing in on double-digit wins going into a tough stretch to finish off the month of November and moving into the final weeks of the season.
April: Win, 8-2
September: Win, 9-1
Week 12, Sunday, Nov. 24 vs. Green Bay
The end of the schedule was always going to be the toughest part of the 49ers run of games for 2019.
Starting with this home clash against the Packers, the 49ers will face three road games, two of which include long road trips, and division clashes against their top contenders for the NFC West. And of their final six opponents starting in Week 12, four are currently leading their respective divisions.
As far as Green Bay goes, the major surprise so far is not on offense, but how good the defense has been through three games. According to PFF, the Packers have the second best defense in football behind the New England Patriots (81.8 grade), while their offense has been below average, sitting at 22nd in the NFL.
Some of that is chalked up to the defenses they’ve played so far — the Bears, the Vikings and the Broncos — but Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA metric doesn’t paint a better picture. The Packers are 23rd in the league through two weeks (minus-13.7 percent).
This should be a marquee matchup for Week 12, and as I did before the season started, I think the Packers might have a little more than the 49ers in 2019. It should be a good game, but the Packers seem more likely to come out on top.
April: Loss, 8-3
September: Loss, 9-2
Week 13, Sunday, Dec. 1 at Baltimore
It’s pretty clear the Baltimore Ravens are one of the NFL’s best teams through three weeks, even if their record, 2-1 so far, doesn’t tell the whole story. Second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson lit up the league in Week 1 against the putrid Dolphins, although he’s come back down to earth since then.
Their only loss was last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, who are one of the top two or three teams in football, and they managed to keep the game close in the end, even after the Chiefs scored 23 points in the second quarter.
Their offense continues to be electric through three weeks, with PFF grading them as the second-best unit in the league, behind only Dallas, with an overall offensive grade of 80.9.
But the real shock is how rough their defense has been outside of the opening win at Miami. PFF had them at 80.7 for Week 1, but the unit fell to 65.5 in Week 2 at home against Arizona, and graded them at 50.5 in Kansas City.
Yes, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is good, but that’s quite the collapse.
How this game goes will depend on two things. First, the health of the 49ers who should be, barring no other injuries, back to full strength going into Baltimore. Second, how creative Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman can be in changing things up now that the rest of the league has plenty of tape on his offense.
Back in April, this felt like a game that would end up 9-3, but given how good both teams have been on offense, I’m not expecting more points. I’m also expecting the 49ers to be the better team.