49ers schedule: Early win/loss predictions for 2021 season

Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

Week 5: Sunday, Oct.10 at Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. ET

The run of division games comes to two as the 49ers travel to Arizona, their home away from home in 2020, to take on the Cardinals.

The two teams split the season series last year, with Arizona winning in comeback fashion in Week 1 at Levi’s Stadium and the Niners taking the game in the desert in Week 16. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray proved to be difficult for San Francisco’s defense, which continued to struggle with mobile quarterbacks in 2020.

Foremost in the minds of NFL fans will be whether Murray can continue his maturation as a passer and whether the Cardinals defense can improve in 2021.

The answers to both questions will be decisive in how good the Cardinals are this year.

There’s a decent chance the 49ers could head into the bye undefeated and until we see more of what this Cardinals team is going to be, let’s chalk up another one in the win column for the 2021 squad.

Record: 5-0

Week 6: BYE

The early bye isn’t great, especially with the extra game on the schedule this year. But if there is a gauntlet stretch to the 2021 schedule for the 49ers, it might be the weeks that follow this off-week, making the break a welcome one.

Record: 5-0

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24 vs Colts, 8:20 p.m. ET

So much of how good the Indianapolis Colts will be in 2021 depends on which version of quarterback Carson Wentz they get.

History suggests that Wentz, who was at his best while working with now-Colts head coach Frank Reich in Philadelphia, will have a good chance of bouncing back on his poor last few years as an Eagle. If he is able to rebound, the Colts could be among the contenders in the AFC.

If Wentz’s last few seasons were the rule and not the exception, then the Colts are in trouble, because the rest of their roster is a potential Super Bowl contender. But with poor quarterback play, that could all be derailed.

This game is the beginning of the toughest stretch of the season for San Francisco. Not only do they play every week from Weeks 7 to 18, due to the early bye, but it could be argued six of the 49ers’ next seven opponents will be pushing for playoff berths this year.

It all starts with the Colts on Sunday Night Football, already the Niners’ second prime-time game out of their five on the year, and it seems like a matchup that will be the most difficult for San Francisco so far.

It’s loss one.

Record: 5-1

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 31 at Bears, 1 p.m. ET

Chicago is likely to be better than they were in 2020 with rookie quarterback Justin Fields having a real shot to be their Week 1 starter. The Bears did bring in former Bengal and Cowboy Andy Dalton, but they couldn’t have expected Fields to be available at No. 11 overall in the draft, so they made the move to secure their quarterback of the future.

Their defense should still be solid and there’s a good chance that Fields will have settled in after nearly half a season under his belt, meaning this will be a much more difficult draw for the 49ers at this point in the season.

The matchup should come down to which defense has the most success in stopping the other team, an obvious statement that matters a lot given the quality of the two teams.

The teams last met at Levi’s Stadium in 2018, a 14-9 win for the 49ers in Jimmy Garoppolo’s first start for the franchise.

Still, look for the 49ers to be good enough to win this game and cement themselves among the NFC’s contender as they near the midpoint of the season.

Record: 6-1

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7 vs Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. ET

Every part of me wants to predict a sweep of the Arizona Cardinals in 2021.

And so I think I will.

I doubt the 49ers will run the table in the NFC West this season, but if they are healthy there’s no reason to believe they aren’t the best team in the division. They’ll need to win at least four division games to stand out among the rest.

So while the Cardinals will put up a good fight, I’ll give the Niners another win in Week 9.

Record: 7-1