It’s easy to come up with a lot of wins on the 49ers’ NFL schedule for 2021, but let’s predict the first loss of the year and break down why.
The 2020 San Francisco 49ers provided a case study in how things don’t always go according to plan.
Sure, the injuries can be blamed. But the Niners’ Week 1 loss at home against the Arizona Cardinals wasn’t exactly expected, and one can’t overlook the fact San Francisco was almost entirely healthy during that contest anyway. The multitude of injuries hadn’t set in yet.
Fast-forward to 2021, and it’s not too hard to get excited about the 49ers’ chances this upcoming season. Their NFL schedule does include an awfully large number of miles traveled, yes. But the benefit of playing a last-place schedule while also having to go against not-so-tough divisions like the AFC South and NFC North bode well, too.
FanSided recently predicted the Niners go 10-7 with a Wild Card berth, San Francisco’s first loss coming in Week 2 after the second game of a back-to-back road trip to the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles. Niner Noise’s Robert Morrison predicted the 49ers go 5-0 before their first loss against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football.
But for the purposes of this argument, San Francisco’s first loss of the season comes a bit earlier than that.
NFL schedule prediction: 49ers first loss will be in Week 5 at Cardinals
Starting off the year with two games on the East Coast won’t be easy, but the Lions are in ultimate rebuild mode heading into 2021, and the Eagles still have a ways to go to get back to being a legitimate playoff contender.
Even though the NFC East remains a laughingstock of a division.
It’s the next two games on the 49ers schedule that get tough: Weeks 3 and 4 at home against the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, respectively. Aside from last year’s Thursday Night Football clunker, in which the Niners were dealing more with COVID-19 issues than quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Co., head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad has been able to handle the Packers under the bright lights as of late.
Rodgers’ immediate future remains unsettled, particularly if the standoff between him and the front office continues. And while there’s an awfully good chance this gets resolved, the distraction and recent track history of San Francisco’s success (when healthy) over Green Bay points to a win here.
One might figure, too, the 49ers proverbially “get themselves up” for a crucial NFC West showdown against the Seahawks a week later.
While divisional matchups aren’t necessarily trap games, it’s easy to understand why a road bout against the Cardinals in Week 5 could be something of a letdown matchup. Put this game on the road after the Niners were highly invested in hosting big games against rivals like the Packers and Seahawks, it’s not hard to see why Arizona presents a tough challenge.
On top of that, the Cardinals have regularly given San Francisco fits the last two years. Aside from Arizona’s sloppy performance against the 49ers in Week 16 last year, the previous three games were all of the nail-biting variety, including two come-from-behind wins against an upstart Cardinals team in 2019.
And that was before Arizona added potential impact players like EDGE J.J. Watt, linebacker Zaven Collins and wide receiver Rondale Moore.
Granted, predictions rarely come to fruition. But it makes sense the Niners would suffer some kind of letdown loss at the hands of the Cardinals after pulling off two high-profile wins the previous two weeks, potentially making Week 5 the first date where San Francisco appears in the loss column.