2018 could be a return to glory for the red and gold.
For the San Francisco 49ers, the release of the 2018 NFL Schedule couldn’t have come soon enough. After a disastrous 1-10 start in 2017, the 49ers ended their season on a five game winning streak thanks to the emergence of new franchise QB Jimmy Garoppolo. His play earned him a five year, $137.5 million contract extension, the richest in NFL history. With all the excitement surrounding him and one of the NFL’s marquee franchises, let’s take a look and analyze the 49ers schedule for 2018.
Week 1: at Minnesota Vikings (10 a.m. PST, Sunday September 9th)
Week 2: Detroit Lions (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday September 16th)
Week 3: at Kansas City Chiefs (10 a.m. PST, Sunday September 23rd)
Week 4: at Los Angeles Chargers (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday September 30th)
Week 5: Arizona Cardinals (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday October 7th)
Week 6: at Green Bay Packers (Monday Night Football, 5:20 p.m. PST Monday October 15th)
Week 7: Los Angeles Rams 5:20 p.m. PST (Sunday Night Football, Sunday October 21st)
Week 8: at Arizona Cardinals (1:25 p.m PST, Sunday October 28th)
Week 9: Vs Oakland Raiders (Thursday Night Football, 5:20 p.m. PST, Thursday November 1st)
Week 10: New York Giants (Monday Night Football, 5:20 p.m. PST, Monday November 12th)
Week 11: Bye
Week 12: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10 a.m. PST, Sunday November 25th)
Week 13: at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday Night Football, 5:20 p.m. PST, Sunday December 2nd)
Week 14: Denver Broncos (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday December 9th)
Week 15: Seattle Seahawks (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday December 16th)
Week 16: Chicago Bears (1:05 p.m. PST, Sunday December 23rd)
Week 17: at Los Angeles Rams (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday December 30th)
For a team that went from middling aspirations in 2018 prior to trading for Jimmy Garoppolo to now being mentioned as a possible contender, the 49ers start to the season couldn’t be any harder. Three of their first four games are on the road, and all four games come against teams that posted records of 9-7 or better in 2017, including the NFC runner-up Minnesota Vikings in Week 1. Within the first quarter of the season, we’ll know whether the playoff aspirations for the 49ers are legitimate or not.
The 49ers then have a stretch where four of their next five games will be played in front of a national television audience. These games include a Lambeau Field showdown against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, a home divisional battle the next week against the upstart Rams, a battle of the Bay Area less than two weeks later against their cross town rival Raiders, and a classic NFC slugfest against a historical rival in the Giants. The 49ers five game wining streak at the end of 2017 caught the eyes of many, and they’ll be playing under the lights in prime-time five times in 2018.
Of course, one would be remiss if they failed to mention the 49ers late season match-ups against the Seattle Seahawks. While the Seahawks have won the last 9 games is in the series, including the 2013 NFC Championship game where then Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman had his miraculous deflection in the back of the end zone to linebacker Malcolm Smith for a game sealing interception send them to Super Bowl XLVIII. In 2018, Sherman will find himself on the opposite side of the rivalry, and look for him to perform at an All-Pro level against his former team in Weeks 13 and 15.
The end of the 49ers season resembles that of a homebody, as three of their last four games will be played at Levi’s Stadium. This includes a Super Bowl XXIV re-match against the Broncos, the aforementioned NFC West battle against the Seahawks, and a gimmie game against the lowly Bears. This could result in a nice end of the season run to the postseason should they take advantage of the home for the holidays crowd.
The 49ers are in a prime position in 2018 to not only move out of the basement of their division, but also be a surprise contender in the NFC. Head Coach Kyle Shanahan seems to have found his quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, as he elevated a putrid offense into the the best offense statistically in the NFL during the last five weeks of 2017. While trouble looms over linebacker Reuben Foster over his domestic violence case (and should’ve been cut already), the defense still boasts young talent in Solomon Thomas and DeForest Buckner along the defensive line, and the previously mentioned addition of Richard Sherman improves the secondary. Even with a tough start and a series of under the microscope prime-time games, the 49ers should be players for the postseason should everything fall into place.