By Jerrell Richardson
Who has it better then the 49ers? Nobody! With their bye week coming up, they will be resting up and preparing for the second half of the season and they are right where they need to be at 6-2. The goal entering the season was to make the playoffs, and although there is still a lot of football left, San Francisco’s remaining schedule could not line up any better. They will have a legitimate chance at matching last year’s win total, and if not, they should stay on pace to end the season 12-4. Here is a look at their remaining opponents and why San Francisco has to feel good about the future.
St Louis Rams (Week 10 and 13)
The Rams are the last team left within the division for the 49ers to play. Don’t let their 3-5 record fool you as they are still trying to catch up talent wise to the rest of the NFC West. Yes, they earned wins over both the Seahawks and Cardinals, but they were at home, and St. Louis looks like a different team on the road. The strength of their team is running back Stephen Jackson, who will have problems against one of the top rush defenses in the league. The Rams will be up to the challenge at home, but will be completely over-matched in week 10 when they play at Candlestick.
Prediction: 49ers win 30-6 at home and 24-12 on the road.
Chicago Bears (Week 11 at home)
The biggest test the 49ers will see the rest of the year will be the Bears. Chicago very much resembles the 49ers with a great defense and an elite running back, but they have the edge over the 49ers in the passing game with Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall reunited. The Monday Night contest will be a big test for both teams, as they could easily wind up meeting in the playoffs. Several analysts have the Bears as the best team in the NFC, so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top in this one.
Prediction: 49ers win 16-13
New Orleans Saints (Week 12 on the road)
The rematch to last year’s playoff contest should be entertaining. It will once again be the Saints offense vs. the San Francisco defense. The Saints have been unable to recover from the loss of their coach Sean Payton and have struggled this year to say the least. However, they are still a very dangerous team and San Francisco would most likely lose if it turns into a shootout. The Saints are also a different team at home and will be even tougher to slow down on their home turf.
Prediction: 49ers win 35-20
Miami Dolphins (Week 14 at home)
The Dolphins have played well recently as of late and may be on a roll when the two teams meet. However, their quarterback is still a work in training and will not have Christian Ponder-like success against the defense. Reggie Bush will try and get in open space, but will have to deal with San Francisco linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman who will more then be up to the task. Miami has one of the top rushing defenses but will have their hands full with San Francisco’s physical and complicated run schemes.
Prediction: 49ers win 24-10
New England Patriots (Week 15 on the road)
The 49ers will be up against one of the AFC’s best when they take on New England. The Patriots have been up and down this year, but are still a very tough team, and will be at home, so they will be ready to play. Tom Brady continues to impress, but the defending AFC Champs have looked vulnerable at times this year. This game will carry playoff implications for both teams, so it should be a hard fought contest.
Prediction: New England Wins 23-20
Seattle Seahawks (week 16 on the road)
Outside of the Bears, San Francisco will play it’s most physical game against the Seahawks. As Seattle’s Russell Wilson continues to develop he may be a different player by this time, but regardless San Francisco will have a fight on their hands. The last time they faced, running back Marshawn Lynch ran wild on the 49ers and he will be looking to show it was not a fluke, while the 49ers defense will be looking to get some revenge. The 49ers receivers will also have a lot to prove as they were dominated earlier this season by the Seahawks secondary.
Prediction: 49ers win 20-10
Arizona Cardinals (week 17 at home)
It does not appear likely, but this final game could be for the division. If so, then the Cardinals had better hope that their offensive line and quarterback situation are resolved. The teams recently met and San Francisco made it clear that they are by far the better team. They will need to stop Larry Fitzgerald (again), but they should have no problems putting up the same performance when the two teams met last week.
Prediction: 49ers win 35-0
13-3, 12-4 of 14-2?
San Francisco should lose no more then two games, and if they are able to beat the Bears, then have a very good chance at going undefeated the rest of the way. The New England game is on the road so will also be a test, but the 49ers are more then capable of beating both teams. What is ideal about their schedule is that they have “easy win” games within their division that should ensure that they make the playoffs. However, they will also face some stiff competition that will give them an even better idea of what works for them and what doesn’t. They will also get a look at a team that they could meet in a pivotal playoff game, so they will get the right mix of winnable games and tough teams to make sure that they are not only winning, but testing themselves against the league’s best. The playoffs are a lock, and at this point it’s mostly about positioning themselves for home field advantage, which played a large role in them being the NFC runner-up last year.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.