By Jerrell Richardson
When San Francisco’s regular season schedule was announced, 49er nation cringed. There is not a single game that screams “easy win,” which is not ideal for a team that figures it will be in a dog fight within their very own division just to get into the playoffs. However, a closer look reveals a schedule that is not really that bad, and if nothing else will keep fans on the edge of their seat from Week 1 to Week 17. Regardless of the wins and losses, the 2014 season will be one that 49er fans don’t soon forget, the only question is if the ending will be a fairy tale or nightmare.
Not As Bad As It Looks
By the time the 49ers hit their bye in Week 8, they will have faced the Cowboys, Bears, Cardinals, Eagles, Chiefs, Rams and Broncos. All teams with legitimate playoff aspirations that figure to give San Francisco all they can handle. However, by Week 8 a season ago, one could argue that they went through a tougher stretch, facing the Packers, Seahawks, Colts, Rams, Texans, Cardinals and Titans. Last year was last year though, and the bottom line is that the for a team as talented as San Francisco – and one with the Super Bowl in sights – the front end of their schedule should not be a problem.
Working in the team’s favor for the first half of the season is the location of the games. The season opener against Dallas is on the road, but the Cowboys have not exactly shown a home field advantage in Jerry’s World. The only other road games are the division battles against the Cardinals and Rams, two teams that know the 49ers in and out, but simply put are not on the 49ers level. The biggest test will be Week 7 against the defending AFC Champion Denver Broncos. This is the only game during the first half of the season that should cause the team to lose some sleep, but one that they will be playing with house money, as they will be expected to lose. With little pressure on them to win the game, the 49ers will get to gauge themselves against a team that could easily represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
As Bad As It Looks
The second half of the season is where things figure to get a little dicey. After a home game against the Rams, the 49ers will hit a stretch that could make or break their playoff dreams. Road games against the Saints, Giants, Raiders and Seahawks await, none of which will be a cake walk. At home they will face the Redskins, Seahawks, Chargers and Cardinals, all teams that have talented rosters and figure to be fighting for their playoff lives as well when the two meet on the field.
Fans Will Be Entertained
From a fan’s perspective though, the schedule is perfect. A lot of games on the schedule, for one reason or another, have very personal implications and nobody can say that they are “just another opponent.” There is a strong hatred that has grown between the 49ers and Seahawks as the two battle for NFC supremacy in recent years, and the two powerhouses will play twice down the stretch.
There is also the rare meetings of the California teams. There is only room for one NFL team in California, and the fans of the Chargers, Raiders and 49ers fans are not friends. The outcome of these two games will give bragging rights to one teams fan base for years to come, and in some fans eyes, a win in these games will be just as important as a playoff berth.
Not to be forgotten is the long history the 49ers have with Dallas, the fact that they have played both the Saints and Giants with their season’s outcome hanging in the balance and the return of Alex Smith to the Bay Area. The most unattractive game on the 49ers second half schedule is against the Redskins, which is still must-see-television.
Will They Make History?
If they can stay the course then the 49ers will find themselves back in the playoffs which is the team’s first step in reaching their ultimate goal of a Super Bowl. While there will be a lot that stands in their way, winning the NFC is not out of the question for San Francisco, so it’s a very real possibility that they will make history at the end of the season. If able to again make their way through the uphill maze known as the NFC playoff picture, they will find themselves playing the Super Bowl in front of their home crowd. While the then Los Angeles Rams played in Pasadena in Super Bowl XIV and the 49ers played in Stanford in Super Bowl XIX, this 49er squad would be the first team to actually pull this off. If able to do this, San Francisco would face a pressure like none other to win it all, which could of course end in despair, but could also mean complete euphoria for a team and fan base that deserves it.
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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. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.