On April 20th, the NFL released the 2010 schedule. This season, like every other, is full of intriguing matchups. The San Francisco 49ers will be featured in four primetime matchups, and will be travelling to London, England to play against the Denver Broncos midway through the season. There will be lots of lights and cameras looking down on the 49ers, but will the action be worth it?
The 49ers finished the 2009 season with an 8-8 record, their first winning record since 2003. In the 2010 season, nothing less will be expected from the team. Most, me certainly included, expect the team to reach the playoffs. If the 49ers manage to finish the season with a 9-7 or 10-6 record, but with no playoff berth to show for it, the season will be seen as a disappointment. That being said, the 49ers have their work cut out for them in the coming season as they are one of the sexy teams pundits expect to taste playoffs after a long absence.
After having to travel up north to face the Seattle Seahawks on opening weekend, the 49ers will have the chance to show the entire country what they are made of in their Monday night home opener versus the defending champions New Orleans Saints. Their matchup against the Seahawks will be their only in the first half of the season versus the NFC West. It will be the Saints first game in 10 days since they open the season on the Thursday night of opening weekend. The 49ers will have to bring their A game.
The following two weeks, the 49ers will be on the road, facing the Kansas City Chiefs then the Atlanta Falcons on Week 4. As many of you will remember, the Falcons dealt the 49ers an embarrassing 45-10 loss last season. Yes, a win will be a win, but it will be more satisfying if they could beat the Falcons in the worst way imagineable. Falcons quarterback has recently said that he expects his team to win 12 or 13 games this coming season, and I do not think that he penciled in the 49ers for the 3 or 4 losses he expects from his team.
After their road trip, the team will play two games at home; first against the Philadelphia Eagles and the following week versus the new-look and improving Oakland Raiders. It will be the first matchup since the 2006 season for the Bay Area rivals.
In Week 7, the 49ers travel to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers. Soon after, they will take off for London, England to face the Broncos. The game versus the Broncos actually counts as a home game for the 49ers. It will also be the second 49ers regular season game on foreign soil. They played their first in 2005 versus the Arizona Cardinals in Mexico.
Upon their return home, the team will have its bye week then play its next two games in San Francisco against division foe St. Louis Rams, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They will round out the month of November with a Monday night game versus the Arizona Cardinals.
San Francisco will then face some formidable opponents during the season’s late stretch. They will first travel to Lambeau to face the Green Bay Packers, head back home to face the Seahawks, travel south the following week to play the San Diego Chargers, before a game on Christmas weekend against the Rams. The Chargers, Packers, and even the Seahawks may find themselves in must-win games at that point of the season. Those teams will not be pushovers and they will prove to be a test for the 49ers.
San Francisco will play its last game of the season at home against the Arizona Cardinals on January 2nd. Do not be surprised if the winner of this game gets crowned as the NFC West Champion.
In all, the 49ers will be playing against six teams who made the playoffs in 2009. Moreover, the majority of San Francisco’s opponents had double digit losses last season. As we speak, the schedule seems to be a balanced one, and at the end of the day if the 49ers fail to make playoffs, they need not look past themselves. I expect the team to win no less than 10 games next season. That should be good enough for them to make the playoffs.