Each season in the NFL, teams play 16 games to determine who moves on to the playoffs. Just 16 games to determine who moves on and who goes home! That is one aspect of football that is so interesting when compared to other sports, the fact that every single game means so much to the outcome of the season. In this article, we will break down the five games for the 49ers that stand apart from the others and have the potential to make or break the season for the team.
Week 1 vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The first game of the season is always important and sets the tone for the rest of the year. Last year an injury plagued 49ers team lost big (27-9) to a full strength Buccaneers team that had caught teams off guard all season long. This year, the story could be different for the 49ers who will field its full roster in week 1. The Bucs made a name for themselves with their aggressive offensive plays, predicated on deep shots down field, and will look to keep the offensive pressure high under the leadership of new head coach Bruce Arians. As this is the first game for Arians in Tampa Bay, you can expect him to throw everything he has at the 49ers and show that he is the right man for the job in Tampa Bay. Look for the 49ers to get after the Bucs QB, Jamis Winston and disrupt the timing of the fabled Bruce Arians offense. Whether or not you consider the Bucs to be a legit contender or not, they are a team coming into a new year, with a new coach, and plenty of talent to make teams pay when they are on offense. This game will set the tone for both teams this year, and I predict this to be an exciting matchup that 49er fans will be looking forward to.
Week 3 vs Pittsburgh Steelers
The 49ers will go into week 3 of the NFL season looking to win against a Steelers team that has undergone much change in the past year. Aside from last year’s contract disputes with Le’veon Bell that ended in the running back leaving the team, the Steelers also parted ways with superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown this offseason. It is hard to say where this team sits in terms of identity, but if there is one thing we know about the Steelers it is that they show up to play tough football every Sunday. With a heavy mid-season road schedule and a bye week coming in week 4, it is imperative for the Niners to win this game.
Week 14 vs New Orleans Saints
After an away game in week 13 vs the Baltimore Ravens, the 49ers will travel to New Orleans to take on a Saints team which is known for its highly effective offense. Under the leadership of head coach Sean Peyton and quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints have become known for their consistency on offense, making it difficult for opponents to read their plays and constantly finding ways to put points on the board. After two highly productive seasons at running back, Alvin Kamara is now known far and wide as one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the NFL. The Niners will need to find a way to succeed where many teams have failed and shut down Kamara. You have to expect the Saints to score points on Sundays, but if San Francisco can apply pressure on defense and keep the game close, they will have a good chance to lock down a win against one of the more dangerous teams in the NFL.
Week 16 vs Los Angeles Rams
After a super bowl appearance last season that ended in a loss, the Rams will be looking to get back to the big game this season, and they have the firepower to do it. The Rams roster is bursting at the seams with talent, and they have proven a difficult matchup for whoever they are playing. The Niners will need to bring their A game in week 16 but could find themselves in the driver seat playing at home against their division rivals. Depending on how the season goes, this game could have major playoff implications for both teams and the entire league. San Francisco has a tough lineup of away games this season and will need to lock down wins at home against divisional opponents to have a chance at making the playoffs. Look for this matchup to be a top priority for fans drafting their Season Share games this year.
Week 17 vs. Seattle Seahawks
The 49ers will end their regular season this year with a week 17 matchup against their longtime rivals. As the last game of the regular season, both teams will be committed to grinding it out and leaving their fans with a sense of hope and success. Playing games in Seattle is tough due to the soccer style layout of their stadium and “passionate” fan base. But with so much roster turn over and uncertainty, it is obvious this isn’t the Seattle team of years past. However, with Russel Wilson at quarterback, there is always a chance for this team to surprise you with big plays. After a full season of long hauls to the east coast for away matchups, look for the Niners to come into Seattle on a mission. Although this game will be the last of the regular season, I am expecting a high level of intensity from both teams for NFL fans to enjoy.
Week 13 vs Baltimore Ravens
Much like the Steelers, the Ravens are a team you can expect to show up and play hard on Sundays. As a head coach, Kyle Shanahan is yet to win in the eastern time zone, and this game is a perfect matchup for the Niners to prove their toughness away from home. The Ravens parted ways with veteran quarterback Joe Flacco this offseason, and have put their team in the hands of the young and extremely athletic Lamar Jackson. Although Jackson is not known for his pocket passing, he is an elusive player that finds ways to make plays and capitalizes on his opponent’s mistakes. The Niners will need to play smart and bring a high level of intensity to match the play of Baltimore in this game. This is a must watch for any 49er fan.