49ers

49ers 2018 schedule released: Analysis and predictions

49ers 2018 schedule released: Analysis and predictions

The 49ers released their full 2018 schedule on Thursday evening. Here's the slate:

WEEK 1
Sunday, Sept. 9, at Minnesota, 10 a.m. (FOX)
There was a time when we thought the Vikings’ quarterback would be suiting up for the road team in this matchup. But, thanks to Bill Belichick’s generosity, Jimmy Garoppolo will be wearing the road whites while Kirk Cousins and his talented supporting cast will be decked out in purple. Garoppolo’s undefeated run as a starting quarterback is put to the test in the opening week. And San Francisco newcomer Jerick McKinnon gets an early chance to prove to his former team that he should have been an every-down running back. Prediction: L.

WEEK 2
Sunday, Sept. 16, vs. Detroit, 1:05 p.m. (FOX)
First-year Lions head coach Matt Patricia – and the pencil behind his ear – travel to the Bay Area for the organization’s first visit to Levi’s Stadium. Prediction: W.

WEEK 3
Sunday, Sept. 23, at Kansas City, 10 a.m. (FOX)
Alex Smith’s five-year run as Kansas City’s starting quarterback came to an end. Arrowhead Stadium is now Patrick Mahomes’ home, and it remains a difficult environment for road teams. Prediction: L.

WEEK 4
Sunday, Sept. 30, at L.A. Chargers, 1:25 p.m. (FOX)
Fans of the 49ers travel well. The challenge is on to snap up as many of the 27,000 tickets in the Charges’ temporary home venue as possible. The 49ers will need a lot of help against a talented team that finished last season with a lot of momentum. Prediction: L.

WEEK 5
Sunday, Oct. 7, vs. Arizona, 1:25 p.m. (FOX)
The Cardinals have undergone a facelift with the retirements of head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer. The new crew of coach Steve Wilks and Sam Bradford – or whoever ends up at QB – inherits a six-game head-to-head win streak against the 49ers. Prediction: W.

WEEK 6
Monday, Oct. 15, at Green Bay, 5:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Aaron Rodgers did not get any say in Packers personnel matters this offseason, and we’re hearing the NFL schedule-maker did not consult him, either. But he certainly will not complain about this prime-time matchup against the team for which he rooted as a child growing up in Chico. Prediction: L.

WEEK 7
Sunday, Oct. 21, vs. L.A. Rams, 5:20 p.m. (NBC)
This could be a pivotal mid-season matchup featuring two franchises that took different approaches during the offseason. The 49ers were measured in free agency, while the Rams played fantasy football. L.A. general manager Les Snead went all-in during the offseason with the additions of cornerback Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, along with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and receiver Brandin Cooks. Prediction: L.

WEEK 8
Sunday, Oct. 28, at Arizona, 1:25 p.m. (FOX)
After back-to-back three-point losses in the desert the past couple of seasons, the 49ers will need to take care of business against the Cardinals to be serious contenders for a playoff spot. Prediction: W.

WEEK 9
Thursday, Nov. 1, vs. Oakland, 5:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)
Levi’s Stadium was built as a two-team facility, just in case the Raiders were interested in moving to the South Bay. In the building’s fifth year, the Vegas-bound Silver and Black finally get a look inside. Facing the 49ers during a short week is ideal for the Raiders, as Jon Gruden and Co. do not have to step on a plane. Kyle Shanahan will match wits against the man who gave him his first NFL job. Shanahan was Gruden’s offensive quality control coach in 2004-’05 with Tampa Bay. Prediction: W.

WEEK 10
Monday, Nov. 12, vs. N.Y. Giants, 5:15 p.m. (ESPN)
The 49ers have a short week, followed by a long week. A year ago, the Giants’ trip to Levi’s Stadium resulted in the end of the losing streak of 49ers’ franchise-worst start. C.J. Beathard was under center that day, and Marquise Goodwin provided one of the highlights of the season with an 83-yard touchdown catch just hours after he and his wife lost their baby boy due to complications from pregnancy. Prediction: W.

WEEK 11
Bye week

WEEK 12
Sunday, Nov. 25, at Tampa Bay, 10 a.m. (FOX)
The 49ers will have to go light on the tryptophan from their Thanksgiving feasts to be ready for the cross-country travel and their matchup against Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers. The 49ers will be making just their second trip to Tampa of the past 14 seasons. Prediction: W.

WEEK 13
Sunday, Dec. 2, at Seattle, 5:20 p.m. (NBC)
Is there any doubt Richard Sherman will be a little bit hyped to go back to Seattle with something to prove to Pete Carroll and John Schneider? The “12s” will find out what it’s like when Sherman is not on their team. It’s a different Seattle team, but Russell Wilson is as elusive as ever. Prediction: L.

WEEK 14
Sunday, Dec. 9, vs. Denver, 1:05 p.m. (CBS)
These teams are skipping their annual exhibition game in lieu of the regular-season matchup. The Broncos’ last meaningful visit to Levi’s Stadium turned out pretty well – a victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Prediction: W.

WEEK 15
Sunday, Dec. 16, vs. Seattle, 1:05 p.m. (FOX)
It’s not a rivalry until the 49ers prove they can actually beat the Seahawks, who hold a nine-game head-to-head win streak. (It could be 10 at this point.) The Seahawks’ dominance began in the NFC Championship game in January 2014, when Sherman broke up Colin Kaepernick’s pass and Malcolm Smith got the interception. Now, both Sherman and Smith are wearing the other uniform. Prediction: W.

WEEK 16
Sunday, Dec. 23, vs. Chicago, 1:05 p.m. (FOX)
These teams should know each other pretty well. It will be the fifth consecutive season in which the 49ers have played against the NFC North team. The teams have split the previous four meetings, as the 49ers evened the score last season with a 15-14 victory in Garoppolo’s first start with the 49ers. There is no threat of a snow storm or freezing rain in this locale. Prediction: W.

WEEK 17
Sunday, Dec. 30, at L.A. Rams, 1:25 p.m. (FOX)
The 49ers have not lost to the Rams in Southern California since 1986. The stakes could be higher this season than we’ve seen in a long, long time as the 49ers could offer the defending NFC West champs their stiffest competition. This could be a huge game – or it could be like a year ago when the Rams rested every significant starter to get ready for the playoffs. Prediction: L.

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 16-13 preseason loss to Texans

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USATSI

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 16-13 preseason loss to Texans

HOUSTON -- Here are three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 16-13 loss to the Houston Texans on Saturday night in Week 2 of the exhibition season...

Interior D-line has Depth

The 49ers still don’t really know from where their outside pass rush is going to come, but the interior of the defensive line looks to be in good shape. Veteran Earl Mitchell is a solid presence at nose tackle. And DeForest Buckner could become one of the league’s better defensive tackles.

Behind Mitchell and Buckner are a couple of young players who have put together strong training camps. Sheldon Day and D.J. Jones continued their impressive play on Saturday with strong showings against the Texans.

Day recorded five tackles and forced a fumble, while Jones came up with three tackles and a forced fumble, too. Day is in his first summer with the 49ers after the club claimed him off waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.

Jones, meanwhile, has made tremendous strides since his rookie season. He said he lost 20 pounds from the end of last season when he regularly found himself on the inactive list for games.

“I feel like it’s been a big turnaround, the way I changed my body in the offseason,” Jones said. “Toward the end of the season when I wasn’t playing, the way I practiced, it got me prepared for this season.”

In the Right Slot

Second-year player Trent Taylor missed most of the offseason program after undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs in his lower back. He has slowly been working back into form during training camp.

Taylor clearly made a lot of progress during this week in Houston. He was Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite target during the two days of practices against the Texans. And Garoppolo looked for Taylor again on Saturday with a 2-yard touchdown pass to cap the 49ers’ first drive of the game.

“I’m starting to get stronger and get my legs back under me,” Taylor said. “It’s always good to feel improvement as you work. I still have a little ways to go, but it definitely felt great being out there tonight and getting my first catch as a TD.”

Taylor, the team’s primary slot receiver, had only two catches for 7 yards. But his other reception was a 5-yard catch to extend the 49ers' second drive on a third-and-4 play.

Penalties Galore

The 49ers certainly have a lot of room for improvement, especially when it comes to avoiding flags. Kyle Shanahan’s team was called for 15 penalties, totaling 140 yards.

What always gets to Shanahan most are the pre-snap penalties. Joe Staley (false start), Kendrick Bourne (illegal formation), Darrell Williams (false start) and Cedric Thornton (neutral zone infraction) were called for those kinds of infractions.

The worst sequence of penalties, however, went to veteran center Weston Richburg. He was guilty of a rare double-penalty on the first play of the second quarter when he was flagged for holding, then another 15 yards for his ensuing dialogue with the official.

Two of the penalties might have been excusable, though. Raheem Mostert and Jeremiah Attaochu were called for strict interpretations of the NFL’s new rule on lowering the helmet to initiate contact.

49ers' reserve running back picture remains muddled after loss to Texans

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AP

49ers' reserve running back picture remains muddled after loss to Texans

BOX SCORE

HOUSTON – The 49ers’ top two running backs appear set.

And the competition for the 49ers’ No. 3 running back appears to remain unresolved after the 49ers’ 16-13 loss to the Houston Texans in the second exhibition game of the summer for both teams on Saturday night.

Third-string quarterback Nick Mullens looked as if he pulled off his second fourth-quarter rally in two weeks, as he moved the 49ers into position for Robbie Gould’s 41-yard go-ahead field goal with 1:41 remaining in regulation.

But the 49ers' third-string defense allowed the Texans to drive 75 yards for the winning points, which came on Joe Webb's 41-yard touchdown pass to Vyncint Smith in the closing seconds.

A lot of the focus entering Saturday’s game was on the running backs, and for good reason.

Jeremy McNichols started and played most of the first half and into the second half. He did not find much room to run against a Texans defense that did not feature either J.J. Watt or Jadeveon Clowney.

McNichols, who spent last season on the 49ers’ practice squad, finished with just 28 yards on 10 rushing attempts. He caught three balls for 19 yards and also dropped a pass.

Joe Williams, a fourth-round draft pick in 2017, was the only other 49ers running back who saw action in the first half. He did not have much success, either. Williams gained 18 yards on eight carries. He caught two passes for 14 yards. But Williams also failed to hang onto a short pass from Nick Mullens, resulting in an interception.

Veteran Alfred Morris did not play. The 49ers signed Morris this week after Jerick McKinnon (calf) and Matt Breida (shoulder) were ruled out for the remainder of the preseason with injuries.

Raheem Mostert was the No. 3 running back last season, and he appears to remain in that position due to his contributions on special teams. Mostert appeared on the 49ers’ No. 1 kickoff and kickoff return teams.

He also lined up as a gunner on punt coverage with Aaron Burbridge on the other side. Burbridge and Mostert are likely the 49ers’ top two special-teams players.

Mostert demonstrated his prowess on special teams with a bone-jarring tackle of Houston return man Tyler Ervin for no gain on a punt return. However, Mostert was hit with a questionable unnecessary roughness penalty for lowering his head and initiating contact.

Here are some other notes from the game...

--Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo played the 49ers’ first 21 offensive plays, spanning two possessions, and completed 10 of 12 pass attempts for 136 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Garoppolo hit Marquise Goodwin on three completions for 61 yards, and tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Trent Taylor. His night ended when his high throw intended for Dante Pettis was deflected into the hands of Texans cornerback Johnson Bademosi.

--Defensive lineman Jeremiah Attaochu was also penalized 15 yards for lowering his head to initiate contact. Attaochu was flagged for making contact against an offensive tackle as a pass rusher.

--Texans cornerback Kevin Johnson fell hard after attempting to defend a deep pass to Goodwin. After receiving several minutes of medical attention, Johnson got to his feet and walked under his own power to the locker room. Johnson was diagnosed with a concussion.

--Mike Person started at right guard and played the first series for the 49ers. Joshua Garnett entered and played the remainder of the first half.

--Linebacker Reuben Foster and right cornerback Jimmie Ward played the entire first half. Foster had a team-leading four tackles and broke up a pass. Ward had three tackles.

--Reserve guard/center Erik Magnuson sustained a hamstring injury near the end of the third quarter and did not return. Magnuson had a difficult time walking from the sideline to the 49ers’ locker room.

--Emmanuel Moseley intercepted a pass that was deflected by fellow rookie cornerback Tarvarius Moore.

--Cornerback Richard Sherman, who returned to practice last week after mssing time with a hamstring strain, did not suit up for the game. He went through warmups but was held out of action. He did not practice against the Texans on Wednesday and Thursday, either.

--In addition to Sherman, the following 49ers were held out of the game due to injuries: running backs Jerick McKinnon (calf) and Matt Breida (shoulder), wide receiver Max McCaffrey (foot), tight end George Kittle (shoulder), offensive lineman Garry Gilliam (concussion), defensive linemen Solomon Thomas (concussion) and Arik Armstead (hamstring), linebacker Malcolm Smith (hamstring), cornerback K’Waun Williams (ankle), and safety Marcell Harris (hamstring).