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.

NFL draft: Who should 49ers target or avoid if they trade back from No. 2?

burnsusatsi.jpg
USATSI

NFL draft: Who should 49ers target or avoid if they trade back from No. 2?

So what happens if the Arizona Cardinals select Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa with the No. 1 overall pick?

Until the Cardinals actually announce their decision – as most have believed for a while – that Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray is their man, there remains a bit of intrigue. The 49ers must wait patiently at No. 2.

If Bosa goes No. 1, the 49ers would likely listen to offers to trade out of No. 2. That’s where things could get very interesting. And it opens up a lot more possibilities for the 49ers to consider with their first- and second-round draft picks.

Here are a couple of players the 49ers could consider if they trade back from No. 2 – either with their first or second-round selection -- and a couple of highly rated players they should not be tempted to select:

Boom?

In a trade-back scenario, the 49ers could still get their edge rusher.

Florida State edge rusher Brian Burns has size, athleticism and room to get better. Just a shade below the first wave of edge rushers, Burns might end up topping them all. He played three seasons in college and finished with 10 sacks in 12 games last season before declaring for the draft.

At 6-foot-5, 249 pounds and with 4.53 speed, Burns would be used immediately as a nickel pass-rush specialist. That is fine. That is what the 49ers need, and eventually that role can expand.

Bust?

Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary should have been a dominant player in college. He was not. He has measurables off the charts, but not the production that should go along with it.

His skills and athleticism are freakish. But after three seasons of college football, he recorded a total – a total – of just 9.5 sacks. And, now, we’re supposed to believe that he is going to get 9.5 sacks a season while going up against better competition?

Gary has started his own sports agency. It seems like the best plan of attack would be to get established as a really good NFL player before devoting so much attention to marketing.

Boom?

Their new wide receivers coach was not there to work with him at the Senior Bowl, but South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel already showed what he can do in the 49ers’ offense.

Samuel has a trait that coach Kyle Shanahan likes in his wide receivers – the ability to get open. He is a very good route-runner, and he is tough. At 5-foot-11, 214 pounds, he might not have the size of some of the other receivers the 49ers might consider in the second round, but he has the ability to separate quickly.

Samuel would give the 49ers a nice tool in the red zone, where the club has struggled mightily the past two seasons.

[RELATED:  Jimmy G couldn't disappoint 49ers with eyes on him during rehab]

Bust?

The 49ers probably will not have the opportunity to pass on Ole Miss D.K. Metcalf in the second round, and that will be just fine for them.

Metcalf has otherworldly measurables. But Metcalf was far-and-away the second-best receiver on his college team. The 49ers should prefer A.J. Brown to Metcalf, who turned off more than a few people with the 49ers during their contentious meeting at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Metcalf is 6-3, 228 pounds. He ran a 4.33 at the combine. Yet, he put up pedestrian numbers in college – approximately half the production of Brown. Some team will take him in the middle of the first round, and that team will probably end up being disappointed.

Jimmy Garoppolo, Jerick McKinnon rave over 49ers' player performance staff

jimmygwhiteap.jpg
AP

Jimmy Garoppolo, Jerick McKinnon rave over 49ers' player performance staff

The 49ers revamped their medical and training staff over the offseason, and thus far it’s getting positive reviews from both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon. 

After 17 players spent time on injured reserve in 2018 and 24 the season prior, the 49ers felt they needed to make a few changes.

The result was Ben Peterson becoming the new head of player health and performance while Dustin Keller was tapped as the head athletic trainer. 

The pressure is on coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch as they head into their third season having collected only 10 wins. Their success is linked to the return of Garoppolo and McKinnon, and the player performance staff obviously plays a key role in making sure both players get back to 100 percent.

The hope is that the two sides would work more efficiently together, ultimately becoming one department.

Garoppolo has been impressed by their efficiency thus far.

“Bringing in Dustin and Ben, I think they’ve done a good job of just, it’s a smooth process,” Garoppolo said. “No time wasted, one thing after another. Especially this time of the year. 

“We’re so condensed with time that every minute counts and those guys, they’ve really done a good job. I think guys are buying into it.”  

McKinnon was even more effusive when asked about the new staff. He indicated that what Shanahan and Lynch were trying to accomplish has already started working.  

“They’ve done a great job of just being on the same page,” McKinnon said. “And with everything, not just players getting hurt or whatever. They have a plan and I think everybody is going to be excited what they see from them.” 

Both McKinnon and Garoppolo seem to be itching to get back onto the field even though they understand they need to be careful.

McKinnon was asked if he noticed a difference in his progress with the new staff in place. He confirmed that even in the short amount of time he has been working with them, he has indeed noticed a change.

“Definitely,” McKinnon said. “I’ve been getting a lot stronger. I wish I could tell you all, but I can’t. I definitely feel comfortable, I definitely feel confident, and they got me throwing up a lot of weight so I like that too.

“It’s been about them not judging how much volume I have on my knee, what I do every day.” 

[RELATED: Jimmy G wouldn't let 49ers down with eyes on him in rehab]

McKinnon’s new controlled freedom also comes at a stage in his rehabilitation where he is noting a bit of progress. It sounds as though he has similar views on his training program as the new staff. 

“Yeah now,” McKinnon said. “Before I felt like I was on a leash. But every step along the way, you get to do new stuff and get more freedom -- be out there cutting, ladder drills and stuff like that. It’s nice to finally be able to do more.”