The San Francisco 49ers will be suiting up tonight for their eighth game of the 2012 regular season. In a divisional match-up, the Niners will be challenged by their NFC West rivals, the Arizona Cardinals.
In seven games prior, the 49ers have fought hard for a very respectable 5-2 record. The notable wins have come against the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks. And during this stretch of games, San Francisco has revealed quite a bit about their identity – both good and bad.
After tonight’s game, San Francisco will officially be at the halfway point, with only 8 games remaining.
Including this evening’s bout with the Cardinals, we’ll breakdown, discuss and predict the rest of San Francisco’s 2012 season. Continue through the following slideshow for projections from Week 8-17.
Tonight’s game is going to be a good one. These are two very competitive teams with a strong distaste for one another. Both the Cardinals and 49ers feel the other one is impeding on its team's progress.
While the Cardinals were in the Super Bowl only a few years ago, the 49ers have since succeeded them in the division.
Both Arizona and San Francisco bring a smash mouth attitude and fly-around defenses. Though, probably not a highly regarded game because of the lack of high profile passers, this game has a number of NFL superstars. It should be a highly competitive 60 minutes of play.
Mind you, this is a prime time game on Monday Night Football. And even though the 49ers appear to be the favorite, the Cardinals were the only team from their division to defeat them in 2011.
The Cardinals are hosting and can do enough to win, but their woes on the offensive line will be too much to overcome. San Francisco’s pass rush, featuring Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks and Justin Smith, could take this game over in the trenches.
Prediction: 20-6 San Francisco
Following the Week 8 win at the Arizona Cardinals, the San Francisco 49ers (6-2) will get some much needed rest during the bye week.
Coming out of the bye week, this will be a very well rested and refocused San Francisco team. But they face a potential trap game in the Rams in Week 10, which could snowball if the 49ers overlook them.
This will be the first meeting of Jim Harbaugh’s Niners versus Jeff Fisher’s Rams. This could become a new rivalry between two very good head coaches. Since this is Fisher’s first year with the Rams, they are still poking and prodding, making adjustments in order to build a better long-term product.
St. Louis is trying to reestablish an identity in this league.
These two teams are on different wavelengths this year, with San Francisco trying to seize the now and St. Louis in the middle of a restoration project. In their first meeting, Jeff Fisher should learn a lot about the 49ers.
However, he’s going to have to take the good with the bad, as the Niners tear through the Rams in Week 10.
Prediction: 34-10 San Francisco
The 49ers will be intensely challenged in this prime time matchup. In Week 11, the Niners will host the Chicago Bears at Candlestick Park on Monday Night Football.
As we’ve seen this year with the 49ers, truly balanced teams are a legitimate threat to the NFC juggernauts. San Francisco was bested by the Vikings and Giants—both teams that preach offensive balance, efficiency and hard-nosed defense.
The Bears fit that mold.
If Jay Cutler is firing on all cylinders, and Chicago isn’t neglecting a healthy combination of Matt Forte and Michael Bush, this game could be the Bears’ to lose. Chicago’s defense could stonewall San Francisco’s offense, particularly attempts on the ground.
However, there are a few mismatches that play in San Francisco’s favor that could be game changers. The 49ers ability to pressure and frustrate quarterbacks could be their biggest edge. If the Niners can provoke the Jay Cutler that fans love to hate, they will come away the victor.
And given what they do at home, San Francisco should have the edge. I’ll pick the 49ers to win, but it won’t be the least bit surprising if this game doesn’t go their way.
Prediction: 17-13 San Francisco
In a long-anticipated rematch of the NFC Divisional Playoff game, the 49ers will go on the road to take on the Saints. In arguably one of the greatest postseason games in NFL history, San Francisco shocked New Orleans by advancing to the NFC Championship.
That was the beginning of a very long fall for the New Orleans Saints. In the offseason, the league uncovered the notorious bounty program. Among the evidence that was discovered and revealed, included an audio recording of then defensive coordinator Greg Williams.
Williams gave a disgustingly immoral pregame speech to his players, naming specific players and injuries, while suggesting financial reward.
This will be the first meeting between these two teams since the fallout. New Orleans had an awful start to the season but has been fighting back. By this time, the Saints could very well be fighting for a spot in the postseason.
Drew Brees is always a threat, but the New Orleans defense is a mess. The Niners expose their leaky defensive unit and outscore Brees once again.
Prediction: 33-28 San Francisco
For the second time in 2012, the 49ers will face the Rams. This game will close out the matches between them for the rest of the season, leaving only two more divisional games on the schedule.
The Rams are the youngest brother in the division, so to speak. This team has the worst record of the four NFC West teams and should be selecting in the top-10 once again in next year’s draft.
They did not have much of a home advantage last year, and they shouldn’t be expected to have much of one this year. And while the Rams occasionally surprise an elite team, the 49ers are familiar enough to prevent such an upset.
The 49ers should sweep the Rams for a second consecutive year.
Prediction: 27-3 San Francisco
Warning: Upset Alert
In a surprise turn this year, the AFC East is wide open. New England has not been fielding the same dominant Tom Brady led Patriots team we’ve seen in year’s past. They are still very good but have lost the invincible factor.
Miami is winning games the old fashioned way—with balance, fundamentals and great defensive effort.
San Francisco will host a Miami team in Week 14 that can smell the playoffs. At the moment, these two teams are No.’s 1 and 2 in run defense, with the Dolphins ahead of the Niners' unit.
An inspired Dolphins team shows up to Candlestick, sells out to stop Frank Gore and steals a win from the 49ers on the road.
Prediction: 21-9 Miami
If they lose to Miami, the 49ers would be coming off a hard-fought loss, where their offense—which depends so heavily on the run—was exposed, once again costing them the game. But there’s no time for a pity party with a very tough two-game road trip ahead.
It begins in New England with the Patriots. A 49ers team that is 4-1 following their bye will ship off to Foxboro, Massachusetts to face Tom Brady.
This game has the makings for game of the week, if not game of the year. It will be aired on prime time as the Sunday Night Football game in Week 15. And given the date and location, it could be a weather-effected game with playoff implications on the line.
It’s also not difficult to imagine this as a potential Super Bowl preview. It will be a clashing of philosophies, where great offense meets great defense. And behind the scenes pulling the strings, Jim Harbaugh and Bill Belichick.
This game could go either way, but the 49ers have proven that they match up well against this model of team. San Francisco bounces back in a big way after the Week 14 loss at home.
Prediction: 28-24 San Francisco
This was a very ugly game for San Francisco earlier in the season. The Niners hosted the Seahawks already, in a low-scoring affair that could have gone either way.
The 49ers quarterback, Alex Smith, had a less-than-desirable performance that could have cost his team. Luckily, the 49ers recaptured their identity not a moment too soon, feeding the ball to Frank Gore and dismantling the Seahawks late in the game.
Given this new bit of knowledge acquired by San Francisco’s staff, they might game-plan accordingly this time around. If the 49ers can draw up one of their more creative games on the ground, they should be able to win convincingly.
However, Seattle is hungry and won’t go quietly. This should be a hard-fought game, but the Seahawks get even with the 49ers at home.
Prediction: 24-13 Seattle
In the regular season finale, the 49ers will return home to Candlestick Park to host the Arizona Cardinals.
San Francisco is coming off a tough division loss to Seattle, looking at another NFC West rival the following week. The Cardinals will not lie down for the 49ers, as the disdain between these two teams intensifies by the minute. Arizona will come out firing, laying it all on the line in a desperate attempt to finish with a statement game.
San Francisco will have to expect their best shot.
The 49ers are familiar with the Cardinals and are not one to drop two games in a row. Given San Francisco’s history after losses, one has to believe they come out hot in this game at home. They will absorb the punch from the Cardinals and fire one right back, as the Niners take this one.
Prediction: 17-13 San Francisco