5 Games That Will Determine San Francisco 49ers' Fate in 2013
Jim Harbaugh might say they all count the same, but there are always a few games on the schedule that seem to carry a bit more significance.
The San Francisco 49ers have no shortage of games that could change the tide of their season in 2013.
Division rivalries, playoff rematches and prime-time showdowns highlight the games that could determine the Niners' fate.
Week 1 vs. Green Bay
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In 2012, the 49ers beat the Packers in Week 1. San Francisco ended up finishing half a game ahead of Green Bay for the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
With both teams primed to compete for a division title again, this tilt could once again play a big role in playoff seeding.
Colin Kaepernick had 263 passing yards, 181 rushing yards and four total touchdowns in the Niners' 45-31 playoff win over the Packers at Candlestick Park in January. With incredible expectations entering his second year as the starting quarterback, Kaepernick will look to have another big game against Green Bay.
A loss would put the 49ers in an early hole with arguably their toughest game of the season looming in Week 2.
Week 2 @ Seattle
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It was a night at CenturyLink Field that the 49ers would love to forget.
Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes, Marshawn Lynch rushed for 111 yards and Seattle converted 11-of-13 third downs in handing San Francisco its worst loss in the Jim Harbaugh era.
After that shellacking, the 49ers will be out to prove that they can slow down the Seahawks offense, which now has Percy Harvin to go with its other weapons.
The winner of this Sunday Night Football showdown will have an early upper hand in the race of the NFC West, which was decided by half a game in the 2012 season.
The last thing the 49ers want is to be chasing the Seahawks in the standings.
Week 4 @ St. Louis
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Are the Rams a division contender in 2013?
This Thursday Night Football game could make or break their season.
Last year, St. Louis got off to a slow start, and despite beating the 49ers as part of a 4-2 finish, it missed the playoffs. It can ill afford another poor early-season showing.
The Niners will want to send a message that the Rams are at least a year away from legitimately challenging for the NFC West crown, and Colin Kaepernick will look to solve the St. Louis defense, which stifled him at Edward Jones Stadium in 2012.
Also, if Seattle and San Francisco finish tied for the division lead and split against each other, the first tiebreaker is division record. The 49ers need to take care of business against their other division foes to avoid losing ground to the Seahawks.
Week 14 vs. Seattle
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This game figures to have all sorts of playoff ramifications. It could easily be the swing game in the NFC West division race.
And the 49ers will look to continue their recent home dominance against the Seahawks.
Jim Harbaugh is 2-0 against Pete Carroll at Candlestick Park. Overall, San Francisco has won four straight against Seattle in the Bay Area.
If the Niners relinquish their home edge against the Seahawks, they may lose their grip on the NFC West for 2013 and beyond.
Week 16 vs. Atlanta
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The last regular-season game in the history of Candlestick Park is a rematch of the NFC Championship Game that could have major playoff ramifications.
It doesn't get much better.
Matt Ryan and the top-seeded Falcons showed that they have the offensive prowess to have success against the San Francisco defense in last year's playoffs. The Pro Bowl quarterback had three first-half touchdown passes to give Atlanta a 24-14 lead at halftime of the NFC title game.
But the Niners shut out the Falcons in the second half, advancing to the Super Bowl with a 28-24 triumph.
Will the first- or second-half defense show up for San Francisco?
We'll find out when these two teams square off on Monday Night Football on Dec. 23.