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Jim Harbaugh hopes to get the 49ers off to a good start
We saw last year how a team can implode if it gets off to a poor start. It will be very important for Jim Harbaugh and Alex Smith to get the 49ers off to a good start in 2011.
The 49ers open their season with two home games, first against division rival Seattle and then the Dallas Cowboys. These are both winnable games for the 49ers, but I'm certain the opponents view these games as winnable for them also.
This first game against Seattle is a big one. Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh have a history of contentiousness dating back to their Pac-10 coaching days. You know Carroll will have the Seahawks focused and flying high against his nemesis.
Every win the 49ers get early on will build confidence and belief in this team. However, the flip side is also true. Every loss will chip away at the psyche of the 49ers, and it will be hard to avoid the "here we go again" loser mentality.
Following these first two games, the 49ers will go on the road for three of their next four. The road has been very unkind to the 49ers in recent history, and it's entirely possible that the 49ers start 1-5 if they to lose those first two contests.
If the 49ers play inconsistently or incur a series of injuries that get them heading in the wrong direction, changes will likely occur. In the worst of all scenarios, the 49ers start 3-8, and Harbaugh will cut bait on Smith as the starting quarterback.
I hope this does not occur, but if it does, Harbaugh could very well decide to give rookie Colin Kaepernick some valuable experience in preparation for the future.