No team has ever played in a Super Bowl in its home stadium. Back in May 2013 when the NFL awarded Super Bowl 50 -- no Roman numerals this year! -- to the San Francisco 49ers' then-unopened Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, you could have easily convinced me that the Niners would have been the first to play a true home-field Super Bowl. Back then, this was a powerhouse franchise with one of the NFL's best defenses and head coach as well as potential rising superstar at quarterback.
Now that defense has been gutted by some surprising retirements (excellent linebackers Patrick Willis, Chris Borland), Jim Harbaugh is the head coach at his alma mater, the University of Michigan, and QB Colin Kaepernick has regressed. This looks like a rebuilding season for the 49ers. Guess we will have to wait until perhaps the 2017 game in Houston for our first home-field Super Bowl.
San Francisco was 4-4 at home last season, 2-6 against the spread and 2-6 "over/under." The Niners' 2015 home schedule ranks as the toughest in the NFL with an opponents' 2014 combined winning percentage of .582.
Here's the schedule with very early (opponent) odds.
Sept. 14 -- Vikings (+3): This is the Monday night late game in Week 1, and obviously Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson's first game back off suspension. First meeting between teams since 2012 and Vikings' first visit since 2007. Key trend: 49ers 6-3-1 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC North.
Oct. 4 -- Packers (pick'em): San Francisco comes off games in Pittsburgh and Arizona ahead of this. Short week for Green Bay as it's home to Kansas City on Monday night in Week 3. If there's one team Kaepernick has given fits in his short career it's Green Bay. The Niners have won four straight in the series. Last was in the 2013 wild-card game at Lambeau, 23-20 on a last-second field goal. Key trend: I don't see any way the Niners aren't dogs here, so permit me that assumption. 49ers are 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 as a home dog.
Oct. 18 -- Ravens (+2): San Francisco is off a Week 5 Sunday night game at the New York Giants. Baltimore hosts Cleveland the previous Sunday. Of course, the last meeting was the Harbaugh (Super) Bowl in New Orleans in February 2013, a 34-31 Ravens win in which the Niners' comeback fell just short. That proved to be the apex of the Jim Harbaugh Era. Key trend: 49ers 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 as a home favorite of 2.5 points or fewer.
Oct. 22 -- Seahawks (-1.5): Thursday night game. Will this rivalry have any steam left in it with Harbaugh gone? Seattle is home to Carolina the previous Sunday. The 49ers lost 19-3 at home to the Seahawks in Week 13 last season to start a four-game losing streak that ended their playoff hopes. Kaepernick was terrible, going 16-for-29 for 121 yards and two picks. The 49ers had 164 total yards. Key trend: 49ers have failed to cover past three at home in series (all under as well).
Nov. 8 -- Falcons (+6): This follows a trip to St. Louis in Week 8 for San Francisco and is ahead of the team's bye. Atlanta is home to Tampa Bay in Week 8. Of course, the Falcons are now coached by ex-Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who often gave Kaepernick fits. First meeting since a 34-24 49ers home win on Dec. 23, 2013. That was the team's last game at Candlestick Park. Key trend: 49ers 4-5-1 ATS in past 10 before bye week (any location).
Nov. 29 -- Cardinals (+2): San Francisco is in Seattle in Week 11, while Arizona is home to Cincinnati. The Harbaugh Era ended in Week 17 last season with a 20-17 win over the Cardinals -- the team announced it had parted ways with Harbaugh just about immediately after. Also the final game for long-time 49ers running back Frank Gore, who rushed 25 times for 144 yards. Kaepernick threw for 204 yards and two scores without a turnover. The Niners defense had three interceptions. Key trend: 49ers 6-3-1 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series.
Dec. 20 -- Bengals (+3): San Francisco is at Cleveland in Week 14, while Cincinnati is home to Pittsburgh. This is a Sunday night game, although it might be flexed out. First meeting since a 13-8 Niners win at the Bengals in 2011. First Cincinnati visit since 2007. Key trend: 49ers 8-2 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC.
Jan. 3 -- Rams (TBA): No opening lines for Week 17 with too many intangibles possible on the final Sunday of the season. San Francisco is at Detroit in Week 16 and St. Louis in Seattle. The 49ers lost to the visiting Rams 13-10 in Week 9 last season. What makes that even worse was San Francisco was off its bye and the Rams had been crushed in Kansas City the previous week. Kaepernick fumbled on third down at the goal line with 2 seconds left trying for the go-ahead score and was sacked eight times. If he had simply held onto the ball, the Niners could have called timeout and at least attempted the chip-shot easy field goal tie. Key trend: 49ers 6-4 ATS in past 10 at home in series.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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