Has it been 31 teams already? This is my final team-by-team road schedules preview for the coming season, and I'll start anew with the home versions on Thursday of this week.
I was dead-on right about the 49ers last season. I thought they would really stink after firing one of the best football coaches on the planet, Jim Harbaugh, and replacing him with the rather anonymous Jim Tomsula. Plus, no team lost more talent to retirement last offseason than San Francisco did.
About the only interesting thing about this team in 2015 was the quarterback drama surrounding Colin Kaepernick, once the biggest rising star in the NFL, and Blaine Gabbert, one of the biggest first-round busts of this decade with Jacksonville. To nearly everyone's surprise, by the end of the year Gabbert was pretty firmly entrenched as the starter. That's sad.
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So, not unexpectedly, the 49ers finished last in the NFC West at 5-11, the team's worst record since the same mark in 2007, the final year of Mike Nolan's tenure. At least the 49ers did the smart thing this offseason and dumped the overmatched Tomsula and hired former Eagles coach Chip Kelly. I do believe Kelly can be a very good head coach in this league, but his team has very little talent right now.
The 49ers were 1-7 on the road last season, 2-6 against the spread and 6-2 "over/under." They play three road games against 2015 playoff teams this year, including both NFC Championship Game teams. Not a single prime-time road game. I don't think the Niners win a road game. The home schedule outside the division looks a bit stronger in my opinion. San Francisco has a wins total of 5.5 for 2016, with both at -115. I'd be shocked if the Niners top that. Odds listed below for the home teams.
Sept. 18 at Panthers (-11.5): San Francisco is on a short week as it hosts Los Angeles in the nightcap of the Monday night doubleheader in Week 1. Carolina could certainly be a bit flat if it goes to Denver on Thursday in Week 1 and beats the Broncos in that Super Bowl repeat -- yes, flat even though this is the Panthers' home opener. Plus they have a tougher game in Week 3 vs. Minnesota. But with San Francisco on a short week and with the early Pacific start time, it could get ugly. The last meeting was a 49ers victory in Charlotte in the divisional playoffs following the 2013 season. My, how things have changed. Key trend: 49ers 6-3-1 ATS in past 10 at NFC South teams.
Sept. 25 at Seahawks (-14): Certainly one of the toughest back-to-back road stretches in the NFL this season. This is the biggest spread of these 32 road stories that I've seen. Seattle is off a trip to the Rams. The 49ers were off their bye when they visited Seattle in Week 11 last year and lost 29-13. Gabbert was 22-for-34 for 264 yards and a touchdown. Key trend: 49ers 1-5 ATS as a road dog of at least 7.5 points in series.
Oct. 16 at Bills (-7): San Francisco off a Week 5 Thursday home game vs. Arizona (Niners' only scheduled prime-time matchup). I only forecast two potential cold-weather games for the Niners, and this could be one. Buffalo is off a trip to Los Angeles. San Francisco has won the past two meetings. Key trend: 49ers 6-4 ATS in past 10 at AFC East teams.
Nov. 13 at Cardinals (-10.5): San Francisco comes in off a home game vs. New Orleans. Arizona is on its bye in Week 9. Kaepernick was still the 49ers' starter in Week 3 last year when they visited Arizona, and the Cardinals rolled 47-7. Kaepernick had one of the worst games in franchise history, going 9-for-19 for 67 yards with four interceptions, two returned for scores. The 49ers had 156 total yards. Key trend: 49ers 6-1 ATS in the series as a road dog.
Nov. 27 at Dolphins (-5): San Francisco off its biggest home game of the year, Week 11 vs. New England. Miami is off a trip to the Rams (seems many teams face the Rams the week before the Niners). This game is interesting because the 49ers were close to hiring current Dolphins head coach Adam Gase last offseason, but it fell apart. Gase took the offensive coordinator job in Chicago and then landed this gig this offseason. Key trend: 49ers 3-0 ATS all time at Dolphins.
Dec. 4 at Bears (-5): This would be San Francisco's final cold-weather chance. And it's the Niners' final 10 a.m. Pacific time kickoff of the season. Chicago is home to Tennessee the previous Sunday. San Francisco's lone road win last year was 26-20 in overtime at Soldier Field in Week 13. Gabbert was quite good. He tied the game in regulation on a 44-yard touchdown run with 1:42 left and then won it early in OT on a 71-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith. Key trend: 49ers 5-3-2 ATS in past 10 at NFC North teams.
Dec. 18 at Falcons (-5): San Francisco is home to the Jets the previous Sunday. Atlanta is, naturally, off a trip to the Rams. The 49ers beat the visiting Falcons 17-16 in Week 9 last year. That was Gabbert's first start of the year and he threw two touchdowns and two picks. Key trend: 49ers 5-5 ATS in past 10 at Falcons.
Dec. 24 at Rams (-5.5): A much easier trip up the coast to Los Angeles than flying to St. Louis for the Niners. Los Angeles is in Seattle on Thursday in Week 15 for its final road game of the season. The 49ers lost their final trip to St. Louis in Week 8 last year, 27-6. That would prove to be Kaepernick's final game as the starter. He was 20-for-41 for 162 yards. The 49ers had 189 total yards. Key trend: 49ers 4-4-2 ATS in past 10 as road dog at Rams.
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