2018 San Francisco 49ers Road Schedule Odds with Expert Picks and Predictions
If you wanted to argue that New England's Bill Belichick is the greatest coach in NFL history, I might disagree - he stunk with the Browns but then lucked into Tom Brady - but would concede he's in the picture. Why do I bring up Belichick when talking about the road schedule for the 2018 San Francisco 49ers?
Because of Jimmy Garoppolo.
Maybe Belichick is losing his "fastball" in his golden years in terms of trades involving backup quarterbacks. He clearly lost the trade last September when he sent third-string QB Jacoby Brissett to Indianapolis for bust WR Phillip Dorsett. Brissett looks like a pretty good QB, and the Pats could certainly use a backup to Brady right now after Belichick shocked the football world late last October by sending Jimmy G to San Francisco for only a 2018 second-round pick. I promise you that Belichick could have gotten way more than that, but he reportedly was looking out for Garoppolo and wanted to deal him somewhere he had a great chance to succeed (i.e. not Cleveland).
Just like that, the 49ers completely turned around their franchise's future. Garoppolo started the final five games for the Niners and they won them all, including over playoff teams Tennessee, Jacksonville (Garoppolo torched what had been the NFL's No. 1 pass defense) and the LA Rams. Overall, Jimmy G completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 1,560 yards, seven TDs and five picks for a rating of 96.2. That latter number would have ranked ninth in the NFL and head of guys like Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan.
The 49ers doubled down on Garoppolo by making him temporarily the highest-paid player in the NFL this summer, and then his Q rating skyrocketed when he was caught on video dating a porn star. Sorry, why is that wrong? Because of Garoppolo, the 49ers are perhaps the most-hyped team coming off a 6-10 season in years. I'd slow that train a bit but do think a wild-card spot is possible this year, with perhaps a Super Bowl/MVP-caliber leap in Year 2 as a full-time starter much like Carson Wentz took (before getting hurt).
San Francisco was 3-5 on the road last season (same as home mark), 6-2 against the spread (second-best road cover percentage in league) and 3-5 "over/under." The 49ers travel to three playoff teams from 2017: Minnesota, Kansas City and the LA Rams. It's easily one of the toughest road schedules in the NFL with also trips to the LA Chargers and Green Bay. I project a 2-6 road record. Odds listed for the home team.
Sept. 9 at Vikings (-6, 46): If you are a West Coast team playing a 1 p.m. ET game, doing so in Week 1 is pretty ideal since you can prepare accordingly. Facing that terrific Vikings defense and Kirk Cousins in his home Minnesota debut is not ideal - many thought Cousins would be playing for the Niners and his former OC Kyle Shanahan this season, and he probably would have if not for the Garoppolo trade. The 49ers own a 23-22-1 advantage in the all-time series against the Vikings. Key trend: Niners are 0-10 SU & 4-5-1 ATS in past 10 as a road dog of at least 6 points.
Sept. 23 at Chiefs (-3): Least it won't be cold in Kansas City at this time of year. And no Alex Smith story line. The Niners won the last meeting between the two teams, 22-17, in 2014 at home but haven't won in Kansas City since 1982. Key trend: Niners 0-4 ATS in Kansas City.
Sept. 30 at Chargers (-3.5): The Chargers' defense might be better than Minnesota's this year. These franchises have split 14 regular-season meetings. The Niners last won at the Chargers in 2000, but of course that was San Diego. Key trend: Niners 3-7 ATS in past 10 at AFC West foes.
Oct. 15 at Packers (-4): It's Jimmy G's first national showcase on Monday night. San Francisco has won eight consecutive games on MNF, the longest streak in franchise history. It's the Niners' first trip to Lambeau since Colin Kaepernick led a 23-20 win in the wild-card round of the 2013 postseason. Key trend: Niners 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 regular-season games at Packers.
Oct. 28 at Cardinals (+1.5): Ahead of a quick turnaround game at home vs. Oakland. San Francisco hasn't won in Arizona since 2013. The Niners lost there 18-15 in overtime in Week 4 last year on a Carson Palmer TD pass with 32 seconds to go; that was the only TD in the game. The Niners had taken a 15-12 led two minutes earlier. Key trend: Niners 7-3 ATS in past 10 at Arizona.
Nov. 25 at Tampa Bay (+1): 49ers are out of their bye week. San Francisco has three 1 p.m. ET starts, and this is the last one. Again, good timing coming out of a bye week. The 49ers are 17-6 overall vs. Tampa Bay and won the last meeting, 33-14, in 2013. Key trend: Niners 2-7-1 ATS in past 10 out of bye (any location).
Dec. 2 at Seahawks (-1): Sunday night. Richard Sherman returns to Seattle, which should be fun. San Francisco is 7-14 all-time there and hasn't won in the Pacific Northwest in seven years. It was a 12-9 loss in Week 2 last year in one of the least interesting games of 2017. Key trend: Niners 2-8 ATS in past 10 in Seattle.
Dec. 30 at Rams (TBA): Per usual, no Week 17 lines. San Francisco off three straight at home; could this be for the division? Not impossible. This also could become the NFC's best rivalry for the next handful of years. The Niners are 2-0 in L.A. since the Rams returned there. The Rams did rest most of their starters in Week 17 a season ago. Key trends: Niners 5-5 ATS in past 10 at Rams.
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