Maiocco's way-too-early 49ers 2024 game-by-game predictions

Maiocco's way-too-early 49ers 2024 game-by-game predictions originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

The previous time the 49ers went to the Super Bowl (and lost), the organization took an abrupt downward turn the following season, finishing 6-10 in 2020.

San Francisco hopes to avoid a similar outcome during the 2024 NFL season, and now it knows the path it will have to take to return to the mountaintop, as the league released the full schedule Wednesday.

The 49ers are coming off a season in which they earned the NFC's No. 1 playoff seed and then engineered two comeback victories to win the conference title. But they fell short of their ultimate goal with a 25-22 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII. Still, the 49ers know they are the target of every team in the NFC.

And they will face many challenges along the way, including six games against NFC playoff teams from a year ago. The 49ers also will square off against AFC powerhouses Kansas City and Buffalo.

With the release of the 2024 regular-season schedule, it's also time for our way-too-early predictions for the upcoming year. We envision the 49ers producing similar results as a year ago, when they went 12-5 and claimed that No. 1 seed.

Here’s a look at the schedule that awaits, with a score prediction for each game:

Week 1: vs N.Y. Jets -- Monday, Sept. 9, 5:15 p.m. PT (ESPN)

Aaron Rodgers' Jets debut one year ago on "Monday Night Football" was a much-hyped occasion. Then it all ended after four plays when he went down with a torn left Achilles.

Rodgers sustained the season-ending injury when Leonard Floyd sacked him. Floyd now is with the 49ers, who expect to receive more production from him than they did from anyone who lined up opposite Nick Bosa last season.

This also is when the Brock Purdy Gets Paid Tour begins. This is the final year Purdy will play for a minimum salary, because if he performs similarly to his spectacular 2023 season, he figures to then become one of the NFL's highest-paid quarterbacks.

Prediction: 49ers 24, Jets 13

Week 2: at Minnesota -- Sunday, Sept. 15, 10 a.m. PT (CBS)

The Vikings signed Sam Darnold, the 49ers’ backup last season, to a one-year, $10 million contract to serve as the team’s starter until somebody better comes along. How long will it take J.J. McCarthy, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, to be deemed better than Darnold?

The 49ers haven't won a game in Minneapolis since 1992, and take a seven-game road losing streak against the Vikings into this meeting. That streak will end here.

Prediction: 49ers 31, Vikings 13

Week 3: at L.A. Rams -- Sunday, Sept. 22, 1:25 p.m. PT (FOX)

Jon Feliciano was a happy man on March 15 for two reasons, as the veteran 49ers guard pointed out on social media: “Best day ever!! Staying in SF and AD retiring.” That’s right: On the day Feliciano re-signed for another season with the 49ers, Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald announced his retirement.

This is the first meeting between these teams After Donald, and it will take place at SoFi Stadium, the 49ers’ home away from home. The Rams were 10-7 and a playoff team a year ago, but can they overcome the loss of one of the best defensive linemen in NFL history?

Prediction: 49ers 24, Rams 21

Week 4: vs. New England -- Sunday, Sept. 29, 1:05 p.m. PT (FOX)

If it’s not Drake Maye, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, it’ll most likely be Jacoby Brissett (or Bailey Zappe) at quarterback for New England.

It doesn't matter. The 49ers should be able to roll out of bed and win this game in the first post-Bill Belichick meeting between these organizations.

Prediction: 49ers 27, Patriots 10

Week 5: vs. Arizona -- Sunday, Oct. 6, 1:05 p.m. PT (FOX)

The Cardinals received rave reviews from draft gurus for their collection of rookies, which includes wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., edge rusher Darius Robinson and defensive back Max Melton. Arizona had seven picks within the first 90 selections in the draft, so it might take all the newcomers a little time to come together.

The 49ers outscored Arizona 80-45 in their two meetings a year ago. This season, coach Jonathan Gannon’s squad should be a lot more competitive.

Prediction: 49ers 28, Cardinals 23

Week 6: at Seattle -- Thursday, Oct. 10, 5:15 p.m. PT (Prime Video)

It simply will not be the same without gum-chomping, white-sneaker-wearing Pete Carroll on the Seahawks' sideline.

New Seattle coach Mike Macdonald is 36 years old and has quickly risen in the NFL coaching ranks. He comes from the Baltimore Ravens, and everybody remembers the fits his defense gave Purdy last season. Purdy threw a career-worst four interceptions in the Ravens’ blowout victory on Christmas night.

Prediction: Seahawks 17, 49ers 13

Week 7: vs. Kansas City -- Sunday, Oct. 20, 1:25 p.m. PT (FOX)

This is a rematch of Super Bowl LVIII. Will it be a preview of Super Bowl LIX? (That’s 59, in case you’re not fully schooled on your Roman numerals.) Tom Brady will be in the broadcast booth for this game, and that’s a lot of negative Super Bowl mojo for 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan.

Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs have two come-from-behind Super Bowl victories and a three-touchdown victory in Santa Clara during the 2022 regular season in the past three head-to-head matchups.

The 49ers' first-round selection of wide receiver Ricky Pearsall was a direct result of them needing to improve against teams, such as the Chiefs, that play sticky man coverage. But Kansas City has San Francisco's number, so it’s tough to go against the champs in this spot.

Prediction: Chiefs 24, 49ers 21

Week 8: vs. Dallas -- Sunday, Oct. 27, 5:20 p.m. PT (NBC)

Remember how the 49ers embarrassed the Cowboys last season? They won 42-10 and rubbed Dallas' noses in it. George Kittle wore an undershirt with an NSFW message directed at the Cowboys' organization.

The Cowboys certainly will be out for revenge. But does it even matter? For a team with a lot of talent and expectations, Dallas seems to consistently underachieve. We envision more of the same in this game.

Prediction: 49ers 34, Cowboys 20

Week 9: Bye week

This is the third consecutive season in which the 49ers’ bye week will come the week after their eighth game.

Week 10: at Tampa Bay -- Sunday, Nov. 10, 10 a.m. PT (FOX)

Baker Mayfield earned the Bucs’ starting job and a three-year, $100 million contract with his performance last season. Tampa Bay won the NFC South and blew out the Philadelphia Eagles in the playoffs before falling to the Lions.

Bosa and the 49ers’ defense have given Mayfield some problems over the years, and they will get after him again on this day.

Prediction: 49ers 31, Buccaneers 17

Week 11: vs. Seattle -- Sunday, Nov. 17, 1:05 p.m. PT (FOX)

Having seen the new-look Seahawks earlier in the season, the 49ers should be able to figure things out, avenge that short-week loss and assert control of the NFC West before taking on their most challenging two-game stretch of the season.

Prediction: 49ers 24, Seahawks 13

Week 12: at Green Bay -- Sunday, Nov. 24, 1:25 p.m. PT (FOX)

The Packers had their eye on taking down the NFC's No. 1 seed last season, just as the 49ers did to Green Bay in the 2021 playoffs, when these teams met at Levi's Stadium. Jordan Love is a talented player, but he threw two costly interceptions in the second half, and the 49ers averted the divisional-round upset.

Linebacker Dre Greenlaw, who came up with those interceptions against Love, should be back in this game and close to midseason shape after sustaining a torn left Achilles in the Super Bowl. He figures to open the season on the PUP list.

Prediction: Packers 24, 49ers 20

Week 13: at Buffalo -- Sunday, Dec. 1, 5:20 p.m. PT (NBC)

This game was made for prime time.

Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who grew up in the Central Valley town of Firebaugh, dreamed of playing for the 49ers. Well, he was a nightmare for them in 2020, when he faced his childhood team, throwing for 375 yards and four touchdowns in a 34-24 victory.

When Allen is on his game, he can be virtually unstoppable. Other times, he can make some head-scratching plays that open the door for the opposition. He’s never boring, that’s for sure.

Prediction: Bills 31, 49ers 24

Week 14: vs. Chicago -- Sunday, Dec. 8, 1:25 p.m. PT (FOX)

This is yet another matchup of the No. 1 overall pick going up against the final pick in the draft. We’ve already seen this storyline several times, but now it’s somebody new. Quarterback Caleb Williams was the Bears' top choice in the 2024 NFL Draft, replacing Justin Fields.

Have the Bears finally found their answer at quarterback? New 49ers defensive coordinator Nick Sorensen can show his scheming and play-calling chops from the Levi’s Stadium sideline to make life difficult on the rookie.

Prediction: 49ers 31, Bears 9

Week 15: vs. L.A. Rams -- Thursday, Dec. 12, 5:15 p.m. PT (Prime Video)

The Rams had a real draft for the first time in a long time, and the younger players will be more comfortable and productive as the season progresses. Rookies Jared Verse and Braden Fiske will not compensate for Donald’s departure, but they’ll help LA's defense remain competitive.

But where the Rams can be difficult is on the other side ... if everyone stays healthy. Matthew Stafford throwing to Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua creates problems for any defense.

Prediction: Rams 27, 49ers 23

Week 16: at Miami -- Sunday, Dec. 22, 1:25 p.m. PT (CBS)

Mike McDaniel’s team is built for speed. The Dolphins can be electric on offense. But they also can be squashed through sheer physicality.

That’s where the 49ers excel, and that is why Shanahan will have the upper hand against his pupil in this matchup.

Prediction: 49ers 35, Dolphins 30

Week 17: vs. Detroit -- Monday, Dec. 30, 5:15 p.m. PT (ESPN)

This time it will not come down to a couple Detroit fourth-down failures to open the door for a huge San Francisco comeback victory. Jared Goff, the newly minted $53-million-per-year QB, will make his share of plays, but the 49ers’ firepower will be just too much.

The Lions will take a step backward this season, rather than using their crushing NFC Championship Game loss to the 49ers as a springboard for greater things to come.

Prediction: 49ers 31, Lions 21

Week 18: at Arizona -- Saturday, Jan. 4 or Sunday, Jan. 5, Time TBA

The Cardinals finished last season with a 4-13 record. They will be improved, and have more than four victories at this point. But they still will not be able to break through against the 49ers, as Arizona native Purdy will have another big day (that is, if he even takes the field with the playoffs on the horizon).

Prediction: 49ers 27, Cardinals 13

Final record: 12-5, first place in the NFC West

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