Game-by-game predictions: San Francisco 49ers

There is still a draft to be held, free agents to be signed and injuries to be had, yet what better time to predict an entire season’s worth of games than in the wake of the season being announced, right? RIGHT? For what it’s worth, the crystal ball in this corner sees the schedule-makers doing the San Francisco 49ers and new coach Jim Tomsula no favors and the Niners getting off to a brutal start. A positive finish, though, could be in the works.

Week 1: Monday, Sept. 14, Minnesota, 10:20 p.m. ET

Riding a wave of raw emotion rarely seen at home last season, Jim Tomsula makes his NFL coaching debut under the lights and the new and improved Colin Kaepernick runs circles around the Vikings’ gassed defense. Think Steve Young galloping to the goal line. 49ers 23, Vikings 20. Record: 1-0.

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20, at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. ET

Sure, the Steelers lost Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor to retirement, but they are better situated to handle such losses than the Niners, who lost Patrick Willis and Chris Borland and, possibly, Justin Smith. Tomsula, who grew up eight miles from Heinz Field, does not have a happy homecoming on a short week that includes a cross-country trip. Steelers 27, 49ers 17. Record: 1-1.

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27, at Arizona, 4:05 p.m. ET

The Cardinals are a totally different team with Carson Palmer under center and he should be at full strength here. Plus, the Cardinals won in the desert last year without Palmer, so why should this be any different? Cardinals 28, 49ers 23. Record: 1-2.

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 4, Green Bay, 4:25 p.m. ET

Kaepernick has owned the Packers, the Niners winning the last four meetings straight up, including twice in the playoffs. But with a Niners defense still getting used to itself, Aaron Rodgers reverses the trend, for at least one game. Packers 34, 49ers 26. Record: 1-3.

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 11, at New York Giants, 8:30 p.m. ET

Borland won this game for the Niners in the Meadowlands a year ago. He’s no longer with the Niners and it’s getting to be white-knuckle time in Santa Clara, especially with what’s on the horizon. Giants 20, 49ers 17. Record: 1-4.

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18, Baltimore, 4:25 p.m. ET

John Harbaugh exacts revenge, real or imagined, on the 49ers in the house his little brother built. OK, helped build, and the fans are more than restless. Ravens 34, 49ers 16. Record: 1-5.

Week 7: Thursday, Oct. 22, Seattle, 8:25 p.m. ET

Oh, boy. If Jed York Tweeted apologized for his team’s performance the last time the Seahawks came to town, what will he say on social media this time, especially on a short week after what is sure to be a physical game against Baltimore? At least Richard Sherman can’t eat turkey on the 50-yard line this time. Seahawks 27, 49ers 23. Record: 1-6.

Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1, at St. Louis, 1 p.m. ET

The Rams prove to be perfect feel-good fodder for a reeling team already looking forward to its bye. Because while my brain says the Rams win this one, the gut says the Niners pull it out, as they did in St. Louis last year. 49ers 27, Rams 16. Record: 2-6.

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 8, Atlanta, 4:05 p.m. ET

The Niners have gained their balance and are feeling good about themselves as they face the last team to play them at Candlestick Park. Sure, new Falcons coach Dan Quinn, who was previously Seattle’s defensive coordinator, knows the Niners’ ways, but the Falcons are not the Seahawks. 49ers 17, Falcons 16. Record: 3-6.

Week 10: BYE

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22, at Seattle, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Niners are refreshed and focused, riding a two-game winning streak. But the Seahawks in Seattle are still the Seahawks in Seattle. Seahawks 28, 49ers 20. Record: 3-7.

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29, Arizona, 4:05 p.m. ET

Confidence is brewing and the Niners are feeling good about themselves. Good enough to pull off the upset at home as they play their fourth divisional foe in five games. 49ers 23, Cardinals 21. Record: 4-7.

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6, at Chicago, 1 p.m. ET

As good as the Niners have been playing of late, their old defensive coordinator has the antidote. Vic Fangio quashes hopes of another Niners victory, and it gets ugly in Chicago. Bears 35, 49ers 13. Record: 4-8.

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 13, at Cleveland, 1 PM

A West Coast team playing in the Cleveland elements in December? Sounds like a bad situation for the Niners, but they prove to be resilient, especially if Johnny Manziel is at quarterback for the Browns, and Kaepernick puts on a clinic for Johnny Football. 49ers 24, Browns 21. Record: 5-8.

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20, Cincinnati, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Bengals have been a playoff team in recent years, but fold easily in the wild-card round. The Niners last lost a home game to the Bengals in 1974, and that won’t change this year. 49ers 30, Bengals 21. Record: 6-8.

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 27, at Detroit, 1 p.m. ET

Strange time for a roadie to the Midwest, no? At least Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz are gone. Then again, another blowup between those two might be the most entertaining thing about this game. Lions 26, 49ers 17. Record: 6-9.

Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 6, St. Louis, 4:25 p.m. ET

By now, the Rams are probably distracted and looking forward to playing in Los Angeles the next season. And Kaepernick swears he will not fumble at the goal line … again. 49ers 23, Rams 20. Record: 7-9.