It is no secret that the San Francisco 49ers' franchise has taken a tumultuous hit these past few years. The team is a far cry from the dynasty that was Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, etc.
However, it seems like the franchise continues to get hit harder every year, causing the team to push farther and farther back in competitiveness on the field.
Last season, it was Mike Singletary's time to shine with a talented roster and a surprisingly impressive preseason ( whatever that meant). The 49ers followed that up by losing their first five games of that season on their way to a record of 6-10, and no head coach to show heading into the 2011 season.
Then, in a way, we saw a change in the 49ers' thinking.
They hired Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh as head coach and morale seemed to be high in everyone's eyes. Harbaugh is a mastermind when it comes to quarterbacks, and having Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree on your roster can only help in that scheme.
The 2011 NFL Lockout then occurred, and Harbaugh was barred from his players and barred from learning as a first-year head coach.
On top of that, after the lockout was lifted, Frank Gore heldout and Crabtree reminded everyone he is still a diva by missing the start of training camp with injury....again.
Where do the 49ers stand now? And what is the goal heading into this next season?
It is tough to say.
Here is a game-by-game breakdown of the 49ers' 2011 season.
Week 1 vs. Seattle Seahawks
After such a ripping intro into this article, it would be hard to believe that the 49ers would win in Week 1. However, they have a real good chance to.
They split the season series in 2010 with Seattle by winning at Candlestick and losing in ruckus Seattle. That is exactly what they will do here, as the 49ers will get off to a good start with Alex Smith under center.
Week 2 vs. Dallas Cowboys
Surprising how the 49ers drew two homes games to start the season, and they would be wise to capitalize on it.
However, they will not based on the fact that Tony Romo is too good for that 49ers' secondary to handle.
It is a secondary that lost Nate Clements and is trying to hold on to Dashon Goldson.
Romo should pick them apart.
Week 3 at Cincinnati Bengals
It is tough to say what kind of a team the Bengals will be throwing out on the field this season. Also, how the Carson Palmer saga will turn out.
For now, it may be safe to say that Andy Dalton will be starting under center.
Do not underestimate the duo of rookies Dalton and A.J. Green. Also, the force that is Cedric Benson should be too much for the 49ers, as they will lose their first road game and one that they are going to want back.
Week 4 at Philadelphia Eagles
I will keep this one short, just because I am cringing at the idea of Alex Smith throwing into the Eagles' secondary.
Philadelphia is proclaiming themselves a dream team, and I am not disagreeing with them.
The 49ers will be lucky to put up a touchdown against the Eagles' defense, and lucky to hold Michael Vick to three rushing touchdowns.
Week 5 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The 49ers lost to Tampa Bay 21-0 against a barely raw Josh Freeman last year in Week 11. this season, it should be the same story.
Many predict Freeman to continue to break out this next season in the NFL, and San Francisco can only hope to contain him.
Week 6 at Detroit Lions
There is no telling i what type of shape QB Matthew Stafford will be in come Week 6, but if he is there it is a whole different story.
However, I still see the 49ers eeking one out here. The Lions' defense should be much-improved with the two-headed monster of Suh and Fairley, but by this time, Harbaugh should be able to figure out that throwing the ball to Vernon Davis may be the most knowledgeable play on the field.
Week 8 vs. Cleveland Browns
Colt McCoy will be under center in Cleveland, but the bigger story is the beast in the backfield that is Peyton Hillis.
Hillis will be bullying the 49ers' front line for most of that game.
However, the Browns' defense seem to be lacking talent on paper, which is why Smith (or whoever the QB is at this time in the season) may have an easy time getting the ball out of the backfield to Gore or over the top to Davis.
Week 9 at Washington Redskins
The Redskins had an identical season to the 49ers last year. A talented team that did not live up to the hype at all. Both teams went 6-10.
Rex Grossman and John Beck are the two options for Washington under center, so the 49ers' defense should feel the superior here. The keyword is "should."
Somehow, I see the 49ers pulling off three-straight wins in 2011.
Week 10 vs. New York Giants
With the 49ers pulling off those three straight wins, morale will be high heading into the toughest part of their schedule all season.
It is hard to make out who the Giants will be this season, but as long as they have Eli Manning under center and a talented receiving core, they will not be stopped in San Francisco.
Week 11 vs. Arizona Cardinals
By this time in the season, it will be a two-horse race for the NFC West, with the Cardinals and Rams leading the way and the 49ers pressing at 4-5.
Arizona added the much-hyped Kevin Kolb and all signs point to him being the team's savior, although nothing is proven.
Kolb will not meet expectations in his first season with the Cardinals, but he will have no problem with the 49ers, even on the road.
Week 12 at Baltimore Ravens
On the road against a team poised for a deep playoff run is a tough job for any team, but an ever tougher one for the 49ers.
Ray Lewis and the Baltimore defense will be all over the 49ers' offense, and Joe Flacco is no slouch on the Ravens' offense either.
Ravens roll all over the 49ers in this one.
Week 13 vs. St. Louis Rams
The 49ers split the season series with the Rams last season, and it will be much of the same this season.
Sam Bradford is extremely talented, but still has a lot to learn. With the Rams mashing with the Cardinals for that NFC West division title, the pressure will be on.
However, it will be a hick-up for Bradford and the Rams, as the 49ers will pull one out at home.
Week 14 at Arizona Cardinals
With the Cardinals in the playoff hunt, it is hard to say that they will lose to the 49ers at home.
Kolb will be maturing into his role as the leader of the team by Week 14, and the he and Larry Fitzgerald should show San Francisco how much more superior they are in the NFC West.
It will be another close game between the two team, but the Cardinals should pull out a huge NFC West win.
Week 15 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
By this time, the 49ers should be around 5-8 and looking to either go on a run to finish the season to have a chance at the NFC West title, or mail it in to the Steelers.
As much as the 49ers will try to hang with the defending AFC champs, Roethlisberger will be too much, as will the Steelers' defense.
Week 16 at Seattle Seahawks
This will be a battle of two team clearly out of the race in the NFC West.
Both teams will be around 5-9 by Weeks 16, and should be looking towards next season.
The 49ers will receive the bad end of this game. They have never faired well at Qwest Field, looking back to Week 1 of 2010.
It will be much of the same in Seattle for the 49ers.
Week 17 at St. Louis Rams
The NFC West may come down to the last game of the season, but it will not contain the 49ers. The Rams may need a win at home against San Francisco to make the playoffs.
Bradford will rise to the occasion and continue his progression towards becoming an elite quarterback in the NFL with an impressive performance in the last game of the season.
By this time, the 49ers will have given up at their season, and a Week 17 game against a team in contention will only rub salt in the wound that is their 2011-12 season.