Analyzing 49ers Second-half Schedule

Through Week 7, the San Francisco 49ers boast the toughest strength of schedule in the NFL*. *The team's first seven opponents own a combined 29-15 record, equating to a .660 winning percentage.

The Seattle Seahawks have played the second-toughest schedule to date, as their opponents have a .625 winning percentage.

Sitting at 4-3 during their bye week, the 49ers have fared relatively well considering their gauntlet of a schedule. The team's four wins have come against opponents with a combined 16-9 record (.640 winning percentage).

Ready for more good news? When the 49ers return to action, they won't play a team that currently has a winning record until Dec. 20. Moreover, their final nine games will come against teams that are a combined 22-29 (.431).

As we look ahead to the second half of the season, here's a breakdown of the notably softer schedule the 49ers face down the stretch, including highlights from previous meetings.

St. Louis Rams (2-4), Week 9

Beware of St. Louis. Since their Week 1 dud against the Minnesota Vikings, a 34-6 loss, the Rams have been fiercely competitive in each of their last five games.

Even in two of their losses – to the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys – the Rams built sizable leads of 14 and 21 points, respectively, before dropping close contests.

In their latest outing, the Rams executed a pair of trick plays on special teams to help upset the Seahawks, 28-26.

Player to Watch:RB Tre Mason. After rushing for 40 yards on just five carries in his NFL debut versus the 49ers, the rookie tailback carried the ball 18 times for 85 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks. 

New Orleans Saints (2-4), Week 10

The Saints began the year with lofty expectations but have struggled to put things together.

Three of the team's four losses, however, have come by three points or less. New Orleans' lone lopsided loss came to the Cowboys, who pulled away for a 38-17 victory.

In their most recent game, the Saints held a 23-10 lead with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter before allowing consecutive Matthew Stafford touchdown passes in a one-point loss to the Detroit Lions.

The schedule doesn't ease up for New Orleans, which faces Green Bay and Carolina before hosting the 49ers.

Player to Watch:LB Junior Galette. Yes, the Saints boast a litany of weapons on offense, but Galette has been a force in the pass-rush game of late. The fifth-year pro has recorded four sacks in his last five games, including one for a safety.

New York Giants (3-4), Week 11

After losing their first two games of the year, the Giants won their next three contests by a combined 54 points.

Since then, New York has gone on another two-game skid to limp into its Week 8 bye.

The Giants four losses have all come against teams with winning records: Detroit, Arizona, Philadelphia and Dallas.

The Giants three wins have all come against teams with losing records: Houston, Washington and Atlanta.

Read into that what you will.

Player to Watch: WR Odell Beckham Jr. After Victor Cruz went down with a season-ending knee injury during the team's Week 6 loss to the Eagles, Beckham moved up a spot on the depth chart to join Rueben Randle as New York's two starting receivers. The rookie proceeded to catch two touchdowns passes against the Cowboys last week in his first game as a starter.

Washington Redskins (2-5), Week 12

Despite shuttling through three quarterbacks already this season, the Redskins rank fourth in the NFL in passing at 290 yards per game.

Riding a four-game losing streak, former 49ers signal-caller Colt McCoy orchestrated a second-half comeback against the Tennessee Titans last week to lead Washington to a 19-17 victory.

McCoy replaced Kirk Cousins midway through the game and finished the day 11-of-12 passing for 128 yards and a touchdown.

Franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III is still on the mend from an ankle injury, but he figures to be healthy by the time the Redskins visit Santa Clara.

Player to Watch: RB Alfred Morris. He may not be a headline-grabbing name, but Morris quietly ranks sixth in the NFL in rushing with 440 yards through seven games. And with questions at quarterback, Morris' consistent production is all the more valuable.

Seattle Seahawks (3-3), Week 13 & 15

Like the 49ers, the Seahawks have faced a daunting schedule. The reigning champs own wins over Green Bay and Denver but have also lost to San Diego, Dallas and St. Louis.

Unlike the 49ers, however, Seattle's second-half slate doesn't appear as managable. The Seahawks still have Carolina, Kansas City, Philadelphia and two games apiece with San Francisco and Arizona on the docket. All but two of those games are on the road.

The Seahawks boast the league's second-best rushing attack, average 153.3 yards on the ground this year. On the flip side, the team ranks 29th in passing (203.7 ypg).

Player to Watch: WR Doug Baldwin. The Seahawks recently traded wideout Percy Harvin to the New York Jets, so Baldwin figures to be featured in the passing game even more. He leads the team with 310 receiving yards on a team-high 35 targets.

Oakland Raiders (0-6), Week 14

Despite the winless record, the Raiders have shown signs of life. They lost by seven on the road against the New England Patroits, by three to the Chargers and gave the Cardinals all they could handle last week in a 24-13 defeat.

Rookie quarterback Derek Carr has looked impressive at times, especially against San Diego, when he threw for 282 yards and four touchdowns.

Player to Watch:WR James Jones. A San Jose State product, Jones has been Carr's favorite receiver through the team's first six games with 43 targets. His best day came against the Texans, when he tallied 112 yards and a touchdown.

San Diego Chargers (5-2), Week 16

After falling to the Cardinals in Week 1, the Chargers rolled off five consecutive wins before the Chiefs defeated them on a late field goal last week, 23-20.

Quarterback Philip Rivers is third in the league in both passing yards (1,961) and passer rating (113.0). On the other side of the ball, San Diego's defense ranks third in scoring, allowing just 16.3 points per game.

Player to Watch:RB Branden Oliver. In his last three games, the rookie tailback has rushed 60 times for 282 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In that same span, Oliver has also caught 10 passes for 102 yards and a score.

Arizona Cardinals (5-1), Week 17

Arizona owns a pair of quality wins to date, defeating the Chargers and 49ers early in the season.

But if the first-place Cardinals want to stave off San Francisco and Seattle for the division crown, they'll have to do so against an increasingly tough schedule down the stretch.

In addition to its remaining NFC West games, Arizona still has to play Philadelphia, Dallas, Detroit and Kansas City. Three of those contests versus playoff contenders, however, will be at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Player to Watch:DE Calais Campbell. An imposing force up front for the Cardinals, Campbell suffered a knee injury in the team's loss to the Broncos and has missed the last two games. Arizona hopes to get Campbell back before its Week 8 matchup with the Eagles. How he plays moving forward on a defense that already leads the league in rush defense will be critical.

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