September 28 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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Looking at the 49ers schedule this off-season it was quite clear that the 49ers would be tested early and often. This of course is a rarity for a 49ers team that is used to having fans criticize them for not playing or beating teams with a winning record. The NFL’s re-alignment, for better or worse seems to have changed that. The team can be pretty sure that all three of its opponents will have winning records by season’s end.
Playing winning teams however, is more important in helping to establish an identity than just the boost of confidence that comes with victory though. In fact, the biggest bonus of playing such teams is that the 49ers can immediately sense where they rank in relation to the rest of the NFL. In previous years, the team would have to wait until a significant chunk of the season had already passed by, before they were ever tested.
There are more tests, and tough opponents to come. Starting with the 49ers next opponent, the St. Louis Rams, who despite getting off to their worst start in years, are looking for redemption and are ever explosive. So far, the 49ers have a “C” grade on the season, a victory this coming week can boost them into the “B” range.