I suppose Pete Prisco of CBS Sports wanted to grab himself a little extra attention on Monday. He released this article, which details the results of a complete projection of the 2012 NFL season. Prisco’s predictions were bold, to say the least – after all, the headline read “Pats go 16-0, lose in Super Bowl.”

I wonder if anyone at CBS warned him not to piss off their northeastern readership.

What grabbed my interest about this experiment — of which none of the controls or variables were listed — was not how the AFC East fared; rather it was where the 49ers stood in his mind. He mentioned early in the piece that “There were other surprises. Among them – the Ravens, Saints, 49ers and Lions all miss the playoffs” and “the Cardinals win the NFC West.”

He doesn’t go out on a limb and predict that the 49ers return to their 2010 form per say, but his final prediction was a 9-7 record for San Francisco, with the Cardinals landing ahead of them at 10-6.

Here’s how Prisco’s sees the 49ers’ season breaking down:

Week one: 49ers 23, Packers 30

Week two: Lions 25, 49ers 29

Week three: Vikings 13, 49ers 25

Week four: Jets 15, 49ers 17

Week five: Bills 20, 49ers 26

Week six: 49ers 24, Giants 27

Week seven: Seahawks 13, 49ers 20

Week eight: 49ers 16, Cardinals 17

Week nine: Bye

Week ten: Rams 17, 49ers 25

Week eleven: Bears 21, 49ers 28

Week twelve: 49ers 23, Saints 27

Week thirteen: Rams 14, 49ers 18

Week fourteen: Dolphins 21, 49ers 27

Week fifteen: 49ers 20, Patriots 26

Week sixteen: 49ers 20, Seahawks 23

Week seventeen: 49ers 17, Cardinals 20

-The way Prisco sees it, the 49ers get off to a hot 4-1 start.

-He has the 49ers at 5-3 coming into the bye week.

-The 49ers win 4 of 5 coming out of the bye week, before skidding to 3 losses to end the season. The final game of the season is a loss to the Cardinals, who take the NFC West crown at Candlestick.

My initial reaction would be to rip this apart, although Prisco’s predictions on the 49ers are pretty fair, all things considered. He has the 49ers beating all the teams they should beat – the Dolphins, Rams, Bills, Jets and Vikings, to name a few — and losing to teams like the Packers, Saints and Patriots. The most important losses on this schedule seem to be week 16 in Seattle and the Cardinals sweep.

What’s more striking is how much credit Prisco is giving Arizona. Among the notable wins in the Cardinals “playoff” season are week 3 over the visiting Eagles, week 15 at home over the Lions, week 16 at home over the Bears and, of course, both wins over the 49ers.

Letting predictions get the best of me

Maybe it’s that the NFL offseason is just too long, but nothing gets me squirming quite like a negative 49ers season prediction. Although the comments section of Prisco’s piece is teeming with fans losing their minds, I’m not all that offended. In fact, this has proven to be some great bulletin board material for the 49ers (not that Harbaugh would use it).

There are a lot of marquee games on the 49ers’ schedule this season, so it would be easy for the team to overlook the games they play against the lowlier divisional opponents. Prisco’s predictions are further evidence of how important divisional games are — the two losses to the Cardinals would prove to be the reason the 49ers miss the playoffs.

Furthermore, it would behoove San Francisco to win at least one of the three or four toughest games on their schedule. Stealing a game in Green Bay or New Orleans is imperative, and beating the Giants at home is necessary as well. In discussing the Patriots 16-0 season, Prisco says “I dare you to find a loss on the New England Patriots’ schedule as of right now.” I see one — week 15 against the visiting 49ers — but maybe even that is too bold of a prediction for CBS’s Senior NFL Analyst.

Of course, that wouldn’t be enough. That one win difference by itself would land the 49ers tied with Arizona for a 10-6 record, but the Cardinals would get the edge due to a better divisional record. If Prisco’s predictions are anywhere near reality, they’re proof that the road to an NFC West title will be rougher than most 49ers fans think.